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Hamid, M. (2009). Slaying Dragons: Mohsin Hamid Discusses The Reluctant Fundamentalist. Psychoanal. Hist., 11(2):225-237.

(2009). Psychoanalysis and History, 11(2):225-237

Slaying Dragons: Mohsin Hamid Discusses The Reluctant Fundamentalist

Mohsin Hamid

This is a daunting audience and a daunting topic. Never before have I felt as exposed on the question of fiction or autobiography. I am going to insist this is fiction and whatever learned members of the audience determine about the psychosis of the characters involved, they have nothing to do with me. The novel The Reluctant Fundamentalist (Hamid 2007) is a dramatic monologue, which means it is almost like a stage-play with one character speaking. One reason for having this formal structure is that by creating half of a conversation, a conversation of which you only hear one half, and where the other party of the conversation is only present as an echo, a space opens up in the novel, a vacuum that the reader is invited to fill. The Reluctant Fundamentalist plays a kind of game where Changez, the narrator, a Pakistani man with a beard, comes upon an American man with a crew-cut in a bazaar in Lahore, in Pakistan, and starts speaking to him. It is unclear why Changez is deciding to speak to this American or why the American is there, or what has brought them together. Is one a terrorist, a fundamentalist? Is the other a CIA agent, a killer? Are they both two random chaps who happen to be in the bazaar? We don't know and that lack of knowledge and that half conversation does a few things, such as drawing attention to biases. So in non-fiction accounts and narratives, such as the news on television, we tend to be told how things are and, of course, in being told, we are being given a whole string of biases; but the biases remain hidden. But when it is a conversation where one person is speaking and the other person isn't, it is drawing attention to the fact that what you are about to get is very highly biased and manipulative. And you, the audience, are given the task of responding to this manipulation.

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