Written by on April 2, 2008

The Reluctant Fundamentalist

This tense novel takes place entirely at a cafe table in Lahore, Pakistan. The speaker, a Pakistani man named Changez, tells an unnamed (and unheard) American man the recent events of his life: his graduation from Princeton; his trip to Greece with school friends; his truncated romance and long-running obsession with Erica, an anorexic classmate, who is in turn obsessed with her dead boyfriend; his meteoric rise in his first job with an elite valuation firm. The buildup and aftermath of 9/11 alter Changez’s view of America at least as much as America’s view of him.

The suspense builds as Changez catches the American up to the present. There’s a sense of foreboding, of mutual suspicion and distrust, but the reader can’t tell who’s in danger till the last moment, and arguably not even then.

Many of the details of Hamid’s life match those of his narrator. Click here to hear him discuss nostalgia, the book’s structure, and the difficulties of balancing his Pakistaniness with his Americanness.

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