Archive | February 2014

Book 6: Pakistan (English) – The Reluctant Fundamentalist (Moshin HAMID)

Excuse me, sir, but may I be of assistance? Ah, I see I have alarmed you. Do not be frightened by my beard: I am a lover of America. I noticed that you were looking for something; more than looking, in fact you seemed to be on a MISSION, and since I am both a native of this city and a speaker of your language, I thought I might offer you my services.

 

A wonderful, easy-to-read exploration of the different (and similar) way that Muslims/Pakistanis and Westerners/American see the world, and how a Pakistani who was quite assimilated in American society and understood and admired it, had an envied job and an American lover, saw it all fall apart after 9/11 and turned into… what did he turn into? Don’t let your preconceptions fool you. The book keeps the tension up throughout, though it basically consists of the narrator’s telling of his story, and leaves you with a cliffhanger. He recounts his biography to a shadowy American in Karachi (whose function the author leaves us to guess at) who, like his country, is both threatening and threatened. It is written in an unusual voice, the second person. Highly recommended.

 

Hamid, Moshin (1971-), The Reluctant Fundamentalist, London, Penguin, 2008 (originally 2007), ISBN 978-0-141-02954-2

 

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Book 5: Brazil (Portuguese) – Dona Flor & her two husbands = Dona Flor e seus dois maridos (Jorge AMADO)

Vadinho, Dona Flor’s first husband, died one Carnaval Sunday, in the morning, when, fancy-dressed as a woman from Bahia, samba dancing in a bloco (Carnaval group), in great animation, on the 2nd of July Square, not far from his house. He didn’t belong to this bloco; he had just mingled with it, along with four other friends, all clad in Bahian costume, and had come from a bar in Cabeça where the whisky flowed freely from the funds of a certain Moysés Alves, a cacao plantation owner, rich and spendthrift.

[my translation]

An early magical realist novel, this is the story of a lovable scoundrel who dies at the outset of the novel (living it up a bit too much at Carnaval) and becomes a ghost in a sort of ménage-à-trois with his widow Dona Flor and her new husband. It’s full of Brazilian joie de vivre and light-hearted naughtiness, and gives a wonderful insider’s insight into the African-influenced culture of northeastern Brazil. It took me a long time to read, as I found Amado’s Portuguese very difficult (lots of slang). But it’s a wonderful plunge into a joyful, exotic – and magical – world.

 

Amado, Jorge (1912-2001), Dona Flor e seus dois maridos, Rio de Janeiro, Record, 2001, ISBN 85-01-05042-3