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Mohsin_Hamid
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Re: Questions for Mohsin Hamid (Interview with Deborah Solomon/NYTimes/04/15/07) Spoiler

[ Edited ]
Hello Bentley,

This is in response to your series of questions about the NYT interview, written from my hotel room in Delhi as the sun rises and the city gets increasingly hot. You have asked a great deal, and I will have to be brief, so I may not reply to every aspect of your questions, but I hope the following will provide you with something of an explanation.

1. The questions and answers did not correspond exactly to what was said. A two-hour conversation was edited down to something that could have been spoken in two minutes. As for the "love song to America" point -- I do mean that literally. I wrote the novel with enormous affection for America, in part with a desire to show Americans something that could help them understand a view many are not exposed to, and about a character who desperately wants to be American and who even at the end of the novel cannot stop thinking about this place he has left behind. A love song about a breakup, even a bad breakup, can still be a love song.

2. As with many things in life, where I wound up has as much to do with accident as with choice. For example, my wife is British, and when I met her in London it would have been much harder to get her a visa to come to live in America than for both of us to stay in the UK. As for whether I share Changez's views, I hope I answered that in a previous reply in which I discussed the issue of autobiography. I can see why you might think the novel did not have great affection for Americans, but I disagree, and I met many Americans on my 15-city US book tour (from Miami to Dallas to Seattle and more) who did feel that affection. Bear in mind that every single important American character in the novel (Erica, Jim, Wainwright, even Erica's mother) wished Changez well, was decent to him, and tried to do right by him despite his increasingly odd behavior. None of them can be considered a "villain", or even less than generous.

3. I completely agree that Changez is engaged in reverse profiling. That, for me, is a main reason for having the American "silenced" in the novel: to signal how biased and one-sided Changez's viewpoint is. We often hear only one side of a story, and we should always be wary when we do, whether that single perspective is from an American news outlet or a Pakistani narrator.

4. I intended "mirror" to refer to the experience of reading the novel, not of writing it. It is meant to reflect a reader's own biases and assumptions. As for how I identify myself, I have spent so much time in so many places that I recognize that there is much of many things in me: American, Pakistani, Muslim, writer, husband, son, brother, secularist, sushi-lover. I am, despite my citizenship, much more American and Pakistani than I am British, because I have spent much less time in the UK so far.

5. I found the attempt to make the interview sound confrontational rather silly. Obviously I am not a terrorist and she is not a CIA agent. (Or at least I hope that is obvious!) We actually had a friendly chat, and I was more than a little surprised at how the final edited version that was printed was made to sound so hostile.

6. One breaks down barriers by having a conversation. This novel is meant to be part of that conversation, to take readers inside the head of someone they might not like, but still can come to understand as a human being. From there, all roads to coming back together are open. It's when we don't communicate that we are most dangerous to others and ourselves. Remember: Changez still desperately misses Erica at the end. His love is not over. That energy is the starting point for reconnection.

7. I think my proposed solutions to America's problems are too long to get into here. As for people benefiting from America and then offering a critique of America -- I view that as a good thing. Every country learns from critique. My first novel was about a heroin addicted Pakistani man who has an affair with his best friend's wife. Was that a critique of Pakistan? Absolutely. Why would I spend seven years doing that? Because I care about Pakistan.

8. I often thought of settling in America. I still sometimes do. I have more friends in New York than any other city in the world, with the possible exception of Lahore. There is a good chance I will live in America again.

9. The novel is just a conversation between two men. If you believe one is a terrorist, or one is a CIA agent, or one harms the other, that is something determined by you, the reader. I created shadows in which a reader could explore their own biases. As for Camus, in THE FALL he similarly set out to implicate the reader by drawing the reader in and having the reader's reactions reflect back on the reader.

10. I think I partly answered this above in question 3. As for whether it could "really" happen like this: you are right that of course it could not. The dramatic monologue is like a stage play, it welcomes the audience into a theater where something happens that acts like realism, but really is a kind of artifice.

11. You must remember that in addition to the conflict being fought between American soldiers and people in Muslim-majority countries, there is also a conflict being fought between Muslims. The idea of going back to an imagined medieval Islamic theocracy is something that I oppose and that has much greater impact on people who live in Muslim countries than on those who live in the West.

All the best,

Mohsin

Message Edited by Mohsin_Hamid on 04-30-200711:31 PM

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Mohsin- India



Mohsin_Hamid wrote:This is in response to your series of questions about the NYT interview, written from my hotel room in Delhi as the sun rises and the city gets increasingly hot.



:smileyhappy:
Ah Mohsin, please give us small written pictures from India if you find some energy for it. Even a few sentences here and there would be fun. I'd be delighted to hear small snippets from life on that continent as you are there.

Is there a lot of interest in your book? And do Indians have any opinions about 'a man from Pakistan' telling them a story? How much adversity India-Pakistan is really felt where you happen to visit?

thanks
ziki

PS
How do you actually pronounce your first name? [Mowsin] [Moshen] [?]
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Re: Solomon Interview

I must admit that personally I do not understand the tendency to immediately compare a new upcoming writer (his work) to some gigant of literarure. It is like the journalists won't trust that the new book can stand on its own feet and doesn't need any hefty comparison in order to be noticed and accepted by readers.

It is a rather delicate art to edit an interview with a writer into a decent length and at the same time manage to keep the lines of thoughts unbroken, moreover, growing while keeping it also visualy interesting. I daresay I know what I am talking about here. Seems like the interview got fragmented. Not good. :smileysad:

ziki
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bentley
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Re: Solomon Interview


Mohsin_Hamid wrote:
Hello Paul H and Bentley,

I believe the title of the interview was indeed a reference to THE STRANGER by Camus. Unfortunately, there is very little to help a reader know this, as our two-hour conversation was cut down to a dozen or so extremely brief questions and answers. But Deborah Solomon asked me at one point about writers and writing that influenced my novel, and I went on at some length about Camus, especially THE STRANGER and THE FALL. Of course, in the STRANGER the protagonist is an odd sort of man in addition to being an outsider in the place he calls home, and while I must say I feel rather different for him, I can see why there are similarities the interviewer wanted to highlight. I imagine it was also done, as these things often are, just because it sounded good.

Mohsin




Hello Mohsin,

I think you saw my points exactly. I guess, I too, can understand that Camus was mentioned, etc. But why put that after your name implying that you are the stranger and/or a stranger like the protagonist. Not having met you I can't say for certain what Solomon meant either. But having seen the video, I can say that I wouldn't have thought that you were an odd sort of man feeing like an outsider in the place you call home either. Yes, maybe it sounded good even though it could be misinterpreted as being a bit more hostile and/or with the explanation above "just trite".

I suspected as much about the conversation being cut down so much. You probably wondered what happened to the rest of the interview. I, as the reader, did too. And I believe you are indeed different than the protagonist in The Stranger.

I see from your other responses that you are in India and it is rather hot. Not sure if there is any air conditioning; but if not try to "stay cool". Maybe there is a way to send us some postings of your tour and some of the highlights while your novel is highlighted here. That would also be very interesting hearing some of the reactions and interpretations that folks from India might have. I would love to hear their questions and their take on Changez and the series of events as well as the "smile".

You have been most gracious with your time already.

Thank you once again.

Regards,

Bentley
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Re: Mohsin- India

[ Edited ]
Hi Ziki,

Well, I arrived in Delhi yeterday and spent the morning at a police station. Amazingly, Pakistanis have to register in every Indian city they visit with the police! (Indians have to do the same in Pakistan.) It is a bit like being a convicted criminal on paroll -- not very pleasant.

That said, reviews of the book in India have been very good, and the media interest is intense. I had a number of print and TV interviews yesterday. My first novel, "Moth Smoke", was a best-seller here, and there is also considerable interest in Pakistan. I don't think any of the interviews have been published yet, but if you are curious about Indian reviews of the novel you can go to the websites for OUTLOOK INDIA or the HINDUSTAN TIMES.

As for India itself, I must say that Delhi looks quite a bit like Lahore -- which makes sense since the cities are only a couple hundred miles apart! It is mostly low buildings, green trees, and these days it is already baking in the summer heat. One difference is that here in Delhi you see wild monkeys wandering the streets, which you never do in Lahore.

Also, you asked about the pronunciation of my name. When I arrived in America for college in '89, someone said about my name, "Like the beer?" Meaning, of course, Molson beer. And surprised though I was, I had to admit the pronunciation wasn't far off! My name is pronounced Mow-Sin (like "mow" the lawn, and stealing is a "sin" ) Ha-mid (like "ha"-ha and "mid"-way).

All the best,

Mohsin

Message Edited by Mohsin_Hamid on 05-01-200710:23 PM

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Re: Solomon Interview

Hi Bentley,

Will do! As soon as some of the Indian interviews are online I will try to post links to them on this book club.

Mohsin
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bentley
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Re: Solomon Interview


Mohsin_Hamid wrote:
Hi Bentley,

Will do! As soon as some of the Indian interviews are online I will try to post links to them on this book club.

Mohsin




Hello Mohsin,

Yes, thank you very much. That would be great when you have a chance. Also interesting. I imagine your book tour is in full swing in India...and (of course) all of the best from all of us here.

How do folks view you there in India? I hope not as a Stranger like in the Solomon interview. Do they view you as an author from Britain or a quasi American or an author from Pakistan or do they relate to you more by your religious background. Or do they not seem to notice or make any connection at all? Just view you as an author of a great book. How easy that would make things...yes?

I was curious if anybody comments as to their frame of reference? And whether they try to link that to the story line which folks always do.

Take care and stay cool (if at all possible).

Regards,

Bentley
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Mohsin_Hamid
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Re: Solomon Interview

Hi Bentley,

It seems people here usually think of me as a Pakistani writer. "Moth Smoke", my first novel, was set in Pakistan, and is well-known here. Besides, there is considerable fascination with Pakistan as the country across the border about which not too much is known. So the reaction is not to me as "The Stranger" but as "The Neighbor", and I must say I have been really pleased by the warmth and excitement most readers and interviewers have shown so far. But my first big event is tonight (I am in Mumbai now), and let's see how that goes!

Mohsin
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bentley
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Re: Solomon Interview



Mohsin_Hamid wrote:
Hi Bentley,

It seems people here usually think of me as a Pakistani writer. "Moth Smoke", my first novel, was set in Pakistan, and is well-known here. Besides, there is considerable fascination with Pakistan as the country across the border about which not too much is known. So the reaction is not to me as "The Stranger" but as "The Neighbor", and I must say I have been really pleased by the warmth and excitement most readers and interviewers have shown so far. But my first big event is tonight (I am in Mumbai now), and let's see how that goes!

Mohsin




Hello Mohsin,

So in Mumbai you are The Neighbor. Well that is better than The Stranger..yes.

Mumbai is very close to the Arabian Sea..are you located right on it. If so, that must be pleasant I would think.

It is terrific that you are having a wonderful experience here and you must also be excited about your first big event in India tonight.

India is such a large country; you must also have to fly to different locations by plane I imagine. That in itself can be hard work.

Very interested to see how things go. You deserve the best.

Ciao,

Bentley
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Mariposa
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India book tour question

I wonder how the people in India are reacting to the part of your book that describes the India-Pakistan conflict, although I believe that is more of an indictment of the US role/non-role than anything else. Just curious...

Lizabeth
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Mohsin_Hamid
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Re: India book tour question

[ Edited ]
Dear Lizabeth,

Generally, people in India have not reacted negatively to the treatment of the India/Pakistan conflict that takes place towards the end of the novel. That said, I think one or two interviewers have been a small exception and found my treatment upsetting. But again, I had a book reading in Mumbai last night and among a hundred people and a dozen media interviews, it never came up.

Also, a number of participants in this book club have been asking me for links to the media coverage of my book tour here in India. Below are a few that have come out recently:

http://cities.expressindia.com/fullstory.php?newsid=234720

http://www.dnaindia.com/report.asp?NewsID=1094559

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/Cities/City_Supplements/Pune_Times/Hes_got_the_book/articleshow/1...

http://cities.expressindia.com/fullstory.php?newsid=234448

Mohsin

Message Edited by Mohsin_Hamid on 05-03-200711:35 PM

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bentley
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Re: India book tour question



Mohsin_Hamid wrote:
Dear Lizabeth,

Generally, people in India have not reacted negatively to the treatment of the India/Pakistan conflict that takes place towards the end of the novel. That said, I think one or two interviewers have been a small exception and found my treatment upsetting. But again, I had a book reading in Mumbai last night and among a hundred people and a dozen media interviews, it never came up.

Also, a number of participants in this book club have been asking me for links to the media coverage of my book tour here in India. Below are a few that have come out recently:

http://cities.expressindia.com/fullstory.php?newsid=234720

http://www.dnaindia.com/report.asp?NewsID=1094559

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/Cities/City_Supplements/Pune_Times/Hes_got_the_book/articleshow/1...

http://cities.expressindia.com/fullstory.php?newsid=234448

Mohsin

Message Edited by Mohsin_Hamid on 05-03-200711:35 PM






Thank you Mohsin for the links. Maybe movies may be coming up..glad that there is such interest. When views are contradictory to what people want to believe it can be upsetting to see or hear the opposite..it upsets the applecart.

There is patriotism everywhere isn't there (almost a part of everyone's identity). Being where you are from is always the best place to be (shapes the person's core beliefs for better or worse).

It is great to hear that everything is going well (except for some exceptions.

Bentley
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?idea

Hi Mohsin, how did you get the idea for this book? Was it easy for you to write it? What was (if anything) was tricky?

me-ziki :smileyvery-happy:
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? books

Mohsin,
here is a question that many writers hate or at least think is impossible to answer: If you had to choose three books you like best, what would it be?

ziki
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patriotism-bentley

[ Edited ]

bentley wrote:There is patriotism everywhere isn't there (almost a part of everyone's identity).



Could you expound on it a bit, bentley? I do not quite get how you mean here.

thanks ziki

Message Edited by ziki on 05-08-200703:05 AM

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Paul_Hochman
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Re: ? books

[ Edited ]

ziki wrote:
Mohsin,
here is a question that many writers hate or at least think is impossible to answer: If you had to choose three books you like best, what would it be?

ziki




Hi Ziki,

Check out Mohsin's interview (see link below):

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/writers/writerdetails.asp?z=y&bnit=H&bnrefer=MHRF&cid=1655893#intervie...

He chimes in on 10 of his all-time favorite books!

Paul

Message Edited by PaulH on 05-04-200704:15 PM

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Re: ? books

[ Edited ]
yes, ten is easy man, I asked about three :smileyhappy:

ziki

Message Edited by ziki on 05-04-200705:29 PM

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? purpose

Mohsin,
what was your purpose in writing this book? What was your objective and aim? Both on the personal and collective level.

What theme did you have and why was that important to you?

thanks
ziki
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bentley
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Re: My Reluctant Fundamentalist article

[ Edited ]
Hello Mohsin,

You wrote a short article which you titled, "My Reluctant Fundamentalist" which I read.

A quote from the article was as follows:

"I am still split between America and Pakistan. But I feel more comfortable with my relationship to both places than I have in a long time. People often ask me if I am the book’s Pakistani protagonist. I wonder why they never ask if I am his American listener. After all, a novel can often be a divided man’s conversation with himself."

Let me once again go back to some of my previous queries. You live in Britain and have dual passports; how then are you still split between America and Pakistan and how did you feel uncomfortable in both places? Why do you feel more comfortable now as you wrote? I honestly never considered you being the American listener...are you implying that the American listener killed something in Changez the Pakistani or are you simply implying that you are still split in half concerning your identity as well or something else? If this is a divided man's conversation with yourself, then what parts of Changez and the American are you?

Thank you once again...where are you on your journey in India. We have not heard from you since Mumbai..hope all is well.

Regards,

Bentley

Message Edited by bentley on 05-06-200709:38 AM

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Re: My Reluctant Fundamentalist article

Bentley, thank you for posting this quote from Moshin:

"I am still split between America and Pakistan. But I feel more comfortable with my relationship to both places than I have in a long time. People often ask me if I am the book’s Pakistani protagonist. I wonder why they never ask if I am his American listener. After all, a novel can often be a divided man’s conversation with himself."

I thought the last line of this quote very provocative. So in a sense the book becomes a metaphor for what goes on in the mind of someone who has divided loyalties, who is trying to balance out his/her thoughts or political attitudes between two very different countries and ideologies.

If we see the book as a conversation inside the mind of one person, it provides another and perhaps deeper level of understanding. It is also a powerful statement, because in the end, the conflicted thinking can become deadly.

Mohsin says that he feels "more comfortable with my relationship to both places than I have in a long time." Perhaps writing the book provided a kind of catharthis.

Lizabeth
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