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Whistler Reads: THE RELUCTANT FUNDAMENTALIST

abstract:Don't miss the next Whistler Reads discussion March 19th at the Nita Lake Lodge library 2131 Lake Placid Road Whistler, British Columbia. Opening comments by John Weston MP Whistler, West Vancouver, Sea to Sky and Sunshine Coast with special guest speaker, Graham E. Fuller (bio enclosed) Tickets $10 ($15 at the door) and your first glass of wine is free. The book selection is The Reluctant Fundamentalist (Harcourt Press) by Mohsin Hamid. It's a short, provocative fiction title—a novelette actually—whose theme and deceptively funny writing style will intrigue you. It's a one-night-stand book. Easy, you think... however, it will leave you thinking long afterwards, and have all of us discussing its many facets at the next meeting!

The premise of "The Reluctant Fundamentalist" is two strangers meet, and over the span of several courses at a restaurant become acquainted. However only one of the two dialogues is represented in the book. The reader is left to envision the reaction of the other guest by the comments of the single narrator. There is a growing tension between the two men, and the climactic ending will leave the reader trying to surmise what may or may not have just happened, who was responsible and how "chance" the meeting was. Interested? Thought so. This book has been optioned by Director Mira Nair of Monsoon Wedding fame. I've read several post 9/11 stories, but none have struck me as such an accurate portrayal of...

article:

February 04, 2009
...what it would be like to come to America (from a supposed "hostile" country), succeed within the most elite education system (against all odds), and then return to one's own country (realistic-or not?) having tasted the bittersweet fruit of American freedom, American capitalism, and American ethnocentrism. Can we substitute "America" for any other Western country? Canada, the UK? Is it a question of have and have-not? Or of East vs West? Or of religious fundamentalism? Who is the nameless American? How can one person have equal love for two countries that are at odds with each other in culture and outlook; how does such a person come to terms with his two worlds; and what is the significance of the word reluctant in the novel's title? Can you pick up on the allegorical aspects of the book? Hint: it's all in the names.
(Graphic Credit: pierretristam.com)
Get The Reluctant Fundamentalist online here, or from Armchair Books if you live in Whistler - WR members get 10% discount.

The Nita Lake Lodge

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Members receive: A chance to win a free copies of our current title; 10% discount on books from Armchair Books; Discounts to any ticketed special events and courses; E-mail updates on latest events with discussion points and related research; The opportunity to take part in various programs.
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  • Author's Background

    The Reluctant Fundamentalist is more than the usual immigrant book of adaptation, struggle, and identity. Mohsin Hamid has written a gripping tale of a young man who comes to America from Pakistan just prior to 9/11. Mohsin was born in 1971 in Lahore, Pakistan. He attended Princeton University and Harvard Law School, worked as a management consultant in New York and as a freelance journalist in Lahore, He now lives mainly in London. He published his first novel, Moth Smoke, in 2000, and his second, The Reluctant Fundamentalist in 2007. From these details you will see the memoiresque nature of the book.

    The book's protagonist, Changez, is a Harvard educated businessman who works for a high-profile company that assesses the economic value of other companies. Changez is very successful in his chosen career, but then September 11 happens and everything changes. The setting is Lahore, Pakistan and the story is told with a single voice, that of Changez, as he speaks to a nameless and faceless American tourist. Although the narration takes place in the span of a single evening, in fact, during a single meal, Hamid manages to swing the reader on a pendulum of conflicting emotions and thoughts.

    Additional Digital Resources

    Booker Prize Foundation interview with Mohsin Hamid on tapping into the reader’s imagination (September 2007)
    Asia Society Author Discussion Feb 2009 (NYC) between two prominent Pakistani fiction authors: Mohsin Hamid and Daniyal Mueenuddin. This is over 1 hr 17 min duration, but offers many telling details and is well worth watching.
    Author's article that appeared in the Herald Tribune 2009 about pakistan moving away from tyranny. Why Do They Hate Us, Sir? is an article by the author where he describes anti-American perceptions abroad.
    The changing politics of Pakistan are described in the author's article which appears in The Guardian:
    When I grew up, in the 1980s, public space in Pakistan was virtually nonexistent: political thugs controlled most university campuses; protest rallies were violently disrupted; being a journalist was a dangerous profession; theatre and dance were discouraged; and legal and informal rules erected hurdles to young women and men congregating together. The country's attention was kept fragmented - except for communication from the state, which exploited its monopoly on text books, radio, and television for purposes of propaganda.
    He feels that 2008 is different politically and judges the reactions of the people thus:
    Given the bleak economic and security situation in Pakistan, it is easy to forget that 2008 has also been a year of positive events for the country. February's elections proved that it is possible to hold free and fair polls in Pakistan, that in such circumstances undemocratic leaders such as Musharraf and his allies will be trounced, and (yet again) that the notion of broad public support for the parties of the religious right is a myth. In the subsequent six months, the electorate has demonstrated another quality: patience. Despite sky-high inflation and crippling power shortages, Pakistan has not witnessed the sort of destabilising mass protests that history has shown Pakistanis to be capable of. Rather, frustrated though they are, people are prepared to wait. Seemingly by popular consensus, the democratic setup is being given time to find its feet.

    The author's article about Pakistan's responsibility in the recent Mumbai terrorist attack.

    About The Speaker

    Graham E. Fuller is currently an independent writer, analyst, lecturer, and consultant on Muslim World affairs and adjunct professor of history at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver. He served 20 years within the CIA operations officer, later as vice chairman of the National Intelligence Council at CIA, with overall responsibility for national level strategic forecasting. Mr. Fuller was later a senior political scientist at the RAND Corporation for 12 years. He speaks several Middle Eastern languages. Since 1990 he has been working as an independent analyst on Middle Eastern affairs, particularly on issues of Islam, ethnicity, democracy, and geopolitics. He has written many books and articles relating to the Middle East, global geopolitics, and religion in politics, including a book on the Geopolitics of Islam and the West, several books on Turkey, one on Iran, and a study of the Arab Shia (with Rend Rahim Francke). View his lecture at Campagna-Kerven Lecture Series at Boston University. His most recent book is The Future of Political Islam (Palgrave, 2003). He is currently writing his first book of fiction.
    "The mantra that the war on terrorism is not a war on Islam ignores one crucial fact: Islam and politics are inextricably linked throughout the Muslim world. Islamism includes Osama bin Laden and the Taliban but also moderates and liberals. In fact, it can be whatever Muslims want it to be. Rather than push secularism, the West should help empower the silent Muslim majority that rejects radicalism and violence. The result could be political systems both truly Islamist and truly democratic."—Graham E. Fuller (full article link Foreign Affairs.org)

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