The reluctant fundamentalist written by Mohsin Hamid is the story of initial enchantment of a young Pakistani to America and later disillusionment. The novel is unique in that it all occurs over the course of one evening, but captures the life of not only Chengez, but of the untold thousands who are disappointed that America is not what they thought it to be.
Written completely as the narrative of one person, the narrator even poses the questions that the American might have felt like asking. More than once, I felt the novel was written in urdu and then translated into English, no not because of any lack in the language, but of the way in which the narrative proceeds. One simply can’t write few eastern ideas in a western language, but Hamid seems to have succeeded in this as well.
Furthermore the novel seemed to be the expanded form of a short story written in the Afsana form of Urdu literature. The existence of a short story version of the novel, “Focus on Fundamentals” seems to hint at the same.
When Mohsin talks about Lahore with its chai and jallabi’s, one could relate it to any one of the many Indian cities. The threat of a nuclear catastrophe and the futility of a bloody war also echo similar sentiments from across the border.