October 13, 2007

Man Booker Prize for Mohsin Hamid of 'The Reluctant Fundamentalist' fame?

Mohsin Hamid is short listed for the prestigious Man Booker Prize for Fiction 2007, the UK’s annual celebration of the finest in fiction! Look out for the winner on Tuesday.




I read Hamid's 'The Reluctant Fundamentalist' earlier on this summer, and enjoyed it thoroughly. Here's the post on it from the archives:

June 25, 2007

Janissary Debriefed by Mohsin Hamid in "The Reluctant Fundamentalist" ?

The Reluctant Fundamentalist is an enchanting monologue that strips the east-west divide to its barest. Mohsin Hamid has written a very engaging piece of literature that captures the essence of what it means to be a Muslim in the USA in this current day and age. It is to be noted that Hamid wrote the first draft of this novel while living in London, a few months before the September 11 tragedy.

There are two outstanding things about this novel: its language and its structure. The language of the novel makes it come alive, and some of the images that Hamid conjures are remarkable. For instance, the one about recruitment time on the Princeton campus where "Princeton raised her skirt for the corporate recruiters ... and showed them some skin... I was something special. I was a perfect breast... tan, succulent, seemingly defiant of gravity...". What a rousing description that is! Hamid certainly has a way with words to capture a readers imagination into willing submission. Hamid's narration of the story, a monologue, is another stroke of genius where the reader is lead up alleys to explore and experience the illustrious past of this mellow sounding, yet eerie narrator, Changez; also the chief protagonist of the novel. The fact that: the monologue is taking place in a small cafe in Lahore, the narrator is a bearded Pakistani educated at Princeton and a one time resident and lover of New York, and the listener is a fidgety and nervous American visitor, lends a sense of uncertainty and suspense to the entire proceeding, which is but a few hours long. The reader is at edge by the end of the novel wondering whether the narrator, a Janisarry of sorts, is a predator or the prey.

Mohsin Hamid may have gotten lucky with the timing of this novel, the subject of which is instant fodder for an Islamophobic world. What he intended the protagonist to be, would be interesting to know because Changez the chief protagonist of the novel appears rather fickle and rash for all his academic and corporate astuteness. The turning point in the novel seems all too sudden and implausible in the light of who Changez is. It is this that made me wonder about the changes, if any, Hamid may have made in the novel to accommodate the September 11 tragedy. Did the author bring about changes such that he could ride upon the hysteria of a post 9/11 world?

The title is pretty well chosen in that Changez is perceived a 'fundamentalist' in more ways than one. Also, the reader is compelled to revisit the meaning of the word 'fundamental', and what it constitutes to be a 'fundamentalist', and there is plenty of enlightenment to be gained by this search; the findings of which may be scary. One of which may be that the world has a large number of non-Muslim fundamentalists, many of who are not 'reluctant'!

Mohsin Hamid has repeatedly been asked whether this novel is autobiographical; a question I believe shows blatant disrespect to Art. This query, it is argued, carries some credence because there are many similarities between the author and the chief protagonist Changez: both are Pakistani, are Princeton alumni, have worked in corporate America, and are disillusioned by what's currently happening in the USA. However, Hamid's ending of the novel would put to rest all such questions; it's an ending that opens up a whole new horizon just as the curtains are coming down.

A compelling read that took me less than three hours to read.

26 comments:

lash said...

islamaphobia. Like we discussed a few posts earlier as to how timings help certain writers.

But this review more or less removes that suspicion..

Beautiful read this must be. And since three hours is a 'spendable time' I am onto this. Thanks.

'bastard of istanbul' A friend had mentioned this to me awhile ago.
:)

Id it is said...

lash,
'this review more or less removes that suspicion.. '
I'm not so sure of that. His next work will do that, I hope. He promises (in an interview) it'll be on a very different subject. Let's see...

Lotus Reads said...

What a terrific review, Id! I read this book a couple of months ago and enjoyed it immensely. Like you said, it was a quick read but one that revealed itself to me rather slowly. It was a whole week after I read the book that I realized that his relationship with Erica somewhat paralleled his relationship with the US.

Didn't like how fast he seemed to spiral into fundamentalism, but loved the edgy ending...

I thought he picked a great title too...the F- word is always bound to get the public's attention:)

I have more thoughts but it's late here and my brain is getting fuzzy with sleep.

Have you read his previous novel "Moth Smoke"?

Id it is said...

lotus reads,
Thanks. No I haven't read that. Would you recommend it?
I just checked out your review on this book and enjoyed it thoroughly.
"his relationship with Erica somewhat paralleled his relationship with the US".That's an interesting observation...I need to chew upon that.

Raza Rumi said...

Well this is the first positive review that I am reading of RF. After reading this, I have to get the book.
thanks
RR

Lotus Reads said...

Thanks, Id and hi again!

I wish I still had my copy...there are so many other observations that came to mind after I wrote my review, but not having a copy to reference keeps me from writing them down.

I haven't read "Moth Smoke" but it comes recommended by a ton of people. I have heard through the grapevine that Rahul Bose plans to direct its screen version, so maybe I'll keep a look-out for that.

AVIANA said...

great review! my one question (i hope it's not taken the wrong way)....why is it a blatant disrepect to art if someone asks if the art they are appreciating is autobiographical? :)

Id it is said...

aviana,
"why is it a blatant disrepect to art if someone asks if the art they are appreciating is autobiographical?"
Art is free expression and can and should be appreciated as is. When it is questioned in anyway the reader is evaluating it; sometimes without even realizing it. Looking for motives in art takes away from the piece. The aforementioned is a much debated issue so you don't have to agree with it; hehe

Sanjay said...

Thank you for the review, this book has to be read. I hope to do that soon.

has repeatedly been asked whether this novel is autobiographical; a question I believe shows blatant disrespect to Art.
I have to disagree with you about this. This is a question that gets asked of a lot of authors and should not be out of bounds.
Art is like you say about free expression as is interviewing the artist and trying to understand what makes him or her tick. To not ask that question closes one avenue of understanding and interpreting art. But thats just my opinion.

Id it is said...

sanjay,
There are many out there who agree with you,but as I said in an earlier comment this is a highly debated issue! I still hold that Art is to be appreciated as is and should not be held under a microscope for analysis; it's personal expression thrown out in the open for all to see/listen/read; it's defenseless and thus should not be made to feel the threat of attack. Art is the mark of civilization and should thus be nurtured, be allowed to flourish and grow unfettered.
Again, this is simply my opinion and there may be more convincing ones out there, hehe

bablu said...

Well Im not at all into reading books(I used to - but thats a long time ago). But I have to admit that U have the penchant to pick up the right books and write the perfect preview for them. Keep it up !

Nasir said...

Hi ID!
about MH...
I see him writting more and more about fundamentalism...
"The Reluctant Fundamentalist" n earlier "Focus on the Fundantals"...

I see u writting back to back reviews!
Great Job.

Manas Shaikh said...

wow review! i want to read it.

Dr. Deb said...

Less than three hours to read? What a page turner.

pRicky said...

Have you wondered how the influx of writers and authors changes from region to region as the amount of conflict increases...
we love strife over other things...
That makes life complicated and hence intellectual to a degree of complication.
Fundamentally I am quite astounded by all the reads you have mentioned and reading any kind intrigues me but I just wonder... are we beyond the happy wonders of the world?

net-net4 said...

Hi "I Me My" !
How is going ?
So many interesting writings...

Now i edit thoughts and poems every first thursday of a month...
So next time will be the 5th of July...
If you want to leave me some of your words again i will be very glad !
Hava a nice day...

Id it is said...

pricky,
"Have you wondered how the influx of writers and authors changes from region to region as the amount of conflict increases..." That is a loaded comment and could make up a new post!
How many South Asian and Middle East writers did we in the West know of, let aside read, prior to 9/11? In fact the novel I'm almost about to finish says just this. The writer is merely holding up a mirror to our conflict-ridden world ,and let's us find the reflection that we, subjectively, choose to see.
As for the silver lining...each one has to seek his own; that is if he is inclined to finding one, hehe
Thanks for stopping by.

ReadnRyte said...

Hi,
Quite very well written, I must say. I particularly liked the ambiguous way Hamid ends his book and must say that to present the story as a monologue was quite an inspiration.
Though I felt that he was taking too much pains to draw parallels with his life viz a viz the world situation, the book was a damn good read without it being too 'inaccessible'..if you know what I mean :)

With respect to the argument abour 'art' n 'self'..I believe that art is always 'autobiographical' and reflects the artists state of mind at a particular point in time.

My two paise :)

Keep writing...you write well.

Keep smilin'

EYE said...

I think I got to read this.

EYE said...

i am new to america and just realising that America's greatest opponent seems to be not India or China, but conflict ridden countries like Iraq and Aghanistan and being Muslim or for that matter wearing scarf or a stole around your head can be an experience after all.

Id it is said...

Anne Enright's "The Gathering" won the Booker Prize.

EXSENO said...

Sometimes I wonder if the books that you review are as good as your review of them is.
This is just a spell binding review. I will probably never get to read it but you certainly make me want to.

Manas Shaikh said...

That's good news. I was expecting another good news from Pakistan- Ehdi getting Nobel prize, which didn't happen, not atleast this year! :)

D said...

Hey III...good review..another must buy on my list...

jedi said...

Havent read the novel yet. had read some glowing reviews on it. The excerpts seem def interesting. had read the short story 'Focus on the Fundamentals'. Was based on the The Reluctant Fundamentalist,ive heard. Didnt like that one much though.

Anyways the Bookers panel have lost their act, i feel. First The Inheritance of loss and now The Gathering!!

Sanjay said...

The entire collection of Man Booker shortlists will be available to read online soon. Nice eh?