Sunday, 19 July 2009

Mohsin Hamid: The Reluctant Fundamentalist

Review originally posted on Fbook
An incredible piece of writing. I was intrigued by the author when hearing him on a World Service Radio show saying he took 9 years to write this even though it is quite short. Also the host of the show said it was her favourite work of 2007.

I can see what she meant. Reading it it seems that every word, phrase and image has been thought over and is there for a purpose. Almost like a prose poem. Taking the form of a single character monologue in real time, a young Pakistani addresses a shadowy American (tourist, agent, soldier?) as dusk turns to night.

The format of the monologue is quite Russian but two of my favourite recent Scottish novels also adopt this structure: How late it was how late and Filth.

Ostensibly a narration about disillusionment with the West and human relations in the wake of the 11th September bombings it actually reveals much more. Damaged people, the nature of writing, the instability of finance capital (quite prescient on that one), the nature of hierarchies both past and present are all examined. And in a sense that is just scratching the surface.

The "platypus" (quote from book) form of the novella works to perfection here. The underlying danger, the build up of tension and the ambiguous ending brought to mind other current works of fiction most notably the excellent final episode of the Sopranos.
Only his second work too, impressive

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