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Description de l’éditeur

For some time we have witnessed the emergence of a generation of "postcolonial" writers for whom (post)colonialism has become an increasingly distant family memory. They understandably find it rather tedious to be read first and foremost as representative of a certain cultural and national context. In contrast to this, Pakistani writer Mohsin Hamid appears to willingly accept the ambitious task of "explaining" his country to his readers. Meanwhile it seems that at least Western audiences continue to be in desperate need of such explanation, given the limited knowledge about other parts of the world that prevails in the West. Pakistan is often perceived as merely one of those far-away places that serve as breeding grounds for extremism and violence. Hamid's acceptance of his position as a mediator--though clearly not the only significant feature of his work--is visible in most of his writing. For example, it is also prominent in his journalistic opinion pieces featured in Western newspapers, articles such as "Pakistan Must Not Be Abandoned" (in The Guardian), "Pakistan's Silent Majority Is Not to Be Feared" (in The New York Times) or "Why Do They Hate Us?" (in The Washington Post). The strong public interest in Hamid's second novel The Reluctant Fundamentalist, as well as the nominations for major literary prizes that it garnered, underlines the extent to which this novel speaks to issues troubling the contemporary reading public. Assuming that it is also the "fundamentalist" of the title that is drawing a larger audience, I will examine the ways in which this figure of the fundamentalist is negotiated in Hamid's two novels. The starting point of my consideration consists of a question and an observation: The very "fundamental" question (which has been hotly debated in recent years, leading to a large number of conferences and an even larger number of publications dedicated to the very topic) is this: What is fundamentalism? According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the term "fundamentalism" refers to the "strict adherence to ancient or fundamental doctrines, with no concessions to modern developments in thought or customs" ("Fundamentalism" 267). Applied to modern fundamentalism, much of this very basic definition is debatable, most notably the claim that fundamentalism makes "no concessions to modern developments in thought or customs." The organization and structure of many fundamentalist groups as well as their use of modern technology and media imply otherwise. Positioning oneself in ultimate opposition to modernity in the contemporary world appears, in fact, to include a rather strong 'concession' to the rule of modernity (or to what I would rather call the rule of modernities). Taking into account the generally problematic quality of the term "fundamentalism," I set out to detect "the fundamentalist" in Hamid's novels.

Professionnel et technique
1 juillet
University of Calgary, Department of English

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