Thursday, May 3, 2012

Five top books in recent South Asian literature

Ahmede Hussain is a Bangladeshi author. His books include the acclaimed Notes on Islam, and the story anthology The New Anthem.

With Jessica Mudditt at The Browser, he discussed five notable books in recent South Asian literature, including:
The Reluctant Fundamentalist
by Mohsin Hamid

Why do you recommend The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid?

This is an amazing book, and it’s a shame that it didn’t win the Man Booker Prize [in 2007] – in my opinion it was the best of the bunch. I think it’s going to become a modern classic in five or 10 years’ time, if it’s not already regarded as one. This novel speaks for so many peoples’ experiences in the aftermath of 9/11. The prose is very tight and the title is also very clever.

The main character is a Pakistani man who had been living in the United States before 9/11. He sits with a stranger – who happens to be an American – in a cafĂ© in Pakistan, and he describes how he felt harassed in the aftermath of the attack on the twin towers, to the point where he felt he had to leave. The entire book is narrated in the second person, and the listener is never heard from directly – it’s an approach that really draws the reader in. The ending is shrouded in mystery, as is the identity of the listener.

During interviews, Hamid has refused to expand on his novel any further. In a way, I think that’s good. He leaves the issues surrounding the concept of “reluctant fundamentalism” as an open-ended debate, and it’s a debate that demands a certain type of polemic.
Read about the other titles Hussain tagged at The Browser.

The Page 69 Test: Mohsin Hamid's The Reluctant Fundamentalist.

--Marshal Zeringue