There is a really sane and perceptive article by Mohsin Hamid in last Saturday’s Guardian Review Section. He looks at the flickering moral compass in Pakistan, the USA and Britain. he has the experience and the right to speak for all these countries. Go look, even if you only read as far at the poem inscribed at the base of the Statue of Liberty.
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.
Just finished Mohsin Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist. I am knocked out by both the writing and the story. I don’t know how he does that – keep the prose so spare and yet so vivid and rich. It is as if there is not a single misplaced word in the whole text. I love the way this astonishing monologue sways on an invisible fulcrum between the story and the immediate surroundings. It never jars. There is both dialogue and description and yet only one voice. There are new truths and perspectives. I don’t think you could ask more from a novel.
As you can see it is wipeout for this writer, as I try to look at the quiet engineering behind the prose and attempt to learn something – anything – from this example.