26 July, 2021

Unquiet American: A Monologue

A Pakistan-born Princeton graduate's journey from yuppiedom to fundamentalism

Unquiet American: A Monologue
9/11, and its aftermath: not since the Cold War has an international situation provided as much opportunity for writers in the West to combine thrills with thought, action with analysis. Salman Rushdie, John Updike, Jan Guillou, Frederick Forsyth, all have given it a shot, and the list continues to expand. Of these, most novels have only scratched the surface of phenomena that remain, finally, beyond the comprehension of the classes to which these writers, and many of their readers, belong. The otherness of the religious fundamentalist, let alone the terrorist, remains incapable of narration, except as absolute evil, medieval stupidity or juvenile error, by people who have too much to lose and too little to resent.

The Reluctant Fundamentalist is a glorious exception to this rule. Its success depends not just on sympathy and thought, but also on this young novelist’s deftness. To begin with, Hamid’s protagonist-narrator, Changez, is a carefully delineated and located character: not just any ‘fundamentalist’, but a top graduate...

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