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The Reluctant Fundamentalist Paperback – April 14, 2008


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 191 pages
  • Publisher: Harvest Books; 1 edition (April 14, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0156034026
  • ISBN-13: 978-0156034029
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (472 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #20,309 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Mohsin Hamid's first novel, Moth Smoke, dealt with the confluence of personal and political themes, and his second, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, revisits that territory in the person of Changez, a young Pakistani. Told in a single monologue, the narrative never flags. Changez is by turns naive, sinister, unctuous, mildly threatening, overbearing, insulting, angry, resentful, and sad. He tells his story to a nameless, mysterious American who sits across from him at a Lahore cafe. Educated at Princeton, employed by a first-rate valuation firm, Changez was living the American dream, earning more money than he thought possible, caught up in the New York social scene and in love with a beautiful, wealthy, damaged girl. The romance is negligible; Erica is emotionally unavailable, endlessly grieving the death of her lifelong friend and boyfriend, Chris.

Changez is in Manila on 9/11 and sees the towers come down on TV. He tells the American, "...I smiled. Yes, despicable as it may sound, my initial reaction was to be remarkably pleased... I was caught up in the symbolism of it all, the fact that someone had so visibly brought America to her knees..." When he returns to New York, there is a palpable change in attitudes toward him, starting right at immigration. His name and his face render him suspect.

Ongoing trouble between Pakistan and India urge Changez to return home for a visit, despite his parents' advice to stay where he is. While there, he realizes that he has changed in a way that shames him. "I was struck at first by how shabby our house appeared... I was saddened to find it in such a state... This was where I came from... and it smacked of lowliness." He exorcises that feeling and once again appreciates his home for its "unmistakable personality and idiosyncratic charm." While at home, he lets his beard grow. Advised to shave it, even by his mother, he refuses. It will be his line in the sand, his statement about who he is. His company sends him to Chile for another business valuation; his mind filled with the troubles in Pakistan and the U.S. involvement with India that keeps the pressure on. His work and the money he earns have been overtaken by resentment of the United States and all it stands for.

Hamid's prose is filled with insight, subtly delivered: "I felt my age: an almost childlike twenty-two, rather than that permanent middle-age that attaches itself to the man who lives alone and supports himself by wearing a suit in a city not of his birth." In telling of the janissaries, Christian boys captured by Ottomans and trained to be soldiers in the Muslim Army, his Chilean host tells him: "The janissaries were always taken in childhood. It would have been far more difficult to devote themselves to their adopted empire, you see, if they had memories they could not forget." Changez cannot forget, and Hamid makes the reader understand that--and all that follows. --Valerie Ryan



A Conversation with Mohsin Hamid
Set in modern-day Pakistan, Mohsin Hamid's debut novel, Moth Smoke, went on to win awards and was listed as a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. His bold new novel, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, is a daring, fast-paced monologue of a young Pakistani man telling his life story to a mysterious American stranger. It's a controversial look at the dark side of the American Dream, exploring the aftermath of 9/11, international unease, and the dangerous pull of nostalgia. Amazon.com senior editor Brad Thomas Parsons shared an e-mail exchange with Mohsin Hamid to talk about his powerful new book

Read the Amazon.com Interview with Mohsin Hamid




--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Hamid's second book (after Moth Smoke) is an intelligent and absorbing 9/11 novel, written from the perspective of Changez, a young Pakistani whose sympathies, despite his fervid immigrant embrace of America, lie with the attackers. The book unfolds as a monologue that Changez delivers to a mysterious American operative over dinner at a Lahore, Pakistan, cafe. Pre-9/11, Princeton graduate Changez is on top of the world: recruited by an elite New York financial company, the 22-year-old quickly earns accolades from his hard-charging supervisor, plunges into Manhattan's hip social whirl and becomes infatuated with Erica, a fellow Princeton graduate pining for her dead boyfriend. But after the towers fall, Changez is subject to intensified scrutiny and physical threats, and his co-workers become markedly less affable as his beard grows in ("a form of protest," he says). Erica is committed to a mental institution, and Changez, upset by his adopted country's "growing and self-righteous rage," slacks off at work and is fired. Despite his off-putting commentary, the damaged Changez comes off as honest and thoughtful, and his creator handles him with a sympathetic grace. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Mohsin Hamid is the author of three novels, MOTH SMOKE, THE RELUCTANT FUNDAMENTALIST, and HOW TO GET FILTHY RICH IN RISING ASIA, and a book of essays, DISCONTENT AND ITS CIVILIZATIONS.

His writing has been featured on bestseller lists, adapted for the cinema, shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, selected as winner or finalist of twenty awards, and translated into more than thirty languages.

He was born in Lahore, Pakistan, and has spent about half his life there and much of the rest in London, New York, and California.

Customer Reviews

An unusual book, a very well written and engaging story quite unexpected twists.
Siobhan
I get the book, I feel like I understand what happened and what the author was trying to convey...but I guess I just don't get what all the fuss was about.
Karie Hoskins
I bought the book after hearing a review of the movie, during which they praised the book, & I read it first.
Kathryn FROWEN

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

260 of 276 people found the following review helpful By Allan Wilford Howerton, WW II Era Author. on July 27, 2007
Format: Hardcover
In a recent article in The Washington Post" (7.22.07) titled "ROOTS OF RAGE: "Why Do They Hate Us?", Mohsin Hamid writes about an encounter at a book signing in Texas for "The Reluctant Fundamentalist." He was stopped cold when a man asked the subtitle question in a politely pleasant manner that put both author and reader in the "us" category. Hamid notes that he had spent almost half his life in the United States: emigrating from Lahore, Pakistan at the age of three with his father (who was accepted to a PhD program at Stanford), learning to sing "The Star Spangled Banner" before the Pakistan national anthem, playing baseball before cricket, writing English before Urdu, and other activities of a typical American kid. The question cut to the quick because in many ways he is, or it seems should be, one of us.

The Post piece goes on to lay out an autobiography which in considerable part became the plot of "The Reluctant Fundamentalist." Hamid returned to Lahore at the age of nine, growing up there pleasurably before the city was adversely impacted economically and culturally (strict morality codes, intimidation of politicians, academics, and journalists) by American backing of Pakistan's dictator Mohammed Zia ul-Haq in exchange for Zia's support of the mujaheddin, the Afghan guerrilla group fighting the Russian occupation which later became an American holy war adversary. Like the character Changez in the novel, he returned to the United States to attend Princeton University.

How much of the remainder of the book (Changez's outstanding performance in a business evaluation firm prior to being fired in debilitating disenchantment when he recognized the havoc his work was causing in the global workplace, the American girlfriend who ultimately fails him, et cetera) is unknown.
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113 of 121 people found the following review helpful By Sheetal Bahl on July 11, 2007
Format: Hardcover
By now, you what the book is about. And you've heard the disagreements - fundamentalist, not so; controversial, innocuous; hate mail, balanced viewpoint; etc., etc. It seems like there is little left to say. But let me try and present some different perspectives on the book - things I see less talked about but which I believe are crucial to its understanding, interpretation, and appreciation.

So, let me start by stating the two key themes I am not going to be discussing: the sort of "coming-of-age" and maturing of an individual as a consequence of the social and political events around him, and the analysis of the transition that a society goes through as exemplified by the impact of some dramatic events on an individual or a family. I think both these themes are played out in this book, and played out very well like almost everything else in it, but they are still secondary themes. The real objective of the book I believe is to showcase the entire generation of "reluctant fundamentalists" that have spawned among Generations X&Y across the globe (primarily as a result of the huge economic disparities between the developed and developing nations, but that's an altogether separate debate and something I won't go into further here). These fundamentalists are not born so, they are not trained to be so, they often feel ashamed to be so, and are quintessentially not so, but nonetheless, when cornered, they become so as a natural outcome of some primal human behavioural traits like love for one's own and protecting of one's territory. These are the circumstantial fundamentalists. Changez is just one such man, and the dichotomy playing out in the minds of these reluctant fundamentalists is demonstrated in an excellent fashion through his actions in this book.
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68 of 74 people found the following review helpful By Caesar M. Warrington on August 12, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Rarely will I describe a book as beautiful. Yet I cannot think of a more befitting descriptive for Mohsin Hamid's THE RELUCTANT FUNDAMENTALIST.

The story centers around a meeting at an outdoor café in Lahore between a Pakistani man named Changez and a suspicious-looking American with the bearing that makes him out to be either military or intelligence agent. Changez engages the man initially in tea and conversation. After awhile, seeing the American most attentive --and also a bit wary of his surroundings, the Pakistani orders dinner for the two of them; meanwhile going deeper into his memories about times spent in America, as a student at Princeton and later as a rising star at a New York valuation firm. Changez also recollects his budding romance with Erica, the daughter of a wealthy investment banker who was sure to enable Changez's entry to high society. Changez was well on his way to success when the twin towers of the World Trade Center came tumbling down on September 11, 2001.

Changez's reaction to their collapse alarms and confuses him; he finds himself smiling and overjoyed. The elation, however, isn't over the deaths of 3,000 innocent people, but rather thet there are those who are able to strike at the United States --an entity which has long held him in awe with its almost limitless power, wealth and ability to affect the world: sometimes for the best, sometimes for the worst. As America becomes enraged and seeks revenge upon anything and anyone Muslim, he reads reports of Pakistan becoming coerced into the war against Afghanistan and of India taking advantage of this situation threatening his homeland. Becoming ever more distanced from our society and his work, it becomes increasingly harder for Changez to continue at his career.
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