Sunday, August 24, 2014

Simultaneity (Mohsin Hamid)

I read Mohsin Hamid's (TCK via US and Pakistan) The Reluctant Fundamentalist and just attended his discussion of the work.

In brief (I'm tired: been a long day enjoying new students): what if it's not discontinuity that characterizes third culture literature, but simultaneity?

Hamid frames his novel as a protracted conversation between a Pakistani in Lahore and an American businessman.  The Pakistani tells the American at length about his career in New York and the events that resulted in his return to his native Pakistan.  Hamid argues that the frame (conversation in Lahore) and the topic (what happened in New York) mean that both places are inhabited simultaneously.

Boom!  Mind=blown.  I think this may be more apt than my argument about discontinuity in Ondaatje and others.

Throw in these details: the opening of Hamid's novel "Excuse me sir, but may I be of assistance?" as homage and reference to Albert Camus' The Fall which opens "May I, sir, offer my services without the risk of intruding?" and the fact that Camus was a kind of expat (raised in French Algeria) and there's a lot to free-associate with . . .

Camus' L'etranger: is it third culture literature?  If it influenced existentialism, is existentialism founded in part on a kind of detachment  and disenfranchisement specific to growing up expat?

And, I've badly wanted to write about The Doors (Jim Morrison was a military brat) and their lyrics.  What connections, if any, are to be made between L'etranger and "People are Strange"?

Write to me.  Tell me what you think.

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