Not Entirely Like Me

Amit Chaudhuri

  • The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid
    Hamish Hamilton, 184 pp, £14.99, March 2007, ISBN 978 0 241 14365 0

In 1989, I was invited to a party in London. I was a graduate student at Oxford, supposedly writing a dissertation on D.H. Lawrence but actually doing nothing of the sort. Instead, I’d completed a short novel; an extract from it had appeared in this paper, as had a poem and a review. It was on the basis of these that I must have been invited that night to the party, which was a celebration of the London Review of Books’s tenth anniversary.

Generally uncomfortable at literary gatherings, as all of us probably are, I was cushioned against the brunt of celebrity and erudite chatter by my former tutor at UCL. Various covers of past issues were on display, I seem to recall; one of them had a photograph of Salman Rushdie, which I looked at disbelievingly, as you might at someone you’d known as a child, who’d become famous for some unforeseeable feat, like holding their breath for ten minutes underwater, or journeying to Jupiter; for the fatwa had been recently announced. In the midst of the laughter and condiments of the evening, I was suddenly reminded of what a serious business literature, and life, really were.

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