Just finished reading The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid and was simply blown away. Another book I need to buy and present it to my friends ( the other being Yuganta by Iravati Karve, but more on that another time) its just that good.
First the format and structure – a conversation between two people forms the backbone of the book that supports the main story. Not since A Death in Venice or My Dinner with Andre can I remember the kind of a structure working so well. But Mr. Hamid goes a step further.
The characters so well etched out – the American tourist who is listening to the story always worried someone will kidnap him or the food in Lahore will kill him. The pale girlfriend who has everything in the world and yet cannot fight the demons in her head. The boss, reminiscent of silent tough heroes we see in Hollywood films of corporate America. And the Pakistani protagonist who is relating his recent life history that made him give up a lucrative career in America and return to a stagnant middle class life in Lahore.
Also the description of New York as a global city cut away from the rest of America was so familiar. So many of my friends who have been there have spoken of its cosmopolitan nature. The descriptions in this novel make you turn the book and confirm whether the writer is actually a non-white who has only stayed for a few years in the city.
However I felt the author felt into the same trap that Americans do when they describe the world as pre 9/11 and post 9/11. Whatever changes happened in America after September 2001 could only be possible if those thoughts and arguments existed in the minds of White America earlier. I do not think most of us were surprise the way they reacted but at the absurd arguments they gave for attacking countries half way across the globe.
The highlight of the novel was the protagonist’s first reaction when he sees the planes crashing into the World Trade Centre. Initially he thinks it is a film – a Hollywood movie. Then he realizes that it is news being reported he smiles. He smiles. Inspite of the fact that he studied in the Ivy league and is part of the American corporate system that dominates the world agenda.
I remember when I saw the footage my reaction was WOW! Both in terms of the audacity of the plan and impact it will have on the world. Not for once did I think of the people trapped in the tower or the cruelty behind the act.
This is a strange. First of all I write in a language that Americans understand, I watch Hollywood movies and read the New York Times online regularly. My favorite author has been Hemingway. And seriously speaking my country is not at war with America. Then why did i react like that? I guess I must ask George Bush when I meet him.