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Literature / The Reluctant Fundamentalist

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"I like Pakistanis. But the elite has raped the place well and good, right?...You guys have got a serious problem with fundamentalism."'

"Excuse me sir, but may I be of assistance?"

A controversial and thought provoking 2007 novel by Mohsin Hamid.

Changez is living an immigrant's dream in America. At the top of his class at Princeton, he is snapped up by an elite, all-American firm. He lives on the energy and vibrancy of New York City and his budding romance with high class would-be novelist Erica - the complete opposite of his life back in Lahore, Pakistan, where his family is sinking back into poverty.

But in the wake of September 11, Changez finds his view of America, and America's view of him, have changed overnight. His loyalties are called into question, unearthing allegiances more fundamental than money, power, freedom or love.

It was adapted into a film directed by Mira Nair and starring Riz Ahmed, Kate Hudson, and Liev Schreiber in 2012.


  • Adaptational Heroism: In the movie, the American saves Changez's life from an attempt by local militants to kill them both.
  • Ambiguously Gay - Jim, who is noted to possess quite a few art pieces of male nudes
  • Ambiguous Situation - why is Changez talking to the American in the café? Why is the American listening? What does he do to Changez at the end?
  • Becoming the Mask - Changez comes close to this, before having an epiphany when he hears about the Janissaries.
  • Beard of Sorrow - Changez grows one after coming back from Lahore.
  • Bolivian Army Ending - Maybe, since the American reaches for what may be a gun, and Changez's associates quickly approaching him.
  • Broken Bird - Erica, whose descents into nostalgia only get worse for her mental health. Her concerns over her novel and the stress of 9/11 really push her into retreating.
  • Cryptic Conversation - Interesting in that the American never actually says anything. Changez is cryptic enough for the both of them.
  • Description Porn - Don't ask Changez about flowers.
  • Dramatically Missing the Point - Erica's father while talking about Pakistan and Fundamentalism, fails to realize that both he himself and Changez are economic fundamentalists.
  • Eagleland - America is sometimes portrayed as this.
  • Feeling Oppressed by Their Existence: Changez professes a distaste in American affairs in Pakistan and says that he was pleased by the September 11th attacks, despite openly admitting that he was never personally harmed by Americans, that he himself went to the United States to study and work, and that he's not even a particularly model Muslim (i.e. having sex outside of marriage).
  • The Film of the Book - One was made in 2013, and featured Riz Ahmed as Changez, as well as Kiefer Sutherland as Jim.
  • The Fundamentalist - Averted. No main character in the novel is full on about religion or lifestyle - America as a whole after 9/11 may count as this though. It may have changed for Changez by the end.
  • Ivy League for Everyone - Changez and all his friends at the beginning of the book attended Princeton University, and every employee at Underwood Samson attended an Ivy League university of some sort
  • Lemony Narrator - Changez gets quite flowery with his language.
  • Meaningful Name - Erica for America, Changez either for 'Ghenghis' or 'Changes.'
    • Underwood Samson and Erica - United States of America
    • Juan-Buatista becomes John the Baptist.
  • Never Found the Body - Erica, after she wanders away from the institution.
  • No Ending
  • Nothing Is Scarier - Changez briefly invokes this trope, when telling The American about how spooky normally busy places are, when there's no one else around. Also invoked with Erica's ambiguous fate, where all that's found are her clothes and the spot where she may have jumped.
  • Perspective Flip - this is one of the few novels about 9/11 that doesn't have an American or, at least, Western protagonist.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: Rather than the book's monologue, the film portrays several flashback scenes of Changez's life before revealing (much less ambiguously than the book) the purpose of the main character's narration about his life and the person he is discussing it with.
  • Significant Monogram - Underwood Samson.
  • Write What You Know - Hamid is from Pakistan and graduated Princeton in 1993.