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Identity and Belonging
Introducing the novel
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The Reluctant Fundamentalist
Themes and Values
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The Reluctant Fundamentalist
Conversations in Lahore
Changez telling the American about his life
Lahore café, contemporary.
Changez-Pakistani university lecturer having a conversation with an American. He reponds to a question about Princeton begins by telling about his life from the time he left Lahore to go to university in America.
Declares he is a lover of America, notices the bearing of the American, mission to find a cup of tea- excellent tea in Lahore, sits with back to wall, reaching under jacket,
Changez was a brilliant student
Applies for a gets a job at small but prestigious valuation company-Underwood Samson-Jim who hires him recognizes the hunger in Changez
Changez comes from respectable, old money family-no longer wealthy but still important
Works 3 jobs to support him through uni (one job in library of Near eastern studies-noone goes there!)
Still in café,
Observes attractive girls, refers to American girl he loved.
Met Erica in Greece, on university holidays-she was regal, tiara-hair, very popular girl but she likes him and his anachronistic ways, she liked his ‘strong sense of home’, part of her out of reach, lost in thoughts, he likes her beauty, muscles, tanned stomach, tells him about Chris-her boyfriend who died-her home-‘ a guy with long skinny fingers’, wants to be a novelist
Changez a little bothered by free spending of money by young Americans and the way they were disrespectful to their elders and poorers
Went to Rhodes-fortress like history
American unnaturally aware of bearded customers and notices scantily dressed girls-surprised? Has a mobile phone that is high tech, sends a text( short- eg have found him?)
‘spring in Lahore,… soothing effect on ill at ease American who glances about a lot, like predator or prey,… gates of the old Anarkali district being locked’
‘Lahore-ancient city…democratically urban.. similar to Manhattan’
So coming to New York was a bit like ‘coming home’ for Changez, many speakers of Urdu driving cabs and running cafes, immediately a New Yorker, never an American-(people always say that most of America is a different place from the big cities). Changez is very fond of New York
Loved his job with its office on the 41st floor, like another world-so powerful, so rich, so privileged,
Changez recognises that Pakistan was once at the forefront of modernity but he feels a sense of shame and resentment that it is now poor -disparity
Underwood Samson was a meritocracy and had young ‘guns’ trained ( almost like an army?)and working for it- teams trained by Sherman in the arts of economic fundamentalism-how to make as much money as possible and as quickly and directly as possible. Makes friends with Wainwright-another outsider. Changez and Wainwright try to speak the’ lingo’ of the dominant culture.
Going to parties in the Hamptons and bathed in the warm glow of American lifestyle that money can buy
‘But why do you recoil..beggar .. very wise-far better to donate to charities.. I am handing him a few rupees..’
‘..you have noticed the scar on my forearm arm..rappelling.. training camp.. allow me to reassure you… here,.. an evening of crying..’
exploring Manhattan with Erica, comfortable in cosmopolitan NY, on subway, galleries and gatherings with her
Erica’s family live in impressive penthouse apartment, he feels a bit at home-reminiscent of his Gulberg home?,
Erica’s father annoys Changez with stereotypical views on Pakistan
Picnic lunch in Central Park, Changez used to picnic in foothills of Himalayas, Erica describes trauamatic effect of Chris’s death on her
‘..Lights go out and ‘Why do you leap to your feet?’ Don’t be alarmed.’..’settle your nerves..’
‘Observe, sir bats .., ‘not creepy’,… they have survived where fireflies and butterflies have disappeared…’
Changez goes to Phillipines for valuation job of music company, he is surprised and upset to find even an outpost of America’s empire is richer than Pakistan
Filipino workers ‘look up’ to rich young Americans and he starts to assume the same attitude and language, feels sense of power that he decides people’s future
However unsettled by taxi driver who shows hostility-Changez play acting as ‘one of them’, troubled sleep
Exchanges sporadic emails with Erica
Jim visits and complimenst Changez on work, shark like qualities, outsider-reminds Changez of longings for his family’s past life-a nostalgia that paralyses some of his family
World Trade Centre collapses –Changez sees this on tv and ‘smiles’
‘’your disgust is evident’..’ and you are at war?’
‘why do you flinch at the bats?’… ‘night is darkening’,.. ‘persuade you to speak’
‘..demeanour suggests you are not a tourist..’, ‘jasmine and …carcasses…’, ‘link between mortality and procreation’
Post 9/11 and New York in mourning, ,flowers and flags, ‘so grand a castle’’mighty civilisation’
Sees Erica and she looks ‘older’, haunted by Chris and 9/11 has exacerbated her grief but she takes Changez to events with her but she is distant with people
Attempt at love making fails -’she can’t get wet’ and tells him more about Chris,
‘Tonight of some
America gripped by a growing and self righteous rage after 9/11, Pakistani cab drivers being assaulted, mosques being raided and muslims disappearing. Changez family in Pakistan unsettled- Afghanistan being bombed- he is unsettled by the inequity of the weaponry and power-Us bullying?
Changez continues to focus on his job, doing a valuation in New Jersey that involved job cuts and he begins to see first hand the ramifications of job loss on people’s lives.
Jim encourages him to ‘
focus on the fundamentals’
But Changez realise that Afghanistan is a friend and neighbour and fellow Muslim nation so he is questioning his loyalties. He watches the bombing of Afghanistan and gets drunk and he is late for work the next day-for the first time.
‘..you would rather wait,… and eat at your hotel?” ‘fearful of his prey’ and ‘we are not squeamish when it comes to facing the consequences of our desies.’ ‘not always burdened by debt…built the Shalimar Gardens..’ ‘I am raising my voice.’
Erica harder to get in contact with and when he finally sees her she is a pale, nervous creature, who is struggling with her ghosts, they maneg to have make love because Changez urges her to pretend he is Chris- and it works-but it is an uncomfortable encounter for them both ultimately
‘given the gloom about us…’ looking at me with revulsion’
..’ill at ease’,.. an intimidating chap’..has suffered during offensives with your countrymen..’ ‘is he praying?”
Changez visits Erica and she is in worse shape and her mother tells him ’she doesn’t need a boyfriend’. She lies on her bed, dazed and sleepy, can’t write. He can’t help her as she recedes into her Chris world.
Changez worried and angered by America’s ‘dangerous nostalgia’ and her ‘determination to look
Underwood Samson not perturbed by sorrows and continues to power forward in pursuit of business fundamentals- maximum productivity, dinner at Jim’s-understands outsider’s role
Almost attacked at his car by ‘Arab’ haters and Changez is aggressive in his response
‘Ah, your unusual telephone.. key in you reply..’…’coals-angry and red..’ …for your own safety…’nothing sinister..’
‘..time to dirty our hands..’ touching one’s prey..’different way of
Changez recognises that he has changed, rather than his country, and he was more like an unsympathetic American but gradually understands the different beauty of his family house and homeland,
Things not too good in Pakistan-India threatening warfare- and Changez felt powerless, angry at the weakness of his country, and he felt like he was abandoning them when he returns to America. He did not shave his beard off for return and detained at airport on re entry-beard-form of protest? Or identity?
Tries to get in touch with Erica, but it has taken him awhile to do so. She is at a clinic on the Hudson-she is gaunt, looks ‘devout’,not writing, but she places him in the past..’you were true..’
Changez is angry and preoccupied about everything-the job, America, Erica, Pakistan-Jim suggest he might like to shave off the beard-for pragmatic reasons, also mentions job in Chile-big responsibility
..’soldiers are sent into battle with…chocolate in rations..’..’sugaring your tongue before even bloodiest of tasks cannot be alien to you.’
‘..a bulge manifests itself..’secuirty agents..’ ‘
Trip to Chile- Changez was no longer excited about the first class travel and regrets going at all. Sorry about the ‘illness of the spirit’ of Erica and broods about it.
Meets Juan Bautista the chief of the publishing company they are valuing. He has an immediate impact on Changez-asks about books, Pablo Neruda, people’s jobs, explains about janissaries-exposes him to concepts about equality and art.
Chaagez can’t concentrate on the job, worried about Pakistan and obsessed with websites about it, on the ‘threshold of great change’. His superior cautions him but Changez can’t focus and in the end he gives up and is sent back, in disgrace, to New York.
..‘waiter.. watching us closely?.. ‘the night is well advanced..’
‘odd how the character of a public place changes when it is empty..’ ‘taken on an ominous edge..’’darkening shadows’..’
On the plane back he thinks about America’s foreign policy and interventions in other country’s- he is now looking throught he eyes of an exjanissary and is far more critical of US activities and attitudes-traditional.
Gets the sack from his job but Jim is quite kind about it. Changez travels back to his apartment with box of belongings on the subway, different experience now-no longer so cosmipolitan, now more menacing.
Confused and troubled and a bit lost with complexity of his conflicting emotions
Visits Erica at clinic but she has disappeared, left a pile of clothes on a headland above the river, he goes to see her mother and she gives him the manuscript. Remebers the firefly him and Erica watched as it tried to battle its way through the might of skyscrapers.
‘What did I do to stop America, you ask?” ‘Where are you staying? The Pearl Continental..I will walk you… dark.. deserted.. quite safe though… your stature ruffians..’
‘From your backward glance..’ ‘not alone’ ..’retailer of guns..’ ‘unleasant at night..’ unlit and empty’ ..’forever to disappear..’ ..Legend of Sleepy Hollow?.
Changez leaves America nad returns to Pakistan and works as a university lecturer. He seems to be increasingly opposed to American actions and he is surrounded by energetic young students who are interested in Pakistan’s future. He gets involved in demonstrations and meetings, receives official warnings, interviewed by international media, feels like Kurtz waiting for the assassin
You… seem ready to bolt..’ Is somebody following us?”.. did I give them a signal?...that man’s expression is rather grim..’ they mean you no harm,,’.. ‘terrorists’…’assassins’… ‘waiter..closing in’…’why are you reaching for your jacket, sir? I detect a glint of metal…. Your business cards.’
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