Saturday, September 10, 2011

Five best works of literature about 9/11

Amy Waldman was a reporter for The New York Times for eight years. She spent three years as co-chief of the South Asia bureau after covering Harlem, Brooklyn, the Bronx, and the aftermath of 9/11. She was also a national correspondent for the Atlantic.

She has been a fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study and at the American Academy in Berlin. Her fiction has appeared in the Boston Review and the Atlantic, and was anthologized in The Best American Non-Required Reading 2010.

The Financial Times called The Submission, her first novel, “the best 9/11 novel to date.”

In an interview with Eve Gerber for The Browser, Waldman talked about five of the best works of literature about 9/11, including:
The Reluctant Fundamentalist
by Mohsin Hamid

Let’s talk about your next selection, which also concerns how life changed for Muslims in post-9/11 America. But the protagonist of Mohsin Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist starts his American life in Princeton, instead of in Boston Harbor.

You’re right – the protagonist has a completely different profile from the humble one in [Lorraine Adams's] Harbor. Changez is from a prestigious Pakistani family, but one without a lot of money. He comes to the United States to attend Princeton on a scholarship and then is recruited into the corporate world. The whole novel is a monologue. This character, in a cafĂ© in Lahore, is talking to an unidentified American, telling his story about the life he led in the United States. How he was enamoured of New York, yet smiled as the Towers fell and grew even more embittered toward America in the wake of the attacks. The structure is original and well executed.

It’s a window on the conflicted feelings that I encountered in reporting about America, at home and aboard – and what they grow out of. At the same time, it raises questions in the reader’s mind about who should be suspicious of whom and why.

The author of this book recently told the BBC, “Fiction re-complicates what politicians wish to oversimplify.” Do you agree, and is that why you were drawn to fiction?

Definitely. A lot of political discourse is designed to force simple answers where there are none, or force people to take stark positions. In The Submission I wanted to re-complicate reactions to 9/11 so that even if you think you know what you think you still might find yourself switching your point of view.
Read about the other books Waldman tagged at The Browser.

The Page 69 Test: The Reluctant Fundamentalist.

--Marshal Zeringue