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The Reluctant Fundamentalist | [Mohsin Hamid]

The Reluctant Fundamentalist

At a cafe table in Lahore, a bearded Pakistani man converses with a suspicious, and possibly armed, American stranger. As dusk deepens to night, he begins the tale that has brought them to this fateful meeting. Changez is living an immigrant's dream of America. At the top of his class at Princeton, he is snapped up by Underwood Samson, an elite investment firm. He thrives on the energy of New York. But in the wake of September 11, he finds his position in his adopted city suddenly overturned.
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Publisher's Summary

At a cafe table in Lahore, a bearded Pakistani man converses with a suspicious, and possibly armed, American stranger. As dusk deepens to night, he begins the tale that has brought them to this fateful meeting.

Changez is living an immigrant's dream of America. At the top of his class at Princeton, he is snapped up by Underwood Samson, an elite firm that specializes in the valuation of companies ripe for acquisition. He thrives on the energy of New York. But in the wake of September 11, he finds his position in his adopted city suddenly overturned. And Changez's own identity is in seismic shift as well, unearthing allegiances more fundamental than money, power, and perhaps even love.

©2007 Mohsin Hamid; (P)2007 BBC Audiobooks America

What the Critics Say

"Bhabha's English-influenced Pakistani accent proves soothing and inviting for listeners." (Publishers Weekly)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.9 (249 )
5 star
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3.8 (149 )
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4.2 (142 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Vahe Kassardjian Montreal, Quebec Canada 11-30-12
    Vahe Kassardjian Montreal, Quebec Canada 11-30-12 Member Since 2007
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    "Disappointed"
    What would have made The Reluctant Fundamentalist better?

    I was expecting a consistent and persuasive account of how a Westernized young man can adopt (or rise to) fundamentalism. All I found is Hollywoodian run-of-the-mill storyboard made to become a movie, and thus directly falls target to its own criticism of being driven by capitalist motivations.Half the book is about the protagonist's professional life. Very detailed in the beginning (garduation from Princeton, job interview, etc) but sketchy and precipitated towards the end as the hero embraces fundamentalism. The other half of the book is intertwined with the first one and describes his romantic -- and occasionally erotic -- relation with an American girl. The mixture is not a happy one. I wish some repetitive romantic stretches were replaced by a better explanation of the fundamentalist motives.


    29 of 29 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Paula United States 08-25-11
    Paula United States 08-25-11 Member Since 2010

    I want to read books that take me to a "place and/or time" I've never been. On the other hand, I love reading about places where I HAVE been.

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    "Not about Fundamentalism in its usual sense."

    Skillfully written and a fascinating read. The point of view is first person narrative as told by the main character Changez, a Pakistani. Changez has spent 4+ years living in the U.S, attending Princeton University then finally getting a job in N.Y. at a management consulting firm (the letters of whose name also are U.S.) He chances upon an American on the street and invites him to sit down in an outdoor cafe to have some tea. There he spends several hours talking to the American while the two of them share tea and then a meal in an outdoor market place in Lahore. We never find out the American's name or occupation nor why he is there in Pakistan. He is dressed rather formally and seems to have a bulge under his suit jacket (a gun?)
    We also do not hear any of the words spoken by the American man but his reactions, questions and answers are revealed by the narrator.
    (Paraphrased)
    Changez: "I went to university in New Jersey."
    (pause)

    Changez: "Why yes you have guessed that it was Princeton"
    (pause)

    Changez: "Oh yes, I liked it very much."

    It is a very unique method of telling a written story.
    From the conversation we see that Changez, at first, loves his new life in the U.S. feeling fortunate to be a part of such a modern and progressive and forward thinking world. A world where nearly anyone can be successful. He even has the fortune of falling in love with a beautiful American woman. He seems happy. His job takes him around the world, where he is proud to be mistaken as an American.

    Then while away on a trip in Manila he is watching the TV as a plane flies into the Twin Towers on 9/11. Returning to N.Y. he begins to notice that Americans, who have previously admired and befriended him, begin to act suspicious of him. He notes that the citizens of New York begin to rally around their flag. He feels like an outsider. Reluctantly he returns to his home in Pakistan to teach at a university there, getting involved in a nationalistic group.
    I'll leave the rest and f

    18 of 18 people found this review helpful
  •  
    alan Petaluma, CA, United States 11-23-12
    alan Petaluma, CA, United States 11-23-12 Member Since 2002

    alan

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    "great book but audio is missing...."
    Where does The Reluctant Fundamentalist rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    one of the best/


    What about Satya Bhabha’s performance did you like?

    pitch perfect


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    great ending--lets you add in your own thoughts as to what happened/


    Any additional comments?

    excellent novel of south asia/ good film by mira nair too/ HOWEVER be aware that 5-8 minutes of this audio are missing from the audiobook--the last part of chapter/track 3/like " life of pi' which is also missing a most significant part/

    12 of 12 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ryan Somerville, MA, United States 05-18-13
    Ryan Somerville, MA, United States 05-18-13 Member Since 2005

    Gen-Xer, software engineer, and lifelong avid reader. Soft spots for sci-fi, fantasy, and history, but I'll read anything good.

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    "An outsider alienated"

    I’m a sucker for unreliable narrators, so the structure of this book grabbed my interest right away. A man named Changez is having a conversation at a cafe in Lahore, Pakistan with someone who might be a CIA agent. Or, maybe not -- we only hear Changez’s side of the conversation, and it becomes less and less clear, given his overly solicitous tone, that it really is a conversation. What’s going on here?

    However, Changez proceeds to confess his life story, telling the phantom agent (and the reader) how he won a scholarship to Princeton as a young man, graduated near the top of his class, met a girl, and went to work at an elite global consulting firm, the kind that gets hired to “trim the fat” from struggling companies. Then September 11 happens, and Changez finds himself feeling less and less in love with America, and more and more like an outsider, alienated its by its imperial power structures, including his own employer, and the self-righteousness and xenophobia that the attacks bring to the surface in Americans. More and more, he finds himself identifying with the country he came from, however numerous its problems. It’s a story that's not hard to imagine happening, and Satya Bhabha’s fine audiobook reading makes the voice ring true.

    Unfortunately, the narrative and its indictments are weakened by the addition of a transparently allegorical romantic relationship between Changez and a depressive girl named Erica (hmm, what does that rhyme with?), who still pines for an idealized past with a now-dead former boyfriend. Poetic, sure, but Hamid doesn't logically connect this experience with breakdown and disappointed love to anything that's symptomatic of the US or Pakistan in particular. It was hard for me not to suppose that if things had worked out with Erica, Changez probably would have overcome his angst towards the US and stayed. Is that really the point? Also, the word "fundamentalist" in the title is a bit misleading, since religious fundamentalism doesn't figure much into this novel. It's really just a play on the word "fundamentals", which is used in a different context.

    But, even with the flaws in execution, I enjoyed the concept of the book, the sincerity of its voice, and the ambiguity of its framing and conclusion. Hamid spins evocative moments out of just a few simple details, doing more with four and a half hours (of audiobook time) than some writers do with fifteen. When the protagonist recounts his exasperation at cynical US policy during the frightening 2001 military confrontation between India and Pakistan, I had to admit, to my shame, that I had only the vaguest memory that this event even took place. I can probably tell you more about what Playstation games were popular that year. So, maybe he has a point about our indifference towards the rest of the world here in the US? In sum, while not as penetrating as it could have been, the Reluctant Fundamentalist still got me to think and is a good example of fiction’s increasingly international voice.

    21 of 22 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sue St. Louis 03-29-13
    Sue St. Louis 03-29-13 Member Since 2009

    Sue

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    "Great listen, tense story."

    This is a relatively short read that kept me riveted until the end and left me thinking about it long after. It's always good to hear different viewpoints of events and to hear opinions other than your own. Highly recommend this book!

    7 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Clark ogden, UT, United States 12-01-12
    Clark ogden, UT, United States 12-01-12 Member Since 2009
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    "trying to understand"
    Would you consider the audio edition of The Reluctant Fundamentalist to be better than the print version?

    yes


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    the girl friend she seemed so real and sad, lost and yet full of life, that is the Western view of life, or how to have it all but end up with nothing worth living for.


    Which character – as performed by Satya Bhabha – was your favorite?

    the book publisher in South America


    If you could rename The Reluctant Fundamentalist, what would you call it?

    the devastation of self realization.


    Any additional comments?

    A great listen to help understand the strange world of 2012, and looking past the Madison Ave. portrait of what is supposed to be America in the 21st century. A rare look through
    another individuals eyes concerning his own transformation from wall street clone to real human being.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    J. Kovler 12-20-08
    J. Kovler 12-20-08 Member Since 2007

    LK

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    "Should have won the Booker!"

    In simple yet powerful language the writer succeeds in setting a scene that becomes more and more sinister as we hear Changez, the narrator, telling an American guest to his country about his transformation from a bright young Pakistani student in America into his present persona. The suspense builds as we, like the American guest he is telling the story to, become at first uneasy and then overtly suspicious as to exactly what that persona is. Hamid's brilliance is in his choice of relatively few words and straightforward conversational technique to extract from us some complex emotions: we see through the eyes of Changez how the American dream would inevitably disintegrate for him and why he and others like him can never feel that they're an equal part of post 9/11 American society. We understand his disdain towards America without sympathizing with it. At the same time we feel suspicious towards Changez and realize that these suspicions could be based on our own prejudices. The author offers no solutions: just questions as to our own behavior and whether the huge cultural gap between the West and East can ever be bridged.
    The narrator, Satya Bhabha, with his clipped yet foreign English is totally convincing in his portrayal of Changez.
    Don't be put off by the heavy subject matter: this is a riveting, effortless read and the suspense will keep you listening.

    17 of 19 people found this review helpful
  •  
    connie Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada 10-10-08
    connie Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada 10-10-08 Member Since 2007

    trying to see the world with my ears

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    "Should be required reading for North Americans"

    The text consists of the words of a Princeton educated Pakistani in conversation with an unidentified westerner at a cafe in Lahore in the course of one evening-- We hear one side of the conversation with the second diner's words reflected by the listener, and with other characters entering through his reflections.

    This is a many layered novel/novella that often depends on the listener's assumptions as to what is really going on. It works on its own as a suspense tale, the kind in which the reader suspects the outcome form the start but is constantly teased toward that end. This might be called "The Quiet American" for the war on terror. Don't download this if you are looking for a formula mystery with clear cut good guy/bad guy characters.

    Since the novel is "conversation," it works even more cleverly as an audio book. The narration is excellent. The reader is left with the questions: "Who are the fundamentalists?" and "Who are the terrorists?", all without being against the American people.

    29 of 34 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lisa Silver Spring, MD, United States 01-16-14
    Lisa Silver Spring, MD, United States 01-16-14 Member Since 2011
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    "Do I keep listening?"
    What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

    A different style of writing - see comment below.


    What do you think your next listen will be?

    The 100 year old man who climbed out the window...


    What does Satya Bhabha bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    His accent and voice variation for different characters.


    If you could play editor, what scene or scenes would you have cut from The Reluctant Fundamentalist?

    I purchased this book because I watched the movie and enjoyed it. The overall concept of the story is good but I did not like how it was written. The main character told the story with a one-sided conversation with a tourist at a café in Lahore, Pakistan. I felt the technique of narrating a one-sided conversation ("would you like some tea? you would? i'll order it for you.) distracting. I also felt like it was a lazy way to write a book. And as I was debating whether or not to continue listening, the story ended. Just a like that.


    Any additional comments?

    In this case, the movie was better than the book.

    8 of 11 people found this review helpful
  •  
    kzhaq Lake Hiawatha, NJ, United States 06-25-12
    kzhaq Lake Hiawatha, NJ, United States 06-25-12 Member Since 2011

    KZ

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Blown away by Mohsin Hamid!"
    What made the experience of listening to The Reluctant Fundamentalist the most enjoyable?

    The fact that I could listen to it while being on a train instead of packing extra weight! Also, how it was written. I was hooked right after the first chapter and the ending was just as different.


    What other book might you compare The Reluctant Fundamentalist to and why?

    None


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    The character's love for the girl. It's so well written that you can climb into every character's head.


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
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