9/11 continues to cast a long shadow over contemporary fiction, from Jay McInerney's The Good Life to Claire Messud's The Emperor's Children. The Reluctant Fundamentalist tackles the subject from a different perspective: that of the well-educated Pakistani who is caught between two worlds. The novel takes the form of a conversation between Changez, a bearded Pakistani university lecturer, and a nameless American he befriends in a Lahore café. A graduate of the Princeton Class of 2001, Changez has turned his back on the American Dream and returned to his homeland to advocate disengagement from the United States.
As the book unfolds he tells us his life story. Born into a middle-class family in Lahore, he was never a devout Muslim – at one stage he hired a Christian bootlegger to deliver booze to his house in a Suzuki pickup. He won a scholarship to Princeton and graduated