Northampton Electronic Collection of Theses and Research

The contemporary terrorist novel and religious fundamentalism: Richard Flanagan, Mohsin Hamid, Orhan Pamuk

Wilson, J. M. (2012) The contemporary terrorist novel and religious fundamentalism: Richard Flanagan, Mohsin Hamid, Orhan Pamuk. In: Pesso-Miquel, C. and Stierstorfer, K. (eds.) Burning Books: Negotiations between Fundamentalism and Literature. New York: AMS Press Inc.. pp. 91-108.

Item Type: Book Section
Abstract: This paper argues that since 9/11 terrorism has provided a compelling new theme for fiction. Three contemporary political thrillers are examined, to show how their ideologies and narrative structures differ according to national circumstances and responses to the threat of terrorism from diverse geographical regions. Richard Flanagan’s The Unknown Terrorist, a fictional response to the Australian official reaction to the Bali bombings of 2002 in which 89 Australians were killed, can be read in terms of the emerging ‘traumatological’ aesthetic which terrorism has generated. Mohsin Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist, is a psychological thriller as well as a novel about cross cultural exchange; through subtle narrative technique which represents a conversation through a single monologic voice, it raises questions of cultural relativity: about the value of American economic imperialism, by contrast to that of its major enemy, religious fundamentalist insurrection, here associated with Pakistan (the novel is set in Lahore). Orham Pamuk’s postmodernist novel Snow, parodies the relations between the secular nationalists and religious fundamentalist Islamists in the modern state of Turkey; promoting revolution as a means of seizing control when the opportunity presents itself, it both examines and performs the political uncertainty which dominates the Turkish state. All three novels demonstrate Malise Ruthven’s argument that, inherent in the Protestant use of the word fundamentalism, are the responses of individual or collective selfhoods, of personal and group identities, to the scandal or shock of the other. All expose media manipulation of public opinion as an assault on the real, an obfuscation of reality. The Unknown Terrorist, a schematic manifesto against counter-terrorism, reveals a dystopian society motivated by greed and self aggrandisement, turning against itself. For Changez, the hero of The Reluctant Fundamentalist, becoming engrossed in a media-saturated reality (TV footage of the destruction of the twin towers, websites about hostilities in Pakistan and India and the build- up of the Afghanistan campaign) leads to a change of belief: he rejects the values of his adopted country, America, and reverts –albeit in modified fashion as a returning native-- to embrace his original culture and the values of religious fundamentalism. In the postmodern, metafictional world of Snow, events occur only through being first textually inscribed; the media control reality, report what will happen and so bring it about. Finally I suggest that these (and other) post 9/11 novels represent new uncertainties of cultural threat and upheaval through revised cultural ideologies, national identities and a heightened awarenesss of borders. The generic reformulations and new aesthetics of the novels collectively reveal the spiritual dystopias and dysfunctional cultural relationships which are often associated with late capitalism, now adapted to the new theme of terrorism
Uncontrolled Keywords: Fundamentalism, terrorist novel, post-9/11, Orhan Pamuk, Richard Flanagan, Mohsin Hamid, dystopia
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN3311 Prose. Prose fiction
H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare. Criminology > HV6001 Criminology > HV6251 Crimes and offences > HV6432 Terrorism
Creators: Wilson, Janet M
Editors: Pesso-Miquel, Catherine and Stierstorfer, Klaus
Publisher: AMS Press Inc.
Faculties, Divisions and Institutes: University Faculties, Divisions and Research Centres - OLD > Research Centre > Centre for Critical and Creative Writing
University Faculties, Divisions and Research Centres - OLD > Faculty of Education & Humanities > English and Creative Writing
Faculties > Faculty of Education & Humanities > English and Creative Writing
Research Centres > Centre for Critical and Creative Writing
Date: October 2012
Date Type: Publication
Page Range: pp. 91-108
Title of Book: Burning Books: Negotiations between Fundamentalism and Literature
Series Name: AMS studies in cultural history
Volume: 10
Place of Publication: New York
Number of Pages: 225
Language: English
ISBN: 9780404642600
Media of Output: Print
Status: Published / Disseminated
Related URLs:
References: Bruce Hoffman, Inside Terrorism (London: Victor Gollancz, 1998): 94–95. 2 Joseph Conrad, Under Western Eyes [1911], ed. Jeremy Hawthorn (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003); The Secret Agent (London: Methuen, 1907); Graham Greene, Our Man in Havana (London: Heinemann, 1958); John Le Carré, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (London: Victor Gollancz and Pan, 1963). 3 M. John Harrison, “Girl, Gun, Nightclub,” rev. of The Unknown Terrorist by Richard Flanagan, (London) Times Literary Supplement (April 29, 2007): 21. 4 Richard Flanagan, The Unknown Terrorist (Sydney: Picador, 2006, subsequently referred to parenthetically as UT); Orhan Pamuk, Snow [2002], trans. Maureen Freely (New York: Knopf, 2004, subsequently referred to parenthetically as S); Mohsin Hamid, The Reluctant Fundamentalist (London: Penguin, 2007, subsequently referred to parenthetically as RF). 5 Ian McEwan, Saturday (London: Cape, 2005); Salman Rushdie, Shalimar the Clown (London: Cape, 2005). 6 Robert Eaglestone, “‘The Age of Reason Was Over...An Age of Fury Was Dawning’: Contemporary Fiction and Terror” in Terror and the Postcolonial, ed. Elleke Boehmer and Stephen Morton (Oxford: Wiley‐Blackwell, 2009): 361– 369, 368. 7 Yasmina Khadra, The Attack [2005], trans. John Cullen (New York: Talese/ Doubleday, 2005); Slimane Benaissa, The Last Night of a Damned Soul [2003], trans. Janice and Daniel Gross (New York: Grove, 2004); Nadeem Aslam, Wasted Vigil (New York: Knopf, 2008). 8 Francis Blessington, “Politics and the Terrorist Novel,” The Sewanee Review 116.1 (2008): 116–124, 116–117; on Benaissa’s Last Night of a Damned Soul, see John C. Hawley, “Jihad as Rite of Passage,” Journal of Postcolonial Writing 46.3–4 (2010): 394–404; on Aslam’s Wasted Vigil, see Muneeza Shamsie, “Covert Operations in Pakistani Fiction,” Commonwealth Essays and Studies, Special Issue, South Asian Fiction/Anita Desai 31.2 (2009): 15–25, 23. 9 Philip Tew, The Contemporary British Novel (London: Continuum, 2007): 190– 221, 192. 10 See Florian Stadtler, “Terror, Globalization and the Individual in Salman Rushdie’s Shalimar the Clown,” Journal of Postcolonial Writing 45.2 (2009): 191– 199, 191. 11 This has its origins in the Australian losses suffered in the First World War, particularly at Gallipoli, and the reaction subsequently, a sense that the Australian forces were betrayed by the British command. 12 Tariq Ali, The Clash of Fundamentalisms: Crusades, Jihads and Modernity (London and New York: Verso, 2002): 392. 13 Homi K. Bhabha, The Location of Culture (London: Routledge, 1994): 107. 14 Bhabha, Location of Culture, 77. 15 Sarah Kerr, “In the Terror House of Mirrors,” rev. of The Unknown Terrorist by Richard Flanagan and The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid, The New York Review of Books (October 11, 2007): 22–24, 24. 16 See Mohsin Hamid, “The Stranger,” interview with Deborah Solomon, The New York Times (April 15, 2007), 15wwlnQ4.t.html?_r=1 [last accessed March 23, 2010]. 17 On Changez’s different discourses according to the addressee, see Shamsie, “Covert Operations,” 20–21. 18 Klaus Stierstorfer, “Tariq Ali and Recent Negotiations of Fundamentalism” in Fundamentalism and Literature, ed. Catherine Pesso‐Miquel and Klaus Stierstorfer (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007): 143–160, 144. 19 Glen M. Segell, “9/11: Wahabism/Hegemony and Agenic Man/Heroic Mascu‐ linity,” Strategic Insights 4.3 (2005), http://www.ccc/ Mar/segellMar05.aso [last accessed December 3, 2009], cited in Hawley, “Jihad as Rite of Passage,” 398. 20 Bruce King, “The Image of the US in Three Pakistani Novels,” Totalitarian Movements and Political Religions 8.3–4 (2007): 683–688, 685, suggests that Hamid’s model is Camus’s novella La Chute, whose speaker’s arguments seem like bad faith but are in fact parodies of criticisms of Sartre against Camus. 21 Segell, “9/11” claims that this is true of many British Muslims suspected of terrorism. 22 Roger Bromley, Narratives for a New Belonging: Diasporic Cultural Fictions (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2000): 122, citing Mikhail Bakhtin, Problems of Dostoevsky’s Poetics, ed. and trans. Caryl Emerson (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1984): 195, 197. 23 Malise Ruthven, Fundamentalism. A Very Short Introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004): 27. 24 See Merve Kavakci, rev. of Snow by Orhan Pamuk, (New York) Mediterranean Review Quarterly 16.3 (Summer 2005): 163–166, 165. 25 Linda Hutcheon, A Poetics of Postmodernism: History, Theory, Fiction (New York and London: Routledge, 1988): 154. 26 Cited in Sibel Erol, “Reading Orhan Pamuk’s Snow as Parody: Difference as Sameness,” Comparative Critical Studies 4.3 (2007): 403–422, 410, to which the following account is indebted. 27 Sherif Mardin, “The Nakshibendi Order of Turkey” in Fundamentalism and the State: Remaking Polities, Economies and Militancies, The Fundamentalist Project, ed. Martin E. Marty and R. Scott Appleby, 5 vols. (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1991–1995): 3:204–232, 217. 28 Mardin, “The Nakshibendi Order of Turkey,” 217. 29 See Michael Gorra, “A Traveller in a Strange City,” rev. of Snow by Orhan Pamuk, (London) Times Literary Supplement (May 14, 2004): 11. 30 Ruthven, Fundamentalism, 5. 31 Ruthven, Fundamentalism, 22. 32 Eaglestone, “‘The Age of Reason Was Over,’” 368.

Actions (login required)

Edit Item Edit Item