The Reluctant Fundamentalist The Reluctant Fundamentalist discussion

The Ending...

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Morgan "It seems an obvious thing to say, but you should not imagine that we Pakistanis are all potential terrorists, just as we should not imagine that you Americans are all undercover assassins."

What, in your opinion, happens to Changez? As a good judge of character, he likely knew who it was that he was speaking to. But who "wins" in the end? The American, or Changez.

Mary Generalization, supposition, and stereo-typing are however the way of the world, unfortunately. I don't think either the American or Changez won. I think it reflects the times...a nervous standoff...

message 3: by Lee (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lee Since we do not really know either who the American is, or the role of the waiter from the restaurant, the author has really left it up to the reader to decide what the outcome will be.

Does the American have a gun? Is he Secret Service? Is he a mercenary? Lots of questions about him.

As for the waiter, is he there to protect Changez, or to stalk him? Is he in cahoots with the American, or with Changez, or is he totally separate from both?

Has Changez become so anti-American that he is now perpetrating attacks? Does he represent the disillusioned immigrant who reacts to the disillusion by attacking the culture which has disappointed him?

I believe the author has offered us numerous possibilities which may arise when some of the cultural defects become evident to one who has idealised the new country. Different individuals will react differently, and one does not know until the reaction occurs what it will be. This was the power of the novel for me: the lack of knowing.

Mary Lee's views were exactly what we ended up with at our bookclub. It (the end) left much for speculation, which was a perfect ending, in my opinion.

message 5: by Lee (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lee I co-ordinate a library book club, and we will be discussing this book during our next sex-month cycle. If your group brought up any special concerns or comments, Mary, it might be worthwhile for me to take them to my group.

I have been reccomending this book to reading colleagues for the past couple of months, and everyone who had read it has commented how much it impressed them. I read the earlier book by the same author, and although I could see the emergence of talent, it had nowhere near the power of this one. He is an author to watch.

Bibliomantic I am still mulling over the "ending" and whether I am happy with it or not. It reminds me of the film, Limbo, where we are not told which of the two equally likely outcomes actually takes place. Here, there may be more than two possible final acts.

message 7: by Lee (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lee I have just re-read the comments, and I see the slip (?) which I made in saying it was a "sex month" cycle at the book club! We have just finished discussing a novel in which sex was a major element, and we began and ended the discussion with sex, so I guess that was appropriate.

Back to The Reluctant Fundamentalist, and Bibliomantic. As I wrote in an earlier comment, the ending really appealed to me, as it left so much room for speculation, and, I believe, could raise reader sensitivity to possibilities.

I sometimes become very annoyed with authors who wrap all the plot lines neatly at the end of the novel, leaving nothing more abot which to think. I don't want to have the novel stop in the middle of an event, but I do want it to give me food for thought in some way.

I was just talking to someone about this book yesterday, and the first points we made were ending possibilities, ideas which we had not thought of before, so even several months after reading, we were both still thinking.

Mary Musing over the ending could be seen as a microcosm.*sp?) We are "edgy" with others in the globe, and at times appear to be taking a wait and see attitude. Don't you think the ending could be interpreted as "wait and see"? or "what is to come?"

message 9: by Lee (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lee This is an interesting concept, and I will have to think about it for awhile.

message 10: by Bibliomantic (last edited May 08, 2008 08:47AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bibliomantic To be honest, although the ‘ending’ tends to dominate one’s thoughts of the book, it is only one if its strengths while simultaneously being its central weakness. I count the endearing narrative of a smart and emotionally mature young man's tale of success followed by failure among the book’s strengths. That, to me, was something rooted in the central character, as he came across. A couple of other elements that I count as strengths were I felt more imposed on the reader. For example, the effect of the title itself, mainly the word “fundamentalist,” instilled a sense of suspense where I couldn’t wait till the next page or chapter to find out how this fundamentalist, however reluctantly, comes to be. The trick played on the reader is that Chengez is never actually revealed to be one—he resents aspects of American culture and global involvement and noninvolvement, and lectures students about it, but not with the determination one would expect of a “fundamentalist” written in green colors. Hamid may also be playing with us a little here, since the ‘reluctant fundamentalist’ may also refer to Chengez’s mixed feelings and subsequent abandonment of his prestigious job where the emphasis was on “fundamentals”. But while it all may inspire much rumination, whether about who Chengez really is when he approaches the American, and what happens when their encounter abruptly ends (if it ends at that moment), or about our own prejudices being projected into the different possibilities we may envision in the end, the reader's being left to play Agatha Christie struck me as contrived and therefore as something that weakens the book. Overall, I though it was a good novel, but I wish that Hamid gave us more substance and a little less of a gimmick.

message 11: by Lee (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lee On the other hand, fundamentalism has been a potent world force for several years, given a definition of it suggesting social values which may restrict individual choice and freedom.

I have wondered whether one of the possibile interpretations of the book is the makig of a fundamentalist from one who had previously had values which were not defined in a restrctive manner. In this sense, Changez was reluctant to discard the values which took him to his American career, but eventually he moved to a different set of guiding life principles. The author may be suggesting why young persons raised and nurtured in one set of circumstances may be selecting a life path which is contrary to those values.

Is he hinting at the making of "terorrists"? or at least radicals.

message 12: by Mary (new) - rated it 3 stars

Mary I am getting bored with this discussion now. We could go around and around forever, don't you think? It's like being trapped in "The Truman Show"! Am reading The Last Town on Earth...flu epidemic in the 1900's in the US and a logging town that quarantines itself. Also can't wait to get a copy of Lahiri's new book...and Augusten Burrough's "Wolf at the Table"...


message 13: by Suzka (last edited Jun 18, 2008 05:17AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Suzka Lee - You began and ended the discussion at your bookclub with sex? That must be a popular group!!

I've enjoyed reading your collective thoughts here. I finished the book last night and haven't yet decided where it left me. One piece which lingers in my thoughts this morning is the idea that the labeling of people as any sort of "-ist" is really done for the convenience of society, isn't it? Surely people get somewhat misfiled in their designated category - at least the process isn't entirely accurate. Perception of these titles are also so subjective, so before you know it, we expect something entirely different from a person than reality presents. That's kinda where I think we were left. Though we can derive a partial set of descriptors about Changez, I still don't know who he is today. I'm sympathetic to his story. I appreciate that we were left, uninformed, at the closing scene - yet, I want to know more.

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