Just Read: The Reluctant Fundamentalist
I had bought this book along with Measuring the World about a month or so back. Since then it has been through two borrowers (Santhosh and Sridevi) and finally reached me on Monday. I had read good reviews for the book and was looking forward to have a read. Suffice it to say, I was not disappointed.
It’s a small novel (184 pages), so, I could finish it in three sittings–of roughly 2.5 hours each–flat.
The first thing that catches your attention, and requires you make an adjustment of sorts, is the first person narration that the author, Mohsin Hamid, employs. He narrates his story to a stranger from whom we never hear. The story unfolds at a dusky Lahore restaurant on a spring evening. the stranger is an American, so the connection between his past and present is quite obvious.
Hamid moves back and forth into his life in America and the stranger in front of Changez, the protagonist, with great ease. Although some times I thought it stopped the flow, in retrospect I see that it was quite needed that he talked to the stranger. Every time he went back to his life in America, though, I felt as if I, the reader, was the stranger himself.
Particularly delightful reading were the descriptions of life back in Pakistan. Like when Changez says to the stranger:
It is remarkable, I must say, how being in Pakistan heightens one’s sensitivity to the sight of a woman’s body…It is the effect of scarcity; one’s rules of propriety make one thirst for the improper.
Another aspect of Hamid’s writing that catches attention is the frequent italicising of words. Such words appear sprinkled benevolently and at times look very unusual. Like here: “He had a penchant for quoting lines from popular cinema, much as my mother quoted th poems of Faiz and Ghalib. But I suspect Wainwright made this particular allusion to Star Wars mostly in jest….” Notice that Star Wars is in italics but Faiz and Ghalib aren’t. Also, consider this line: “But why do you recoil? Ah yes, this beggar is a particularly unfortunate fellow. One can only wonder what series of accidents could have left him so thoroughly disfigured.” If you were disfigured, it mostly had to be because of an accident or tow. If the beggar was born disfigured, then why use the plural? May be I am reading too much into it, but I did find it very peculiar.
And finally, I must admit that I never could identify more with the protagonist of a book than Changez. Several parts of his life looked so familiar, especially the girl in his life, Erica.
Image courtesy: The Hindu