Sunday, October 4, 2009

A Subversive Little Read

Mohsin Hamid has written a devilish little book (184 pages) wihich had been recommended to me probably over a year ago, but which I just got to.  Well!  Better late than never!  The Ruluctant Fundamentalist is the name and I highly recommend listening to it as the reader, Satya Bhabha, does an outstanding job of ratcheting up the tension that the author has created. 

Bhabha truly becomes Changez, the brilliant young Pakistani immigrant whose degree from Princeton places him in the enviable position of earning an $80,000 a year income with esteemed acquisitions firm Underwood Samson.  Changez is in love with all the accoutrements of his job, the expense account, modern apartment, American champagne, and New York City.  We know this because he tells us so in a fascinating, book-length, one-sided conversation with an American stranger in a tea restaurant in Lahore.

What, you might ask, is he doing in Lahore when his "wonderful" life is back in the states? That's where the book gets tricky.  With a creeping sense of dread the reader begins to realize that something has changed within Changez.  An incendiary relationship between a nuclear India, which he perceives is being backed up by the US, and his home of Pakistan, is smoldering, affecting the family he supports with his outsize earnings. Then comes Sept. 11th and the reactions around the world don't seem to gel with Changez's own complicated feelings.

Fair warning, this is a very disturbing book, one that may only be appreciated by those who aren't afraid to see themselves as others see them.  At first I thought - book discussion material!  Then, the more I mulled it over (and it's still with me a week later) I realized that our customers may not be ready for - in fact - "can't handle the truth" as proposed by our reluctant fundamentalist.  I, on the other hand, am now anxious to read Moth Smoke, same author and reader, which was a New York Times Notable when it came out.

To get a sense of Mr. Hamid, check out this interview at Amazon:

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