Saturday, October 18, 2008

Our October Author: Mohsin Hamid

Mohsin Hamid, author of The Reluctant Fundamentalist has his own website which handily compiles links to interviews. (You can't go wrong with NPR's Terry Gross. Random tidbits from a few others I explored follow below.) There is also a list of articles he has written, many about Pakistani politics, and a link to an "interactive" short story if you are feeling adventurous, on his site.

The author suggests future titles for Rights Readers:

I am sure he scores points with our Esteemed but Busy Readers for picking short books!

Man Booker Prize interview (wherein we also learn that Mira Nair has the film rights for the book),

There has been speculation about the meaning behind the name of your protagonist ‘Changez’. Can you clarify any meaning behind his name?

Changez is the Urdu name for Genghis, as in Genghis Khan. It is the name of a warrior, and the novel plays with the notion of a parallel between war and international finance, which is Changez’s occupation. But at the same time, the name cautions against a particular reading of the novel. Genghis attacked the Arab Muslim civilization of his time, so Changez would be an odd choice of name for a Muslim fundamentalist. In fact, Changez is something of a secular nationalist, and not particularly religious.

Q: Personal and public mourning run side by side in this story of raw emotions. Changez loses his footing when he is unable to separate the two. Was it difficult to find balance as you simultaneously probed the intimate pains and passions of one man’s loss and explored an entire nation’s tragedy?

A: I believe that the personal and the political are deeply intertwined; in my own life I certainly experience them as such. I don’t set out to find a balance between the two in my novels. Instead, I try to explore the places where they intersect most powerfully. People and countries tend to blur in my fiction; both serve as symbols of the other. Which is not to say that my characters are chess pieces: I see my characters as fully human, not as mere motifs. The countries in my fiction are far from monolithic and are capable of envy, passion, and nostalgia; they are, in other words, quite like people, and I try to explore them with that sensibility.

Critical Mass, One and Two

Q: When I finished it, I felt like I had read a much longer book than I had –

A: Well it is longer; there are many ghosts in the novel in the sense that there's upwards of 1,000 pages of different manuscript lying around. There are things that Erica did and these characters did and stuff they have done and been which aren't in the book. But having written them once you can dispense with them, and then you can touch things which imply that they happened. It gives a book that iceberg quality.

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