The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid

★★★★★ (5/5)

A selection of my favorite passages from the book

  • but then again, sportsmen and soldiers of all nationalities tend to look alike
  • Except, of course, that we are part of a broader malaise afflicting not only the formerly rich but much of the formerly middle-class as well: a growing inability to purchase what we previously could.
  • But fortunately, where I saw shame, he saw opportunity
  • Yet one got the sense that she existed internally at a degree of remove from those around her
  • It is the effect of scarcity; one’s rules of propriety make one thirst for the improper
  • was a testament to the systematic pragmatism—call it professionalism—that underpins your country’s success in so many fields. At Princeton, learning was imbued with an aura of creativity; at Underwood Samson, creativity was not excised—it was still present and valued—but it ceded its primacy to efficiency. Maximum return was the maxim to which we returned, time and again
  • it is far better to donate to charities that address the causes of poverty rather than to him, a creature who is merely its symptom. What am I doing?
  • At these moments she frequently became introspective; it was as though their presence allowed her to withdraw, to recede a half-step inside herself
  • felt like a distance runner who thinks he is not doing too badly until he glances over his shoulder and sees that the fellow who is lapping him is not the leader of the pack, but one of the laggards.
  • Reject it and you slight the confessor; accept it and you admit your own guilt
  • Perhaps it is in our nature to recognize subconsciously the link between mortality and procreation—between, that is to say, the finite and the infinite—and we are in fact driven by reminders of the one to seek out the other
  • “They try to resist change. Power comes from becoming change.”
  • I did, however, tell myself that I had overreacted, that there was nothing I could do, and that all these world events were playing out on a stage of no relevance to my personal life. But I remained aware of the embers glowing within me, and that day I found it difficult to concentrate on the pursuit—at which I was normally so capable—of fundamentals
  • Here we are not squeamish when it comes to facing the consequences of our desire
  • Lahore was the last major city in a contiguous swath of Muslim lands stretching west as far as Morocco and had therefore that quality of understated bravado characteristic of frontier towns
  • there was no physical reason for her malaise beyond, perhaps, a biochemical disposition towards mental disorders of this kind. No, hers was an illness of the spirit, and I had been raised in an environment too thoroughly permeated with a tradition of shared rituals of mysticism to accept that conditions of the spirit could not be influenced by the care, affection, and desire of others
  • saw that in this constant striving to realize a financial future, no thought was given to the critical personal and political issues that affect one’s emotional present.
  • There really could be no doubt: I was a modern-day janissary, a servant of the American empire at a time when it was invading a country with a kinship to mine and was perhaps even colluding to ensure that my own country faced the threat of war. Of course I was struggling! Of course I felt torn! I had
  • I myself was a form of indentured servant whose right to remain was dependent upon the continued benevolence of my employer
  • As a society, you were unwilling to reflect upon the shared pain that united you with those who attacked you. You retreated into myths of your own difference, assumptions of your own superiority. And you acted out these beliefs on the stage of the world, so that the entire planet was rocked by the repercussions of your tantrums
  • Such journeys have convinced me that it is not always possible to restore one’s boundaries after they have been blurred and made permeable by a relationship: try as we might, we cannot reconstitute ourselves as the autonomous beings we previously imagined ourselves to be
  • I must meet my fate when it confronts me, and in the meantime I must conduct myself without panic.
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