The Reluctant Fundamentalist

I completed reading The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid yesterday, and it is certainly a remarkable novel. I personally feel that it lacks the allegorical charm which his previous novel Moth Smoke possessed, but like Moth Smoke, The Reluctant Fundamentalist has a very fluid, ambiguous and surprising end... in the both novels, Mohsin Hamid throws the burden of coming up with a conclusion on the reader, but this aspect is much more marked in The Reluctant Fundamentalist.

I came up this interview of Mohsin Hamid, and his answers to two of the questions, which i shall quote here, shed light on the way the novel ends:

Q: The Reluctant Fundamentalist is a monologue about a young Pakistani’s experiences in America at the time of the 9/11 attacks. What made you choose this format, which has the Pakistani telling his tale to an American whose voice is never actually heard?

A: The form of the novel, with the narrator and his audience both acting as characters, allowed me to mirror the mutual suspicion with which America and Pakistan (or the Muslim world) look at one another. The Pakistani narrator wonders: Is this just a normal guy or is he a killer out to get me? The American man who is his audience wonders the same. And this allows the novel to inhabit the interior emotional world much like the exterior political world in which it will be read. The form of the novel is an invitation to the reader. If the reader accepts, then he or she will be called upon to judge the novel’s outcome and shape its ending.

Q: The stunning ending of The Reluctant Fundamentalist leaves room for speculation and debate. Were you deliberately working toward a surprise ending when you first started the novel?

A: I certainly was working toward an ambiguous ending, one that would reflect the reader’s own view of the world back at him or her. Depending on how the reader views the world in which the novel takes place, the reader can see the novel as a thriller or as an encounter between two rather odd gentlemen. Because the journey I am asking readers to undertake is emotional and troubling, I knew I wanted a strong narrative pull, a mystery that would add urgency to their reading. The ending, I hope, is the culmination of those efforts.

[Source of the interview: ]


UK said…
The novel is absolutely brilliant. It took a while to get into the first-person prose but it sucked me in and I could not put it down. The story seems real and the characters jump at you. The internal conflict Changez is faced with is facinating.