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Author
Mohsin_Hamid
Posts: 30
Registered: ‎04-18-2007
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Re: ? books

Dear Ziki,

I just arrived back in London from Delhi. The India trip was fantastic. I am now, of course, presented by you with the rather difficult choice of my 3 favorite books. Even narrowing it to 10 for the Barnes & Noble list (which you have seen) was next to impossible -- and I am sure that if I had to come up with a list of 10 today it would be different from the one I chose a month ago. So, not to avoid your question, but to make it possible to answer, I am going to give you three lists of three.

Three novels I have read in the past year that I really enjoyed (and which I thoroughly recommend):
1. The Corrections, by Jonathan Franzen
2. Cloud Atlas, by David Mitchell
3. The Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver

Three fictions I wish everyone had read:
1. Pereira Declares, by Antonio Tabucchi
2. Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov
3. Ficciones, by Jorge Luis Borges (stories, not a novel)

Three novels that have really informed The Reluctant Fundamentalist:
1. The Fall, by Albert Camus
2. The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
3. Norwegian Wood, by Haruki Murakami

All the best,

Mohsin
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Mariposa
Posts: 133
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: My Reluctant Fundamentalist article

Oooops.

I do not have a lisp.

Ir is "catharsis" not "catharthis."

I do not know how to edit after the message is posted. Is that possible?


Lizabeth
Distinguished Bibliophile
Paul_Hochman
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Re: My Reluctant Fundamentalist article



dianearbus wrote:
Oooops.

I do not have a lisp.

Ir is "catharsis" not "catharthis."

I do not know how to edit after the message is posted. Is that possible?


Lizabeth




If you click on the OPTIONS tab, at the top right in the message field, you'll see an edit feature in the scroll down menu.
Author
Mohsin_Hamid
Posts: 30
Registered: ‎04-18-2007
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Re: My Reluctant Fundamentalist article

Dear Bentley,

And this answer is for Ziki, too, because you will find the answer to your question about why I wrote the novel in the article Bentley is quoting from, and which can be found on my website at:

http://www.mohsinhamid.com/myreluctantfundamentalist.html

The question about me being divided between American and Pakistani halves is an interesting one. I can see why this American/Pakistani split might seem surprising in someone like me who lives in London and has a British passport. But let me summarize my first 30 years for you: 0-2 in Pakistan, 3-8 in America, 9-17 in Pakistan, 18-21 in America, 22 in Pakistan, 23-29 in America (with maybe 2 years of that time scattered in trips to Pakistan). So on my 30th birthday, I had lived 15 years in America and 15 years in Pakistan. I first learnt to read and write in America, I first played baseball not cricket, I first learnt to sing the Star Spangled Banner in school before I learnt to sing Pak Sar Zameen, I first fell in love in America, I got my first job in America, I rented my first apartment in America.

The country you are from is not simply the country on your passport. If you have lived half your life in one country and half your life in another, then you are from both. Or at least I am. And as for Britain, where I have lived for the past 6 years, yes, it is my country, too. But I came to Britain already formed as a man, and have spent much less time here than in either Pakistan or America.

But honestly, I don't feel very divided today. I recognize that I am a man of multiple parts (a large part American, a large part Pakistani, and a small but growing part British) and that I don't have to pick any one part of myself. I am comfortable with this whole. Changez, of course, is unable to do this. And so when I said that in me there is also the American part of the conversation, this is what I meant: that Changez's story is only one view among many that I have examined in my own life.

Mohsin
Author
Mohsin_Hamid
Posts: 30
Registered: ‎04-18-2007
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Re: My Reluctant Fundamentalist article

Dear Lizabeth,

You are absolutely right that the book provided a kind of catharsis. By thoroughly exploring one, particularly dark, perspective, it left me free to move on. It is a bit like the way in which writing a novel about death can help a writer fear dying less. I feel more at peace, internally, for having written The Reluctant Fundamentalist.

Mohsin
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Posts: 3,107
Registered: ‎10-27-2006
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Re: My Reluctant Fundamentalist article

Mohsin_Hamid wrote:... this answer is for Ziki, too, because you will find the answer to your question about why I wrote the novel in the article.... which can be found on my website.

------
Thanks. In that article you wrote at the end:
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.

It might be because you give a rather precise (even if indirect) description of the American listener, his looks. And often people (unconsciously) take the shortcuts; knowing your looks they do not stretch their mind to the internal perspective. Like the other way round, imagine i.e. NY born white American being in Pakistan, dressed in traditional ethnic clothes, no matter what, depending on his looks he would not be seen as Pakistani. Our mind just works that way, in shortcuts.

I often wondered why it is so terribly important where we hit the Earth first time. All other factors influence more whom you become as a person than the place where your mother goes into labour. Will Brad Pitt's daughter Shiloh be seen as African? Hardly so.

ziki
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Posts: 3,107
Registered: ‎10-27-2006
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Re: ? books

Thanks Mohsin.
You're a good sport :smileyvery-happy:
In return I mention only one book that I am reading right now and that also deals with double belonging: The Saffron Kitchen by Yasmin Crowther. Different style compared to your book but powerful. And the poem she quoted (Dover Beach) I found equally apt:
-snip-

"...we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and fight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night."


ziki
(she's also in biz and writing, this was her debut)
Frequent Contributor
Posts: 3,107
Registered: ‎10-27-2006
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Re: My Reluctant membership in-human race



dianearbus wrote: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.




...especially when the same thinking is used on the collective level countries between.

ziki
Frequent Contributor
Posts: 3,107
Registered: ‎10-27-2006
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Re: ?idea

[ Edited ]

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






Thanks, I read the article on your site now. Clear sky. :smileyhappy:


ziki

PS
site looks cool!

Message Edited by ziki on 05-07-200701:24 PM

Frequent Contributor
bentley
Posts: 2,509
Registered: ‎01-31-2007
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Re: My Reluctant Fundamentalist article



Mohsin_Hamid wrote:
Dear Bentley,

And this answer is for Ziki, too, because you will find the answer to your question about why I wrote the novel in the article Bentley is quoting from, and which can be found on my website at:

http://www.mohsinhamid.com/myreluctantfundamentalist.html

The question about me being divided between American and Pakistani halves is an interesting one. I can see why this American/Pakistani split might seem surprising in someone like me who lives in London and has a British passport. But let me summarize my first 30 years for you: 0-2 in Pakistan, 3-8 in America, 9-17 in Pakistan, 18-21 in America, 22 in Pakistan, 23-29 in America (with maybe 2 years of that time scattered in trips to Pakistan). So on my 30th birthday, I had lived 15 years in America and 15 years in Pakistan. I first learnt to read and write in America, I first played baseball not cricket, I first learnt to sing the Star Spangled Banner in school before I learnt to sing Pak Sar Zameen, I first fell in love in America, I got my first job in America, I rented my first apartment in America.

The country you are from is not simply the country on your passport. If you have lived half your life in one country and half your life in another, then you are from both. Or at least I am. And as for Britain, where I have lived for the past 6 years, yes, it is my country, too. But I came to Britain already formed as a man, and have spent much less time here than in either Pakistan or America.

But honestly, I don't feel very divided today. I recognize that I am a man of multiple parts (a large part American, a large part Pakistani, and a small but growing part British) and that I don't have to pick any one part of myself. I am comfortable with this whole. Changez, of course, is unable to do this. And so when I said that in me there is also the American part of the conversation, this is what I meant: that Changez's story is only one view among many that I have examined in my own life.

Mohsin




Hello Mohsin,

Thank you for your response. It is appreciated.

Regards,

Bentley
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bentley
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Re: My Reluctant Fundamentalist article



dianearbus wrote:
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




Lizabeth,

Your welcome..Bentley
New User
yoda
Posts: 1
Registered: ‎05-07-2007
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Re: Questions for Mohsin Hamid (Spoiler)

I am new to this process. My name is Yoda and I'm an aspiring writer. Mr. Hamid, I humbly ask one question: If you had to tell a writer one thing what would it be? Keeping in mind that he/she has not had the benefit of an ivy league education.

Thank you,

Yoda
Frequent Contributor
bentley
Posts: 2,509
Registered: ‎01-31-2007
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Re: Questions for Mohsin Hamid (Spoiler)

Hello Mohsin,

I have completed your book Moth Smoke and would like to hear a little about life in Pakistan. How is it the same and/or different to what was portrayed in the book? What is your family's life like in Pakistan at this time?

I have also read all of your articles on your web site which I am sure everyone has found by now. And I was curious about how you felt at the time you wrote Down the Tube and how the shoe might have been on the other foot.

Finally, given the fact that you tried to vote in the last election and the results..what do you foresee for the next election in Pakistan and its results. Hasn't that election been put off once again. Your thoughts.

How is the book tour going in India..are you back on your home turf yet or are you still in travel mode.

Regards,

Bentley
Author
Mohsin_Hamid
Posts: 30
Registered: ‎04-18-2007
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Re: Questions for Mohsin Hamid (Spoiler)

Dear Yoda,

The one thing I would say is that there is no such thing as an aspiring writer. There are published writers and unpublished writers, but the real question is whether a person is actually WRITING. If you are writing, and especially if you are writing regularly and intensely, then you are a writer.

So what advice would I offer an unpublished writer who wants to be published? I would say that the most important thing is to do it for yourself. Find a way to satisfy your own needs in your writing, and write for that reason. Then keep writing. And keep writing. Only an inner need will drive you to write enough to become the best writer you can be.

Writing is an endurance sport, not a sprint. My first novel took seven years. My second took seven years. And never, in either of those periods, did I give up on my project or replace it with something else. You have to persevere.

Mohsin
Author
Mohsin_Hamid
Posts: 30
Registered: ‎04-18-2007
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Re: Questions for Mohsin Hamid (Spoiler)

Dear Bentley,

MOTH SMOKE is a view of a very narrow slice of Pakistan. It should not be read as in some way "typical." But I believe that there is no such thing as typical -- stories about the specific are more honest. So, for example, there are a million heroin addicts in Pakistan, which is a lot, but is only a tiny minority of a population of 160 million.

As for my article, DOWN THE TUBE, what I realized when I did my own racial profiling of a Pakistani man who frightened me was that we are all capable of the same fear and stereotyping, regardless of our race and background. We are all frightened in similar ways and capable of similar reactions.

I am not sure what will happen in this year's elections in Pakistan. There are so many different possibilities. I am certainly interested in the outcome. If you are curious, I would suggest checking out the editorials on one of the good English-language Pakistani newspapers, such as:

http://www.dawn.com/

http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/

The book tour in India went very well, and I am now back in London! Time for a little rest at last...

Mohsin
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bentley
Posts: 2,509
Registered: ‎01-31-2007
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Re: Questions for Mohsin Hamid (Spoiler)


Mohsin_Hamid wrote:
Dear Bentley,

MOTH SMOKE is a view of a very narrow slice of Pakistan. It should not be read as in some way "typical." But I believe that there is no such thing as typical -- stories about the specific are more honest. So, for example, there are a million heroin addicts in Pakistan, which is a lot, but is only a tiny minority of a population of 160 million.

As for my article, DOWN THE TUBE, what I realized when I did my own racial profiling of a Pakistani man who frightened me was that we are all capable of the same fear and stereotyping, regardless of our race and background. We are all frightened in similar ways and capable of similar reactions.

I am not sure what will happen in this year's elections in Pakistan. There are so many different possibilities. I am certainly interested in the outcome. If you are curious, I would suggest checking out the editorials on one of the good English-language Pakistani newspapers, such as:

http://www.dawn.com/

http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/

The book tour in India went very well, and I am now back in London! Time for a little rest at last...

Mohsin




Hello Mohsin,

Many thanks for your graciousness in answering my questions. This weekend I had friends in from the UK and they should be back now as well (must be around 3:30PM in London town). Good for you to be finally back home for a rest. Well deserved I am sure.

Down the Tube was a very interesting article..most likely for you the event must have felt very different considering your own experiences.

Will do and have been (regarding the elections).

Take care and I wish you the best.

Regards,

Bentley
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bentley
Posts: 2,509
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Re: My Reluctant Fundamentalist article

[ Edited ]
Hello Mohsin,

I found the following article to be extremely sensitive and very believable. I am wondering if you would comment on it.

http://www.princeton.edu/~paw/archive_new/PAW06-07/12-0411/features_coverstory.html

I am deeply interested in discussing those areas of the article which deal with your own conflicts and some of what you personally dealt with. In reading your book, I felt that this was a deeply personal experience you were writing about with Changez as the fictional character moving in an unbelievable way at times. I sensed a deeper truth which Changez camouflaged. I really am looking to understand what has transpired to place all of us in this limbo of suspicion and mistrust (East vs West). I am sure that there must be solutions; but all I ever hear are the recitations of the problems themselves like a litany being repeated without meaning. After reading this Princeton review, I sensed the real core of the book and I certainly understand your uncertainties based upon what you were experiencing. Could you comment on this here for us. I would appreciate it if you would take the time. I am sorry for the difficulties you experienced.

The following excerpt was particularly enlightening to me:

Hamid wrote the first draft of The Reluctant Fundamentalist before that day, as a quiet novel about a Pakistani in love with an American and torn between his job and where to live. But after 9/11, he scrapped that draft. After the carnage, he says, he felt an American rejection of people like me. U.S. policy toward the Muslim world regarding the war on terror angered and disappointed him. As a Muslim, he felt targeted detained at New York's John F. Kennedy Airport and harassed by a stranger who mistook him for an Arab. Trying to get a visa to visit his girlfriend in Italy, he was told by an officer at the Italian consulate in New York to produce a love letter to document the relationship. I must produce notarized love letters at checkpoints,he wrote in a New York Times Magazine column about the incident. Hamid, with strong affection for and roots in both the United States and Pakistan,found it more difficult to move fluidly between the Western and Muslim worlds. Everyone wants you to pick a side,he says. In an essay for New Statesman, he elaborated: The 9/11 attacks placed a great strain on the hyphen bridging that identity called Muslim-American. As a man rarely seen in a mosque, and not possessing a U.S. passport, I should not have felt it. But I did, deeply. It seemed two halves of myself were suddenly at war.

Hamid likens the clash between the United States and the Muslim world two cultures he loves to parents getting divorced,he tells PAW. He remained in London, though he's not sure if he was pushed away from America, or I was pushing myself away. Logistically, London works well; Hamid can now visit both Pakistan and the United States fairly easily. Politically, it's also more comfortable the British people never embraced the start of the war in Iraq as the Americans did, he notes and he feels more free to speak his mind than he does in the United States. He recalls an article he wrote for a New York newspaper after 9/11 in which a paragraph about the anger felt toward America by the Muslim world was deleted. A similar article was published in Britain, with the thought intact. So at a ceremony in December, he affirmed his allegiance to the Queen, her heirs, and successors as his wife, a woman born on the same street in Lahore as Hamid, snapped a picture. Still, he says, London isn't home to me the way Pakistan or America is home.


Thank you in advance for considering my question.

Regards,

Bentley

Message Edited by bentley on 05-09-200707:39 PM

MD
New User
MD
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Registered: ‎05-10-2007
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Re: Questions for Mohsin Hamid

[ Edited ]
Dear Mohsin,

Hello, I wanted to attend your reading when you here in Chicago but I was unable to attend. You and I have never met, but we share a mutual bond. I like you, was born in the year 1971 in London but I grew up in the States. I moved to Lahore in '90 when you came to Princeton. My Parents felt I need to get in touch with my heritage, I thank them whole-heartedly. Even all the summer vacations of my childhood to Lahore could not create the friendships,the memories of Kinnard,the meeting of my husband and the affinity I have for Lahore today. I lived in Lahore for almost 10 years and I have mapped every street and place in my head. We even share mutual friends, I believe. Your wedding photographer happened to be my sister-in-law. So as they say the world is smaller than we think.

I came upon your book first book in the later half of 2000, after I read it I felt as thought I knew the characters. I could even put faces to the characters. I was haunted on how even though your book being fiction in nature, spoke to me like a biography of Aitchisonian Boy struggling to survive in the "Sunday" magazine "in" crowd.

Just about a month ago, I saw your book The Reluctant Fundamentalist and without hesitation I picked it up. I read it and I was glued. I really enjoyed it, I relished every page. In both books, I could knew the characters as I said before and I could put faces without meeting these fictional characters.

My question is in regards to Changez, Did you name the character based on someone you knew be it living or deceased? If not, then why pick the name Changez it is not the most popular Pakistani name. Yes, he is considered the most fiercest warrior of his times but on the other hand killed so many Muslims in the sub-continent. It appeared to me to be an oxymoron that the name of the character was named Changez. Given the history of origin of the name, and that the character is in the midst of being racially profiled as terrorist and his own dilemma of patriotism to defend his religion and country.

Please if you could shed some light on my query. I congratulate you on writing another transcendent book and I am waiting, with bated breath for you third book. I am sure that our paths shall cross one day until then I bid you adieu.
Sincerely,

MD

Message Edited by MD on 05-10-200712:18 PM

Message Edited by MD on 05-10-200712:19 PM

Author
Mohsin_Hamid
Posts: 30
Registered: ‎04-18-2007
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Re: Questions for Mohsin Hamid

Dear MD,

Thank you for your kind message. It seems our lives have indeed "near-crossed" on more than one occasion! I very much appreciate your words of support for both Moth Smoke and The Reluctant Fundamentalist.

As for your question about the name, you are absolutely right: the name Changez is something of an odd choice because in addition to being a fierce warrior, the historical Changez (Ghenghis) also did slaughter a large number of Muslims. The reason I chose it was to send a signal to readers who know the history of the Muslim world. Changez would not be the likely name of a religious fundamentalist. So the title of the novel must refer to something else, to a person who is some other kind of fundamentalist -- if he is a fundamentalist at all.

As for the character being related in some way to a real person, the answer to that is simple: no, not at all.

Mohsin
Author
Mohsin_Hamid
Posts: 30
Registered: ‎04-18-2007
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Re: My Reluctant Fundamentalist article

Dear Bentley,

Thank you for your question about the PAW article. You have already read so many essays and articles by and on me that I imagine you know much of what there is to know! It would be easier for me to answer if you could narrow your question down a bit. Commenting on an article is difficult -- the article already reflect my comments. Maybe if you could frame a more specific query, I would be better able to give you the sort of answer you are looking for.

Am now off to Amsterdam, so my response might be a little delayed!

Mohsin
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