20071011

Den ovillige fundamentalisten

Mohsin Hamid - Den ovillige fundamentalisten

Betyg: 3

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Well, that was a disappointing couple of hours.

Not wasted, not infuriating, not boring, just... disappointing. I mean, I really liked Hamid's debut, Mothsmoke. And with the Booker nomination and all, I really thought I was in for a treat here.

But... nah. The Reluctant Fundamentalist is a pretty decent novel; in its narrator Changez (Genghis), it adopts the by now not exactly unique "reverse Heart of Darkness" approach (see, for instance, Kiran Desai's The Inheritance of Loss or Tayeb Salih's Season of Migration to the North); young 3rd-world student goes West to learn, yet can't quite make it fit with his own background and his own country's needs. And it's done reasonably well; sure, his shift towards what the title implies seems sudden, and the Erica/America (the former his would-be girlfriend, the latter his would-be homeland, both lost to him) allegory is a bit overworked, but it's... OK. He occasionally makes some rather harsh comments on American policies and culture that fit, though arguably they might have fit better in an essay. But never mind; every book on the subject can't be expected to be Shalimar the Clown.

Then there's the whole framework, which I have more problems with. As good a writer as Hamid is, he tramples all over "show, don't tell" and it's simply not credible when the entire novel is presented as a monologue delivered by Changez to an American tourist (?) in his country. There are far too many references to set the scene, to tell us what the narrator is seeing even though the one he's talking to would see the same thing, too many passages that sound more like carefully worded writing rather than spontaneous sharing of experiences over dinner.

The Reluctant Fundamentalist is a nice book. It makes interesting points, even if it's simply by having the narrator telling us them. It has an interesting story, even if it's somewhat shallowly told. It has some interesting visuals and parallels - the janissaries bit is truly inspired, as is the dig at the American sort of fundamentalism - even if...

...you get the idea. Nice work. Hardly essential.

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