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Beyond the imaginary geographies of the War on Terror?
Unformatted Document Text:  Berman, in a world that ‘promises us adventure, power, joy, growth, transformation of ourselves and the world – and, at the same time, that threatens to destroy everything we have, everything we know, everything we are’. 54 Mohsin Hamid therefore depicts the global city as a space that potentially interrupts or transcends the nationalist geographies of ‘us’ and ‘them’: ‘In a subway car, my skin would typically fall in the middle of the color spectrum. On street corners, tourists would ask me for directions. I was, in four and a half years, never an American; I was immediately a New Yorker.’ 55 And yet, at the same time, the novel is haunted by a different idea of home, and an overarching sense that living within and among the ‘transformations of the city’ is never a long term solution. For example, Erica, as the character that is meant to be lost, is drawn to Changez’s solidity and his strong sense of home: ‘You give off this strong sense of home,’ she said. ‘You know that? This I’m-from-a-big-family vibe. It’s nice. It makes you feel solid.’ I was pleased – even though I was not sure I fully understood – and said thank you for want of anything better to say. Yet whilst Erica is meant to be the character that is most clearly lost, and who ultimately can’t continue with her life, the reader is invited to share an all-knowing position observing Changez’ naïve experiences as a lost young migrant in the city. Of course, this idea of a protagonist that is searching for her/his home in the world is a major theme of the European novel. The European novel developed alongside European nationalism, colonial enterprises, and a particular geographical imagination, but also developed alongside our understanding of the modern individual, as one that is autonomous and in charge of his own destiny. 56 However, there is a disconnect between this individual and the world, which sends the individual on a search for meaning, moral purpose, or a relationship that can ease the ‘broken’ bond of modernity: Just as the [novel] genre charts the progress from the anomie of youth to a meaningful life, first in civil society and then the state, the nation-state also offers an antidote to modernity’s upheaval.’ 57 The idea of a straightforward connection between self and world is broken in the novel. As Lukacs argues in his Theory of the Novel, the ‘totality of life is no longer directly given, [and]... the immanence of meaning in life has become a problem,…[However, the novel] still thinks in terms of totality.’ 58 54 Marshall Berman, All That Is Solid Melts into Air. p. 15 55 Mohsin Hamid, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, p.33 56 ‘While epic heroes belong entirely to their cities, and the tragic hero’s fate is predetermined, the protagonists of novels are set apart from the world, and their destiny mirrors its contingency.’ Thomas Pavel ‘The novel in search of itself: a historical morphology’ in Franco Moretti (ed), The Novel, Vol. 2, Princeton, Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2006 57 Pheng Cheah, Spectral Nationality, Columbia University Press, 2003, p.242-3 58 Georg Lukacs, Theory of the Novel. Quoted by Massimo Fusillo, ‘Epic Novel’, in Franco Moretti (ed) The Novel Vol 2, my emphasis. Princeton, Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2006, p.33. See also Pheng 14

Authors: Stephens, Angharad.
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Berman, in a world that  ‘promises us adventure, power, joy, growth, transformation of 
ourselves and the world – and, at the same time, that threatens to destroy everything we 
have, everything we know, everything we are’.
  Mohsin Hamid therefore depicts the 
global city as a space that potentially interrupts or transcends the nationalist geographies 
of ‘us’ and ‘them’: ‘In a subway car, my skin would typically fall in the middle of the 
color spectrum. On street corners, tourists would ask me for directions. I was, in four and 
a half years, never an American; I was  immediately  a New Yorker.’
  And yet, at the 
same time, the novel is haunted by a different idea of home, and an overarching sense 
that   living   within   and   among   the   ‘transformations   of   the   city’   is   never   a   long   term 
solution. 
For example, Erica, as the character that is meant to be lost, is drawn to Changez’s 
solidity and his strong sense of home:
‘You give off this strong sense of home,’ she said. ‘You know that? This 
I’m-from-a-big-family   vibe.   It’s   nice.   It   makes   you   feel   solid.’   I   was 
pleased – even though I was not sure I fully understood – and said thank 
you for want of anything better to say. 
Yet whilst Erica is meant to be the character that is most clearly lost, and who ultimately 
can’t   continue   with   her   life,   the   reader   is   invited   to   share   an   all-knowing   position 
observing Changez’ naïve experiences as a lost young migrant in the city. Of course, this 
idea of a protagonist that is searching for her/his home in the world is a major theme of 
the European  novel. The European novel developed  alongside European  nationalism, 
colonial   enterprises,   and   a   particular   geographical   imagination,   but   also   developed 
alongside our understanding of the modern individual, as one that is autonomous and in 
charge of his own destiny.
 However, there is a disconnect between this individual and 
the world, which sends the individual on a search for meaning, moral purpose, or a 
relationship that can ease the ‘broken’ bond of modernity:
Just as the [novel] genre charts the progress from the anomie of youth to a 
meaningful life, first in civil society and then the state, the nation-state 
also offers an antidote to modernity’s upheaval.’
The idea of a straightforward connection between self and world is broken in the novel. 
As Lukacs argues in his  Theory of the Novel,  the ‘totality of life is no longer directly 
given, [and]... the immanence of meaning in life has become a problem,…[However, the 
novel] still thinks in terms of totality.’
54
 Marshall Berman, All That Is Solid Melts into Air. p. 15
55
 Mohsin Hamid, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, p.33
56
 ‘While epic heroes belong entirely to their cities, and the tragic hero’s fate is predetermined, the 
protagonists of novels are set apart from the world, and their destiny mirrors its contingency.’ Thomas 
Pavel ‘The novel in search of itself: a historical morphology’ in Franco Moretti (ed), The Novel, Vol. 2
Princeton, Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2006
57
 Pheng Cheah, Spectral Nationality, Columbia University Press, 2003, p.242-3
58
 Georg Lukacs, Theory of the Novel. Quoted by Massimo Fusillo, ‘Epic Novel’, in Franco Moretti (ed) 
The Novel Vol 2, my emphasis. Princeton, Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2006, p.33. See also Pheng 
14


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