We had a group discussion of Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist last night and I left feeling faintly troubled. Most people wanted to talk about the subject matter – leading off into all sorts of world views and favourite gripes. I had been knocked out by the use of language and the writer’s skills. One of the consequences of writing, which has both an upside and a downside, is that your perspective changes. You can’t help, even in the most absorbing of stories, becoming aware of the writer’s craft skills. I used to regret that total loss of self as I read, now I relish it.
That wasn’t the only disquiet I felt. I thought Hamid had taken us, very skilfully, by the hand and led us from a world perspective we shared into one that we mostly fail to understand and yet are worried by/curious about. The curiosity and worry were certainly shared by my fellow readers, but I am not sure they had all come on the same journey. Part of this is the assumption that the writer is the protagonist – an almost unshakeable belief held by so many readers – and this led them to mull over who Hamid is, and where his allegiances lie.
Having said that, the story is so concentrated – while appearing to be deceptively straightforward – that each person had noticed (or read about) aspects of the story that the rest of us had missed. I will certainly need to read it again. Perhaps I should lay aside my concern as there was a general vote to read another book by him.