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5.0 out of 5 stars Not about Fundamentalism in its usual sense., July 28, 2011
This review is from: The Reluctant Fundamentalist (Paperback)
Skillfully written and a fascinating read. The point of view is first person narrative as told by the main character Changez, a Pakistani. Changez has spent 4+ years living in the U.S, attending Princeton University then finally getting a job in N.Y. at a management consulting firm (the letters of whose name also are U.S.) He chances upon an American on the street and invites him to sit down in an outdoor cafe to have some tea. There he spends several hours talking to the American while the two of them share tea and then a meal in an outdoor market place in Lahore. We never find out the American's name or occupation nor why he is there in Pakistan. He is dressed rather formally and seems to have a bulge under his suit jacket (a gun?)
We also do not hear any of the words spoken by the American man but his reactions, questions and answers are revealed by the narrator.
(Paraphrased)
Changez: "I went to university in New Jersey."
(pause)
Changez: "Why yes you have guessed that it was Princeton"
(pause)
Changez: "Oh yes, I liked it very much."

It is a very unique method of telling a written story.
From the conversation we see that Changez, at first, loves his new life in the U.S. feeling fortunate to be a part of such a modern and progressive and forward thinking world. A world where nearly anyone can be successful. He even has the fortune of falling in love with a beautiful American woman. He seems happy. His job takes him around the world, where he is proud to be mistaken as an American.

Then while away on a trip in Manila he is watching the TV as a plane flies into the Twin Towers on 9/11. Returning to N.Y. he begins to notice that Americans, who have previously admired and befriended him, begin to act suspicious of him. He notes that the citizens of New York begin to rally around their flag. He feels like an outsider. Reluctantly he returns to his home in Pakistan to teach at a university there, getting involved in a nationalistic group.
I'll leave the rest and fill-in details for you to read.
Never is religion nor God nor spiritualism mentioned in Changez's conversation with the American. The character in this story professes no religious fervor. Because of this I don't think this is about religious fundamentalism. I believe the "fundamentalism" here is about ideological belief in an established set of basic principles regarding modern political and social mores. Maybe Changez has been analyzing the "Fundamentals" of America's value systems by studying her 'assets and liabilities' and how they pertain to him after 9/11 and the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. That's just my guess. Perhaps the author can enlighten?

This is a story of both an internal and external culture clash between Pakistan and America. Why do the people of the Middle East feel the way they do toward the U.S? What exactly is the "War on Terror?" These are things to think about.
There is also a suspenseful undercurrent and clash of the "relationship" between Changez and the American with whom he shares his meal. Who will win that struggle?
Fast read. I listened to an audible version. The length of the book is the length of the conversation. It happens in real time. I read it in one sitting.
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