Book Review: Mohsin Hamid’s ‘The Reluctant Fundamentalist’

Posted on July 1, 2007
Filed Under >Adnan Ahmad, Books
15 Comments
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Adnan Ahmad

coverI finished reading Mohsin Hamids second novel The Reluctant Fundamentalist over the weekend.

His first novel Moth Smoke captured my imagination quite vividly with several fascinating monologues in the novel and a theme that had everything to do with my generation and that age of mine. The author in between these two novels has aged and matured just like his readers including myself.

The new novel involves only one monologue with a man named Changez telling his story to an American, sitting at a restaurant in old Anarkali in Lahore. He keeps both his listener and his reader intensely engaged for about 184 pages, which is the entire length of the novel.

The novels main theme revolves around an increasing distrust between the East and the West and a troubled love story that at times makes one almost feel sick deep within but its intensity never fades throughout the course of the monologue. In the end it is a story about a twenty two year old who acts his age in turbulent times and in a love triangle where his rival has long passed away leaving behind a psychologically damaged soul who may never love again.

Changez’ decisions in the post 9/11 insecure times, especially for the Pakistani community, were both irrational and impulsive. India-Pakistan tensions of 2002 with his family without him in Lahore, perceived, and often real, discrimination against Pakistani Americans during that time, and his mutilated romance with a fellow Princetonian, all play a part in his decision to quit and go back and take up a job of a lecturer at a university in Lahore.

Mohsin HamidJust like Dara, “the apostate” of Moth Smoke, Changez, the reluctant fundamentalist, too goes down the spiral, given the consequences and magnitude of his decisions, but somehow he stays composed throughout the course of this story, unlike Dara. However, Changez is a lot less compelling character than Dara Shikoh and that goes well with the complex and uncertain undertones of the novel, which is really not about fundamentalism.

Mohsin Hamid completely evades the daunting issues Changez might have had faced in Lahore upon his return and always gets lofty when talking about his native city. He does so may be because he wanted the story to be only about New York or may be to contain the length in this unique style of writing in a single monologue or simply because he wants these questions to linger on readers’ mind as he ends the novels on an unsure note. Like the question about the girl who never was his and may never be but still exists in his memory or the questions about the identity of the gentleman he had been talking to throughout the story.

About Adnan Ahmad: Adnan is a free lance writer and works in financial sector. He lives in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Photos taken from Mohsin Hamid’s website here.

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15 responses to “Book Review: Mohsin Hamid’s ‘The Reluctant Fundamentalist’”

  1. Bee says:

    Hi, can you please tell me a little bit more about yourself. I am working on the reviews of The Reluctant Fundamentalist, and I need to add a few lines about the people who reviewed it.
    Thanks

  2. Salim says:

    Adnan Sahib;
    Mohsin’s Reluctant Fundamentalist has been included in The New York Times list of 2007 100 books to read.
    Regards;
    Salim

  3. Akif Nizam says:

    Interesting article by Mohsin Hamid in the Washington Post:
    (remember that the audience is American).

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/artic le/2007/07/20/AR2007072001806.html?nav=rss_opinion s/outlook?nav=slate

  4. observer says:

    I loved moth smoke but couldn’t really get through this one. Preferred “Rodeo Drive to Raja Bazaar” by a new author, which I recently finished.

  5. Ali Kazim says:

    Bought it from a bookshop (Paramount Books, I believe) at Karachi Airport. Its a good read. I esp. enjoyed the way story is being told. Mr. Mohsin Hamid is a good story teller. Haven’t finished it though. Recommended Reading.

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