Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Reluctant Fundamentalist

I would highly recommend the The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid. It is relatively short and telling work of fiction. It revolves around a Pakistani youth studying and later working in the best of places in the US. He gets involved in an emotionally challenged relationship with an American girl. Then comes 9/11 and throws everything out of balance. The main character becomes torn between his roots in the East and the Western dream he came to live.

I liked the narration of this work of fiction which is in the first person form: the main character tells his story to a companion in a local cafe in Lahore.

There are few passages that I really liked (without giving it away). He describes his relationship with his girlfriend:

It occurred to me that my attempts to communicate with her might have failed in part because I did not know where I stood on so many issues of consequence; I lacked a stable core. I was not certain where I belonged– in New York, in Lahore , in both, in neither– and for this reason, when she reached out to me for help, I had nothing of substance to give her.

He describes the stages of romantic breakup:

There is in such situations usually a moment of passion during which the unthinkable is said; this is followed by a sense of euphoria at finally being liberated; the world seems fresh, as if seen for the first time; then comes the inevitable period of doubt, the desperate and doomed backpedaling of regret; and only later once emotions have receded, is one able to view with equanimity the journey through which one has passed.

In one instance the main character hears words from another person that “plunged [him] into a deep bout of introspection.” I must say anyone reading this book will get his or her share of introspection. A great read!

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