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Saturday, 11 October 2014

Why I recommend: The Reluctant Fundamentalist

About the book:

The Reluctant Fundamentalist

At a café table in Lahore, a bearded Pakistani man converses with an uneasy American stranger. As dusk deepens to night, he begins the tale that has brought them to this fateful meeting . . .

Changez is living an immigrant’s dream of America. At the top of his class at Princeton, he is snapped up by the elite "valuation" firm of Underwood Samson. He thrives on the energy of New York, and his infatuation with elegant, beautiful Erica promises entry into Manhattan society at the same exalted level once occupied by his own family back in Lahore.

But in the wake of September 11, Changez finds his position in his adopted city suddenly overturned, and his budding relationship with Erica eclipsed by the reawakened ghosts of her past. And Changez’s own identity is in seismic shift as well, unearthing allegiances more fundamental than money, power, and maybe even love.
About the author:

Mohsin Hamid
Mohsin Hamid is a Pakistani author best known for his novels Moth Smoke (2000), The Reluctant Fundamentalist (2007), and How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia (2013).His fiction has been translated into over 30 languages, shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, featured on bestseller lists, and adapted for the cinema. His short stories have appeared in the New Yorker, Granta, and the Paris Review, and his essays in the Guardian, the New York Times, and the New York Review of Books. Born in 1971, he has lived about half his life, on and off, in Lahore. He also spent part of his early childhood in California, attended Princeton and Harvard, and worked for a decade as a management consultant in New York and London, mostly part-time.
Why I recommend:

Here is why I would recommend this book to everyone. Everyone, at least once, irrespective of their nationality, religion, color et cetera et cetera.

1. The conversational style:
The book has been written as a conversation between a Pakistani who used to work with a valuation firm in America and an American tourist, one might surmise. It is actually a proof of how there can in fact exist a conversation without one of the persons having any word to say. Yes, this conversation between two people is a monologue. This is one of those unique characteristics of the book that you arr able to retain for long after you have read it. If for nothing else, read the book for this uncanny, pleasant presentation, formally known as the Dramatic Monologue.

2. Exploration of themes like Human fallibility, Identity crisis 
No book has ever depicted human fallibility, a screwed sense of judgement and the inevitable return to the motherland, so accurately and so curtly as this. It manages to capture the agonies and apprehensions of a Pakistani in the post 9/11 era. His lost sense of dignity. That feeling of being torn between an impossible love affair and a loyalty towards the motherland

3. The big things in life.
As the narrator confides the story of his life to an American Stranger at a cafe in Lahore, it is like a memoir. We fell a sharp tinge of pain, a surge of emotions in the honest way that the narrator, Changez reveals all little secrets of his life, facts privy to him in a brutally honest admission.And then it strikes you somewhere in the middle of the plot. You may whine about petty stuff, ...over trivial material things. Eventually you are doomed to understand that none of this matters. None of this suffices to give you solace in times of need. You cannot warm up to a job that no longer excites you. You cannot gulp down a glass of beer when your brotherhood is in a turmoil of sorts. You cannot find peace with money.

4. A recurring theme: Your past
The fact that the narrator is so nostalgic about the life he had, about how he fantasized it could have turned out differently had some things not been the way they were, And man's tendency or rather reluctance to let go of this past, to come out of all that has happened that changed everything is a theme around which the plot hovers.

5. The plot
The plot is, as such, very light on the reader. maybe it is because of the conversational style.
The Guardian sums up the plot, 'We learn that Changez is a highly educated Pakistani who worked as a financial analyst for a prestigious firm in New York. But after a disastrous love affair and the September 11 attacks, his western life collapses and he returns disillusioned and alienated to Pakistan.'

6. Changez, the protagonist
Now, this is not a perfect, infallible (and hence, non-existent ad unreal) protagonist, he has flaws in his character. Human flaws. And he admits them. Like, for instance his pleasure in the aftermath of 9/11.
His relationship with Erica is another equation that demands calculations from the readers, and makes up a large part of the second half of the novel. His intellect drew him to the mine of opportunities that is America. And it is ironic, how pleasant his life was until, you know, 9/11 happened, and he became disillusioned.

And last but not the least, a character to look out for and try to decipher is Jim.

Let me know what you feel in comments below.

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Jane Eyre
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A Christmas Carol
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
The Time Machine
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
The Da Vinci Code

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