“There's a wonderful little passage that Martin Luther King had written from a jail cell where he talks about the effect of racism on young African-American children and how he can see on the face of a child the clouds of inferiority gathering as they observe some racist taunt or action. And when I think about — in some senses — the safest place to raise our children, there are many different forms of risk that we have in life.”—
Novelist Mohsin Hamid, who lives in Lahore, Pakistan, talks about how a safe place to raise children can be judged in different ways.
Today marks the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Letter from A Birmingham Jail” to which Hamid refers above. You can read the entire text of the letter here.
“We have transvestite talk-show hosts, advocates for eunuch's rights, burqa wearers, turbaned men with beards, outstanding fast bowlers, mediocre opening batsmen, tribal chieftains, bhang-drinking farmers, semi-nomadic shepherds, and at least one champion female sprinter. We have the Communist Mazdoor Kisaan Party, and we have Porshe dealerships. We are nobody's stereotype.”—‘Why Pakistan Will Survive’ - Mohsin Hamid
“The ideal writer should be a Method actor of sorts, I've always felt: Meryl Streep can get so profoundly into Isak Dinesen, Margaret Thatcher and Karen Silkwood in part because she finds that corner in herself that rhymes with each one of them. We can evoke the people (or places) that move us by becoming them, since every subject worth taking on remakes us in its own image. All of us, as the neuroscientist David Eagleman points out, are "not of one mind. Everyone is of many minds all the time." But how much more true of writers like Hamid or Smith - Hari Kunzru or Chang-rae Lee - who have inhabited so many different worlds that we (and they) can't begin to say they exclusively "belong to" any. Perhaps finding the answer to that question - locating what Hamid calls in his new book "a plausible unitary self" - is part of what all their stylistic experiments are about. But in the meantime, what they are telling us is that for an increasing number of people worldwide, it's only by remaining constantly mobile, keeping your voice as fluid and versatile as the world around you, that you can begin to be true to who you really are. ”—
From Voices Inside Their Heads by Pico Iyer (NYT)
“If you have ever, sir, been through a breakup of a romantic relationship that involved great love, you will perhaps understand what I experienced. There is in such situations usually a moment of passion during which the unthinkable is said; this is followed by a sense of euphoria at finally being liberated; the world seems fresh as if seen for the first time then comes the inevitable period of doubt, the desperate and doomed backpedalling of regret; and only later, once emotions have receded, is one able to view with equanimity the journey through which one has passed.”—The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid
Recurring Themes in The Reluctant Fundamentalist
-shame: at his immediate reaction to 9/11, at not being US American enough, at not being Pakistani enough, at not having power (both him personally and Pakistan nationally), ashamed of his acquired US American gaze and the financial decline of his family
-comparisons to the West: particularly in the form of references to US American popular culture—films—possibly pointing out the exportation of US American stereotypes and how people are represented to other countries/the strengthening of american hegemony and empire through exportation of popular media and possible counterpoint to the various mentions of how 9/11 was characterized in the news
-identity: fitting into US American upper-crust society, choosing how to physically represent oneself, being a New Yorker vs being a US American, experiencing his US American peers as foreigners and identifying more with the Filipino man
-displacement: living in a new country that at first seems to welcome you and then explicitly rejects you; the steady financial decline of his family vs the financial privilege he finds at his new job
-nostalgia: as a sickness both personal and national, as something that enhances imagination, as something that catalyzes transformation, as something that masquerades as memory
-how much more powerful imagination can be than reality
-liminality: spends majority of narrative in a place of uncertainty and transition