Friday, October 24, 2014

Book Review: The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid

The plot of this short novel begins with a young Pakistani, Changez, who heads to USA for his higher studies in a prestigious university. After his studies, he manages to get a job in an investment banking firm. His intelligence, hard work and commitment help him to get noticed and grow within the organization. He finds an American girl friend too. Before it turns out to be all is well story, terror strikes on the World Trade Center at New York bring down twin towers come to the earth. That incident changes the way white Americans looked at Muslims living in the country. The protagonist of the story too observes people around looking at him with suspicion. A colleague of him advised to shave off the beard. Checks at Airport turn embarrassing. Strangers attempt a physical assault on him when he is alone in the car park. His girlfriend falls sick and moves away from him. All these developments put Changez into introspection and he finally realizes he truly belongs to his home country Pakistan and that is where his destiny is. He resigns from the job, packs off his bags, heads back to his home country. He finds a job in a College but his passion turns him into a social activist.

The whole story is told in first person in autobiographic style, over a conversation with an American tourist visiting Pakistan talking to the author in a restaurant. Though it is supposed to be the dialogue between the two strangers, it is the uninterrupted monologue which runs through the entire novel. So the reader gets to hear only person throughout the novel, the narrator in first person. This style is unique and may be unsuitable for a work of fiction but the author make it work for this story.

This book was shortlisted for The Man Booker prize in 2007. Its author Mohsin Hamid is talented and a writer to watch out for.