The Reluctant Fundamentalist
Every Sunday, in the New York Times magazine, is a one pager with questions for someone. A few months back, the questions were for Mohsin Hamid. Mohsin, is the author of the Reluctant Fundamentalist. After reading the interview, I went to Amazon and bought the book.
This is one of those books that will probably be published in a variety of languages and read all over the world. It is only 192 pages but incredibly well written, interesting and a quick read.
The story is told through a storyteller who is sitting at a local restaurant in his hometown, Lahore which is in Pakistan, post 9/11. He is telling his story to an American, who happens to be at the restaurant. In essence, his story if a monologue of his initial desire to embrace America and then his eventual detest of America. His tale is a tale that we see time and again in the United States. Immigrants, who send the eldest child to the United States to get a degree in one of the United States’s best exports, an education. Do they become part of our culture or do they go home and use their education to embrace their own culture.
This particular young man left Pakistan to get a degree at Princeton University. He meets a group of people there yet he never feels connected to them. Upon graduation, he is selected for one of the most exclusive jobs available, a company similar to a McKinsey. Before starting his job, he goes on a vacation with his Princeton group to Greece. There he meets a young woman, Erica, that he continues to see in NY. This part of the story all takes place prior to 9/11.
Upon returning to NY, he begins his career. At every turn he is the star of the firm. His relationship with Erica is more of a friendship because she has lost someone very close to her. In essence, she is a complete mess yet he is taken in with this. Perhaps it is his personality or perhaps it is culture that he is a willing participant in her pain. Then tragedy strikes, the towers are taken out and Afghanistan, Pakistan’s neighboring country, is at war with the United States. His family is in Pakistan. He is living the life in NY and his family is barely surviving. Shaken, he returns to Pakistan and sees what he comes from. Has his family life changed or has he?
He returns to NY and starts to rebel against his world at work. He feels more and more like an outsider as time goes on. People look at him different on the streets, he grows a beard. He becomes disgusted and disenfranchised with life in NY. Erica has deteriorated and dropped out of his life. He decides to pack it in and return toPakistan. He loves his country. His life, which was full of a different type of promise in the United States, is something he wants to give up.
The dramatic differences between our countries are highlighted in the book. The storyteller, in the end, has anger at the United States for invading his country and not understanding his culture and customs, for pushing his people to be like us.
A quick moving tale. An interesting slant on the eyes of an Pakistan man, who had been educated in the United States, and his disdain over our countries desire to infiltrate his land.
After reading the book, I assumed the author lives in Pakistan, funny enough, he lives in London.