Friday, June 18, 2010
The Reluctant Fundamentalist, Part 2
Thought it might be nice to once again follow up my own thoughts on Mohsin Hamid's novella with the impressions of various members of my book group. We were fortunate to have a couple of new people in attendance, one of whom had been wanting to talk to a group about the book and one whom had only read it the night before.
The main thing that was fascinating to me was that there were two opposing views of what had happened between the narrator and his silent antagonist. Both groups had been so certain that they had the right interpretation that it had occurred to neither that there might be a different interpretation until they heard one at the meeting. Apparently the ambiguity was Hamid's intention, but I wonder how well this strategy works if you don't discuss it with others, as the story itself does not reveal to you that you might not have gotten its point.
I'm not sure that as a group we really got into the trajectory of the Changez's story. In retrospect, I think the group view that Changez was just a guy who never quite fit in, making it a personal problem or personality quirk failed to follow the real dilemmas of a character like Changez, which have to do more with a cultural situation than with his idiosyncracies. I believe I said in my first post that people became reintrigued with this book after the attempted Times Square bombing by Faisal Shahzad, as Changez seemed in some way to prefigure Shahzad. Changez does not explain Shahzad, but an American who reads this book will come away with at least a little more understanding of how America looks through Pakistani eyes. And that certainly is all to the good and a service that Hamid has provided us.
In my search for a photo for this post--the author, by the way, lest that remains unclear--I came across a nice review, which probably makes clear some points that I have unintentionally left vague.