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bentley
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Re: My Reluctant Fundamentalist article

[ Edited ]
Hello Mohsin,

I reread my question and I think it was pretty clear.

Here is the extract where I would like you to focus if you care to respond:

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.

I really felt that the article was remarkably open and believable. I do not feel that Changez is you (he is not believable and like another reader observed quite mad); but I do feel that he is expressing your views.

I related to the article and to the following segments of that article:

Here is the excerpt once again:

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.


I know you are off to Amsterdam; but I now sense a reluctance on your part to respond. I think many folks have questions and I am just trying to understand and that is why I am asking them. I have read what the reviewers and you have said on a variety of topics to get a better understanding of the issues involved.

If the article from Princeton misquotes you and you did not make the statements above or feel differently now, please let me know that.

I simply was asking about it with sympathy to the situations you described.

The article itself:

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


Regards,

Bentley

Message Edited by bentley on 05-10-200701:08 PM

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Paul_Hochman
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Re: My Reluctant Fundamentalist article

Hi Mohsin,

In the article that Bentley cites it states, “he felt targeted detained at New York's John F. Kennedy Airport”. I know you were in the States recently for our Discover Great New Writers Award Ceremony. Have you found the conditions to be as strict in these subsequent trips to America?

Thanks!

Paul
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Re: My Reluctant Fundamentalist article

[ Edited ]
Dear Bentley,

It is less that I am reluctant to respond than that I think I already have. I disagree, of course, with your view that Changez is not believable; hundreds of readers and reviewers around the world have felt otherwise. As for a deeper truth that Changez has camouflaged, I must honestly say that I don't follow you. I think my views are quite clear, both in the PAW article and in the other pieces I have written. There is nothing "hidden" as far as I can see.

I appreciate that you are trying to understand something. But I'm afraid I still don't follow what that something is. Perhaps some shorter, more direct questions would be helpful to me.

Mohsin

Message Edited by Mohsin_Hamid on 05-11-200703:32 AM

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Re: My Reluctant Fundamentalist article

Dear Paul,

I have indeed found things easier when coming into the US in recent months. I'm not sure if this is because I am a British citizen now, or because the level of scrutiny of people with a Pakistani background has gone down. I hope it is the latter!

Mohsin
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Re: My Reluctant Fundamentalist article



Mohsin_Hamid wrote:
Dear Paul,

I have indeed found things easier when coming into the US in recent months. I'm not sure if this is because I am a British citizen now, or because the level of scrutiny of people with a Pakistani background has gone down. I hope it is the latter!

Mohsin




As do I, Mohsin. Thanks for your response.
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bentley
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Re: My Reluctant Fundamentalist article



Mohsin_Hamid wrote:
Dear Bentley,

It is less that I am reluctant to respond than that I think I already have. I disagree, of course, with your view that Changez is not believable; hundreds of readers and reviewers around the world have felt otherwise. As for a deeper truth that Changez has camouflaged, I must honestly say that I don't follow you. I think my views are quite clear, both in the PAW article and in the other pieces I have written. There is nothing "hidden" as far as I can see.

I appreciate that you are trying to understand something. But I'm afraid I still don't follow what that something is. Perhaps some shorter, more direct questions would be helpful to me.

Mohsin

Message Edited by Mohsin_Hamid on 05-11-200703:32 AM






Hello Mohsin,

I want to first say that I do not expect any response; but I am responding to your latest note.

First, I do not believe that you answered my questions as you think you have. I do agree with you that your views are quite clear in some of the articles on your web site. But that is why I asked you to comment further on them. But the questions that you have answered have been selective. Many times people read articles and understand the "what" of an article but not the "why". I was probing, asking about the "why" and also asking if your feelings had changed over time. Did you feel the same way now as when you wrote these articles or sat for the interviews (in the case of the Princeton article)?

Second, I also consider not answering the questions your choice; but the questions have been clear. I think you made a clear decision not to answer them; when I probed further and cited the Princeton article which was quite open and a really enlightening piece. I thought that article was quite detailed and quite believable and it was not hostile nor was it abbreviated.

My questions probed deeper because I read your articles and that one in particular.

Third, having a four hour tea break with a stranger who may have a gun who you suspect is an operative is not believable to me. Especially , since you are not allowing him to do any of the talking.

However, I would still highly recommend reading The Reluctant Fundamentalist for many other reasons, but because Changez is a believable character for me is not one of them. I have already stated that I do not believe Changez is you; but I do believe his views are yours. I think the views of America which he states are quite believable coming from him.

And I suppose that I was asking you these questions so as to discuss those views which are stated in your articles which obviously shaped your novel and the decisions that you personally have made.

I do not share your views or those of Changez; but I do sympathize with what you have personally gone through, it must have been very difficult for you. I truly hope that your experiences are better. I would still recommend TRF even though the words (your words as the author) stung.

I specifically asked you about your personal experiences with America and why you pushed it away. I think you were pretty clear in the Princeton article and much that you said in that article you also said through Changez. Are you happy with the decision that you made in doing that and in deciding to move your job out of America to London which I believe was one of your first decision(s) after 9/11. I sense from your articles that you resented the profiling not only of you but of your friends and felt that despite 9/11 and other threats that profiling should not have continued. I guess I was also asking then what are your solutions which would protect America and its citizens in its homeland which would be alternatives? Most of what I have read are the same complaints that I have heard before but do not solve the core issues. And like one of your articles that I read stated..I believed when I asked the questions the first time that "we were on the same side" if there is a side.

I guess maybe you are indicating in your response to Paul that you are not experiencing as many problems traveling now; but it might be because you are a British citizen. So I will take that to mean that you are now traveling to America using your British passport versus your Pakistani one. Possibly you sense that this is the difference and maybe you resent that by traveling to America with your Pakistani passport that you were or are treated differently. I was trying to ask these kind of questions to understand you the author and your views.

Thank you very much for the responses that you have already given and for your time.
I wish you well on your book tours and on your future releases.

All of the best,

Bentley
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Re: My Reluctant Fundamentalist article

Bentley--

I am responding here to some of your comments, not for Mohsin obviously, but through my perspective which is different from both of yours. I am an American citizen and I live in Manhattan and was in Manhattan at the time of the attacks.

Yet I felt that the response against the Muslim community went overboard. There were massive arrests with people being held for excessive amounts of time before even being charged with anything. Basically due process and law went out the window. There were many complaints and some protests but the public was generally unsympathetic so it continued.

Other actions were taken by the government that curtailed first amendment rights. All this in the name of security. The US Constitution shivered.

Okay, I confess. I am politically on the far left but this is still my considered opinion. And so the same question could be asked of me, what would I do differently?

I understood the need at the time for tightened security. I still welcome the police searches on the subway trains as long as they are not racially targeted and they seem to be fair. I welcome the National Guard at Penn Station for example. It makes me feel safer.

I am aware that there is a Muslim Fundamentalist network that is out to destroy this country. I do not believe in Muslim Fundamentalism and I strongly believe in the separation of church, synagogue or mosque and the State.

Yet it is the policies of the US that I think caused these conditions to exist by the way we interact with other countries. I still don’t think anyone deserves to be bombed for their government’s policies. Anyone anywhere.

As I mentioned before in another post, we have to learn to communicate with other people who have different belief systems and there should be mutual respect. Not every government in the world has to mimic ours.

Now you might say: Communicate with Osama? Are you kidding? Perhaps, unfortunately, we might be too late and if you have read The Road then you will see what the future could hold for us. I hope there is time for some "changes."

Lizabeth
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Re: My Reluctant Fundamentalist article

Hello All,

Mohsin has been more than generous with his time thus far. Let’s not forget that he’s on tour promoting his book. Please keep the questions not only succinct going forward, but focused on the novel.

Thanks,

Paul
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Re: My Reluctant Fundamentalist article (Reply to Lizabeth)

[ Edited ]

dianearbus wrote:
Bentley--

I am responding here to some of your comments, not for Mohsin obviously, but through my perspective which is different from both of yours. I am an American citizen and I live in Manhattan and was in Manhattan at the time of the attacks.

Yet I felt that the response against the Muslim community went overboard. There were massive arrests with people being held for excessive amounts of time before even being charged with anything. Basically due process and law went out the window. There were many complaints and some protests but the public was generally unsympathetic so it continued.

Other actions were taken by the government that curtailed first amendment rights. All this in the name of security. The US Constitution shivered.

Okay, I confess. I am politically on the far left but this is still my considered opinion. And so the same question could be asked of me, what would I do differently?

I understood the need at the time for tightened security. I still welcome the police searches on the subway trains as long as they are not racially targeted and they seem to be fair. I welcome the National Guard at Penn Station for example. It makes me feel safer.

I am aware that there is a Muslim Fundamentalist network that is out to destroy this country. I do not believe in Muslim Fundamentalism and I strongly believe in the separation of church, synagogue or mosque and the State.

Yet it is the policies of the US that I think caused these conditions to exist by the way we interact with other countries. I still don’t think anyone deserves to be bombed for their government’s policies. Anyone anywhere.

As I mentioned before in another post, we have to learn to communicate with other people who have different belief systems and there should be mutual respect. Not every government in the world has to mimic ours.

Now you might say: Communicate with Osama? Are you kidding? Perhaps, unfortunately, we might be too late and if you have read The Road then you will see what the future could hold for us. I hope there is time for some "changes."

Lizabeth




Hello Lizabeth,

I welcome your input as well. I still of course had hoped that Mohsin would have answered the questions.

Let me respond in agreement to much of what you are saying: I guess I am saying that you appear to be agreeing with me vigorously on most points.

I do think we are on the same side (not to say that we are always right)

I am an American (always have been) and I was also a New Yorker with two (2) homes: one in NYC and a home in the suburbs at the time of 9/11. I experienced what happened not only closeup from the sadness of a New Yorker; but also what happened to neighbors in the suburbs (also fairly close).

I saw the hysteria which occurred afterwards and nobody I think likes what happened afterwards. On these points, I still think we are in agreement.

I am not sure like you stated that the US Constitution shivered; I think we all did because of these threats because of fear which is what terrorism is all about. I am not for the Patriot Act or the extension of powers assumed by the Executive branch. I believe our forefathers had the checks and balances correct.

I am not on the far left, I am a moderate and proud to be in the middle. I sense that most of the time I can see where folks are coming from and can find a balance in opposing views.

I asked Mohsin what he thinks should have been done differently and I did not get an answer. But I appreciate your response as I always have. Any response is terrific because folks are thinking about solutions rather than continuing to state the problems.

I am for all checks at any transportation location or even at any special event. If unfortunately a certain group is known to be traveling to specific locations and unfortunately they are of a certain age group, gender and/or from a certain country and because it would prevent the loss of lives, then I am also for this kind of profiling. I have had to take my shoes off, go through random searches, empty my computers out of their bags and my pocket books out for inspection, have been selected because of multiple countries traveled in a single week to unpack my suitcases especially for immigration. Did I enjoy any of this: absolutely not. Was I angry at the terrorists who have caused all of us the necessity of standing in horrendous lines at Heathrow and other locations for over three hours to get through security etc? Of course I was. Who wants the hassle? But I welcome the thoroughness of all of the above and I applaud everyone's effort to keep me and everyone safe. I have nothing to hide and am eager to comply and I do it all in the spirit of safety and cooperation no matter which country makes me go through it. I have found Heathrow to be much tougher than even when I have traveled in China!

Profiling itself I agree is very controversial but I understand why it is done: and there hasn't yet been a 64 year old white Christian grandmother who has been a terrorist. When I look at all of the pictures, they do have an awful lot in common. At least the faces looking back at me from the newspapers do.

I believe in a lot of what you believe but I do not believe that the only reason that these troubles exist is because of American foreign policy. I believe that from very young ages that anti-American and anti-Christian beliefs are drummed into their heads by clerics etc. in their mosques and in their schools.

No, I do not agree with the current executive branch on all of his policies; and I have no idea why America invaded Iraq the second time. I didn't believe the Executive branch before we went in and in retrospect I was correct. There were many other places to look for Osama and I was and still am very much in favor of finding him and his supporters. They are the ones who caused the 9/11 event, not the Iraqis.

I would never say communicate with osama..never; not at all. I think this is a comment that the Ann Coulters of this world throw out when anyone disagrees with them and/or has a more moderate view. I personally would never say that at all.

I believe we should find him no matter what cave he is in and no matter how long it takes..let him live in caves his whole life. I still think if it takes 50 more years we should continue to hunt him down. I am not for the current Iraq war and I said that multiple times. Unfortunately, we are always asked to broker problems in other parts of the world and to intercede to help others. We have helped Muslims in many parts of the world and we have stood against ethnic cleansings in the Serb/Bosnian conflict. I think we were drawn into that conflict to help Muslims as I recall. And the first Iraq war we were asked to rescue Muslims in Kuwait as I remember and we did that too. I was for helping out both of these times and am still in agreement with our actions.

I absolutely agree with mutual respect and also with mutual honesty between different cultures and different countries. My questions for Mohsin dealt with his views and with the views of Changez. I would have liked to hear about solutions and personal views like you gave. Unfortunately, Lizabeth you and I are not the author. I think my questions were very clear; you even answered them all in terms of what you believe and I appreciate your input. I simply asked what Mohsin really believed and I did not see The Reluctant Fundamentalist as a lovesong to America though it was interesting reading for different reasons.

The Road is another book of fiction which was also chilling in many different ways. My take is that you have to answer the questions to find solutions; you just cannot sit and complain in your own element and think that things will improve. It takes probing, speaking honestly and with respect and correcting injustices where they occur and where you have the right to correct them. With the proliferation of nuclear power, the global community has the right to monitor this proliferation and has the right to sanction the few who might harm the many. I believe that the UN should be taking a much stronger role in this monitoring and sanctioning process than they have done.

Hopefully, this will happen so we can avoid The Road. Life was simpler when there were multiple super powers.

Thank you as always Lizabeth and I appreciate your answering the questions that I posed to Mohsin.

Bentley

Message Edited by bentley on 05-11-200710:35 AM

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the Reluctant grandma



bentley wrote:....there hasn't yet been a 64 year old white Christian grandmother who has been a terrorist.




:smileyvery-happy: :smileyvery-happy:
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My Fundamentals



PaulH wrote:
Hello All,

Mohsin has been more than generous with his time thus far. Let’s not forget that he’s on tour promoting his book. Please keep the questions not only succinct going forward, but focused on the novel.

Thanks,

Paul




Well, there are not so many of us here and the amount of posts so far was not overwhelming; personally I'd appreciate if you as a moderator could help the conversation onward by clarifying subjects, themes and contribute in a constructive way. We can sure discuss the book only but given the fact that the subject is controversial, contemporary and has many facets, it is not surprising that we touch upon different subjects and wish to learn about new things. This at least for me is a motivation why I participate in these book discussions. Pakistan for me could be the other side of the moon. It is not likely that I go there either.

We are not small children to be told what to do. The author agreed to participate here during a month and the book rises more questions than answers so perhaps we could keep even that in mind. A writer without readers? A forum without members? Let's keep a holistic perspective on this.

ziki
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? meeting public

Mohsin,

when you now meet your public in different countries during your promotion tour, do you feel their reactions are different depending on which country they are living in? Or do people react in a similar way?

I guess I am asking if you think your book speaks more to the human or cultural aspect of the mind of the reader.

ziki
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Re: ? meeting public

Dear Ziki,

I just got back from Amsterdam and have logged back into the forum. You know, I have ecountered different reactions in different countries -- but the reaction WITHIN each country has also been different, so it is hard for me to generalize. For example, at an event I had in Cologne, Germany, the audience seemed very uncomfortable, as if they wondered if I was in some way a fundamentalist myself. This sort of reaction has been very rare in the 30-odd cities I have visited on three continents for my book tour. In Dallas, Texas, by contrast, people were extremely warm and engaged, able to distinguish between me and my narrator, and also able to say they disagreed with Changez but found him sympathetic none-the-less. So I don't know what to say. I certainly wouldn't have expected Texans to be more open to my book than Germans. But one should avoid generalzing, especially based on so few (100 or so) people.

I will say, though, that there are some European countries where the tendency to exoticize writers is much more pronounced than in America. In those same countries, I kept being told how "I" (although I have a British passport and live in Europe) was different from "Europeans" (the non-Muslims who made up the vast majority of the audience.)

Mohsin
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Re: ? meeting public

Hi Mohsin,
in 'not knowing what to say' you say a lot and I thank you for that.

Personally I think that you are brave to venture into this 'theme', a hot chair topic so to speak. As you say a small group can't represent a whole nation but it is interesting because your book deals with a global issue on the outside (terrorism) and a more timeless existential dilema on the inside.

When I try to imagine: it must feel strange to be a 'suspect' just because you come from a certain country.

Speaking about Germany: they had Baader-Meinhof so they may have another take on it plus the racism in Germany is a hot potato.

I think it happens to actors, too, that they are mixed up with the characters they play in movies. It is unfortunate. I do not think it happens to the same extend with theater performances.

I perceive Changez as human (=trustable as a fiction character) and I also wonder if he could grow into one of the rare people that do not take sides in a conflict, who sees the truth on both sides and can act from that.

ziki
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Re: ? meeting public

Dear Ziki,

It is intriguing what you say about Changez. So much depends on what we read into him: whether we really think he has become capable of violence or not. If the answer is that he has not (and for most people we are suspicious of, that is indeed the answer), then I certainly agree that he could grow into someone who would not take sides, or would take both sides.

I also agree with the whole actor/character thing. In my first novel, Moth Smoke, my "characer" was a pot-smoking, heroin-addicted guy who has an affair with his best friend's wife. For many people, he was me. Now my "character" is an affected-accent-speaking, bearded man who teaches in Lahore and has uncomfortable conversations with Americans. I suspect for many people I will now be him.

My next novel may be about a woman. It will be interesting to see who people think I am then!

Mohsin
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meeting public opinions



Mohsin_Hamid wrote:
Dear Ziki,

It is intriguing what you say about Changez. So much depends on what we read into him: whether we really think he has become capable of violence or not. If the answer is that he has not (and for most people we are suspicious of, that is indeed the answer), then I certainly agree that he could grow into someone who would not take sides, or would take both sides.

I also agree with the whole actor/character thing. In my first novel, Moth Smoke, my "characer" was a pot-smoking, heroin-addicted guy who has an affair with his best friend's wife. For many people, he was me. Now my "character" is an affected-accent-speaking, bearded man who teaches in Lahore and has uncomfortable conversations with Americans. I suspect for many people I will now be him.

My next novel may be about a woman. It will be interesting to see who people think I am then!

Mohsin




:smileyvery-happy: Mohsin! :smileyvery-happy: Then you have to make sure to wear some women's clothes to the third book's promotion tour, or at least a burka!:smileyvery-happy:

As I said, I think that you are brave. I guess (it goes for all of us) you have to have fun with the roles others assign to you. Seldom do we really see each other as we truly are. Any time you need to carry a mask others choose for you, you are helpless but in some way (perhaps due to osmosis :smileywink: it strengthens you at the end. The more you are tested the better you know who you are and where you stand. :smileyhappy:

As to the character of Changez: I think it is surely so that each person will read him differently but that is also the strength in a text, it can hold many opinions and interpretations.

So what's next? Another journey?

ziki
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purpose in writing



ziki wrote:
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




Hi Mohsin,
persistent as I am :smileytongue: I still wonder about this (above) question.

So let me rephraze it....when you start writing a book, do you have any particular 'purpose' in mind? Or do you just write because you want to write and you see what happens if you give into it? You already spoke about your writing process so that I fully understood. I also liked your take on 'definition of a writer'.

I wonder if you need to have a special agenda so that you write (=knowing first what and how) or if you simply start 'writing around' some theme and then decide where it is taking you and in so doing totally trust your "inner messages" and shape the dough of thoughts and possibilities after you have kneaded that long enough in your mind.

And how it was with The Reluctant Fundamentalist....

In short:
How do you find a story and the frame for it?

ziki
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Re: ? meeting public

Mohsin writes:
"So much depends on what we read into him: whether we really think he has become capable of violence or not. If the answer is that he has not (and for most people we are suspicious of, that is indeed the answer), then I certainly agree that he could grow into someone who would not take sides, or would take both sides."

I believe we leave Changez incapable of violence. Perhaps that is why he is killed. He sees the possibility of the American being an agent and carrying a gun, yet he cannot fully realize his danger. He has no means to protect himself. The waiter et al step in but it is too late for Changez.

As far as Changez growing into someone who would not take sides or would take both sides, I think either of those two positions are untenable. The climate in the country (Pakistan or USA) forces people to take sides. Those who refuse to take wither side appear suspicious to both sides. Taking both sides is also an impossible situation. I think that is the position he was in actually. It would create great internal conflict. It would also put him in danger from both sides.

Living in England is any interesting way perhaps to not take any sides, to remove oneself from the either-or situation.

Lizabeth
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Re: purpose in writing

Dear Ziki,

You know, it's funny because I am about to log off this computer to give a talk on precisely what you asked: how I begin a book and what my purpose is! So with that coincidence in mind, let me attempt an answer.

I think both my novels began with a "purpose" and that remained fairly constant: in the first, exploring the tensions and contradictions in Pakistani society through a pot-smoking urbanite; in the second, examining tensions between a tribal and a cosmopolitan identity through the story of a Pakistani man in New York.

Of course, the story then changes completely, twisting and turning and expressing itself as something unexpected. Along the way I learn a great deal about my characters, and also about myself, because imagining being someone else is often a very good way to gain insight into yourself.

OK, my wife is here. Have to run. More later...

Mohsin
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Mohsin_Hamid
Posts: 30
Registered: ‎04-18-2007
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Re: ? meeting public

Dear Lizabeth,

I appreciate your view, and your generous reading of Changez. I think also that we needn't take for granted that violence is done to Changez at the end. The story is, as you have said, up to us to shape, and we can shape it to be less bleak if we choose.

I also do gravitate, as you suspect, towards the middle, and the UK is such a place for me at this time in my life. But sometimes the greater challenge is learning to occupy a middle even when things around us feel more extreme, and to pursue that I may indeed move again. Whether eastwards or westawards, though, I don't know...

Mohsin
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