Saturday, May 30, 2009

Weekend Recap: Book and Film Rec

Last weekend, I saw a great movie and read a good book.

1. The movie, Sin Nombre, is about two immigrants. One is trying to cross the border to get to New Jersey, while the other is trying to escape being killed by his own gang members. The story is about redemption, loss, and perseverance. Catch this one if you can. A review is here.

2. Mohsin Hamid's book, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, is about an immigrant named Changez ("Changez" is Urdu for "Genghis" Khan, the Mongol invader who attacked the Muslim world). Although this story is about a legal immigrant, one wonders if Changez's troubles aren't as woe-inspiring as the two characters in Sin Nombre.

Changez, a Pakistani immigrant, attends Princeton and falls in love with a woman, who, at first glance, appears to be a beautiful "lioness." After 9/11, she changes, trying to burrow herself in the past, which prevents the relationship from moving forward. By this time, she has become an unexcisable part of Changez. In fact, he has willingly given up part of himself to ensure her happiness and acceptance. Despite gaining the trappings of wealth and prestige (and an American Express expense account), Changez eventually returns to his homeland, a fact we are told upfront.

The story begins with Changez telling his story to an American in a cafe in Lahore, Pakistan. Both men are tense and wary of each other, and while Changez tries to reassure his visitor, it is clear the visitor is on guard. Changez is also on guard, something we see as he provides clues about his visitor. For example, he wonders out loud whether a bulge in the visitor's pocket is a gun or a hidden fanny pack commonly used by theft-wary tourists. We do not know who the American is, but the story builds tension bit by bit and leaves us with an ending that will be interpreted by each reader differently. The Reluctant Fundamentalist can be called a foreign policy Rorschach test. Depending on how you interpret the ending, you will know your view of America, the world, and how they interact.

An interview with the author is here.

No comments: