The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid
A first person narrative, a monologue……..two people sitting in a cafe in Lahore (Pakistan), but only one of them has a voice. Can this really work as a piece of fiction?
Unsure myself as I read the early pages and chapters of The Reluctant Fundamentalist, but then I noticed I was gradually drawn in by the ‘one voice telling the story’ of a pro-Western Pakistani, called Changez, whose academic brilliance secured him a place at Princeton University, where he graduated sume cum laude, to then progress to becoming the star financial analyst for a prestigious firm in New York.
Throughout the narrative, we can hear him marvelling at this new (capitalist) world of the USA, where opportunity is there for the taking……..but then along came 9/11, and everything changed. And not just for the American nation. What changed for Changez was a sudden realisation that he was a foreigner in this land of promise, but back home in Pakistan (and neighbouring countries) the contours of daily life were undergoing volcanic change……..and it always seemed that the Americans were involved somewhere in the fray. His attitude to this land ‘flowing in milk and honey’ altered radically, but he had to divest himself of the capitalist robe and go back home to begin his own personal crusade.
This had been shortlisted for the Man Booker prize in 2007, and deservedly so. It has recently been re-printed by Penguin Books, the cover showing scenes and characters from the recently released film.