Since 9/11 writers have produced novels, essays, short stories and reports on the event surrounding the terrorist attacks.
Mohsin Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist (2007) is a short novel that deals with the life of a young Pakistani who has returned home after working in the United States for several years. The novel begins a few years after the events of 9/11 when the young Pakistani man, Changez, meets an unnamed American in a tea cafe, or chai-khanna, in the old Anarkali section of Lahore, and proceeds to offer up an unsolicited autobiographical monologue, recounting his days a few years back in America. This ‘outer narrative’ takes place during the course of a single evening.
The ‘inner narrative’ of the novel consists of Changez’s brief autobiography as told in his monologue with the American; offering an authoritative account by a self-styled insider of Muslim resentment for America. The basic premise of the novel is that of Changez, who importantly is, an idealistic young Muslim man, leaves Pakistan to pursue his education in the United States. Upon graduation from Princeton, Changez is recruited to a top job on Wall Street; falls in love with an American woman, Erica, and hopes to achieve a position of status in the elite Manhattan society of which she is a part. But after the 9/11 attacks he finds himself ostracised by his fellow New Yorkers. His budding relationship with Erica is overshadowed by her personal problems, as well as his own growing paranoia and resentment aimed at the country he has made home. He comes to the resentful realisation that life in America has made him a traitor to his own identity, and made him a mercenary for American interests. And so he abandons his ostensibly successful American life, returning to Pakistan to use the tools that his US education have given him to dismantle the house that American imperialism has built.
John Updike sets his story around an 18-year-old radical Islamist, Ahmad Ashmawy Mulloy. He seeks ‘Jihad’ and to follow the ‘Straight Path’.
He is the only child of an exchange-student father, long since returned to Egypt and an Irish-American mother who works as a nurse’s aide. On his own, loving prayer— “the sensation of pouring the silent voice in his head into a silence waiting at his side”—Ahmad has decided to be purer than the Koran. He will be used by the Yemeni imam who insinuates him through the suras and by the Lebanese furniture salesmen who employ him to drive the truck of fertilizer and racing fuel intended to blow up the Lincoln Tunnel.
A collection of some pieces – essays, short stories, reportage – that Amis has written in response to the events of 11 September and to the War on Terror. In his short story ‘The Last Days of Mohamed Atta’, Martin Amis provides a rationale for the Egyptian Hijacker, Mohamed Atta last days leading up to his involvement in the 9/11 attacks. One of the arguments that runs through this book is that barbarism is all but indistinguishable from religion and that the opposite of religious belief is not atheism, but independence of mind.
And this TED talk is particularly moving – 9/11 healing: The mothers who found forgiveness and friendship
Phyllis Rodriguez and Aicha el-Wafi have a powerful friendship born of unthinkable loss. Rodriguez’ son was killed in the World Trade Center attacks on September 11, 2001; el-Wafi’s son Zacarias Moussaoui was convicted of a role in those attacks and is serving a life sentence. In hoping to find peace, these two moms have come to understand and respect one another.