Monday, 28 March 2011

The Reluctant Fundamentalist

Mohsin Hamid

Changez, the eponymous narrator of The Reluctant Fundamentalist, is charming, polite, and irresistibly likable. It becomes apparent, however, that he is holding something something back; he is not all he seems.

How much of this is the deliberate distancing of respect that his American friends find so endearing, and how much is slick, narratorial deceit, is deliberately unclear.

But this is no con. Hamid draws you in, and it is a cold reader indeed who does not emphasise fully with Changez. And when it is revealed that Changez is, to whichever degree you choose to read into it, a fundamentalist, there is no sleight of hand involved.

The gentle, grey area blend from American success story to riot-stirring anti-American is both the craft and the message of this book. We are presented with two extremely opposite points of view, and the book is a dialogue between them. Are they fundamentally different positions, separate in essense? Hamid doesn't think so.

Changez's own journey to becoming a fundamentalist might feel like a trick, because there is never one moment when something of essense changes. We never feel the train run over the joints in the track; instead, it's a smooth ride from one position to the other.

And that's because there is no defining line in the sand, between one position and the other. They are opposite ends of a completely crossable spectrum.

How far Changez, and Hamid, carry you with them in ideals, is debatable; but also beside the point. It is how far our empathy can be carried that is the revelation.

I was given this book through the very excellent World Book Night: and I'm going to pass it on to someone, soon. Has anyone else recieved a World Book Night copy of anything?


  1. I find the premise of this book fascinating, definitely one for the TBR list.

  2. Hi Ben!

    Sounds interesting, I will have to check it out.
    Also, I've left an award for you on my blog!