My Son the Fanatic Summary
“My Son the Fanatic” is a short story by Hanif Kureishi. The story deals with a father-son relationship and has anticipated discussions of Islamic fundamentalists recruited from apparently assimilated second-generation immigrants.
- The story begins with Parvez, a Pakistani immigrant living in England, noticing changes in his son Ali’s behavior. He becomes suspicious of his son and starts to worry about his future.
- All of Parvez’s dreams for his son crumble when Ali confesses that he is disgusted by his father’s neglect of Muslim precepts and his disregard of the ban on alcohol and pork.
- “My Son the Fanatic” ends with no immediate closure and no reassurance of any possible resolution in the future.
Hanif Kureishi's short story "My Son the Fanatic" was originally published in The New Yorker in 1994. The story deals with a father-son relationship and has anticipated discussions of Islamic fundamentalists recruited in apparently assimilated second-generation immigrants. Because of its topicality, "My Son the Fanatic" has continuously exerted interest since its initial publication. The story appeared in Kureishi's collection Love in a Blue Time (1997) and as an appendix to the 2009 paperback edition of the novel The Black Album (1995). In 1997, Kureishi adapted "My Son the Fanatic" into a film of the same title, directed by Udayan Prasad and starring Om Puri, Rachel Griffiths, and Stellan Skarsgard.
Parvez is a Pakistani immigrant living in England. He works as a taxi driver and has assimilated to Western ways of life. His son, Ali, seems to have embraced the lifestyle of his British peers. Parvez, however, is growing more and more suspicious of his son as he notices apparent changes in Ali's behavior. The taxi driver talks about his worries to his colleagues and to Bettina, a prostitute who has become Parvez's friend (the relationship between the two is fully developed into an extra-marital affair in the film). All his "dreams of doing well in England" (which include a happy wedding and a safe job in accountancy for Ali) crumble when his son confesses that he is disgusted by his father's neglect for Muslim precepts about prayers and his father's disregard of the ban on alcohol and pork meat. Increasingly disturbed by his son's religious fundamentalism and contempt for assimilation, Parvez one night repeatedly hits Ali. The son reacts with only a question: "So who's the fanatic now?"
"My Son the Fanatic" begins in medias res (Latin for "in the middle of things"), a technique that subverts chronological order and starts the narration at a point when important events have already happened. The story thus begins when Ali's process of becoming a Muslim "fanatic" has been going on for some time. This stylistic choice is designed to capture readers' attention and implicate them in the narrative. From the very first sentence, "Surreptitiously, the father began going into his son's room," readers become accomplices of the father and closely identify with his point of view and his bewilderment at his son's fundamentalism. Readers would normally expect to see the old generation tied to ethnic and religious traditions; second-generation immigrants would be more keen to assimilate. This process of subverting readers' expectations is carried to the extreme as Kureishi's short story ends with no immediate closure and no reassurance of any possible resolution in the future.