Thursday, February 23, 2012

My son the fanatic.

My son the fanatic is a short story written by Hanif Kureshi, first published in the New Yorker, 1994. It was reprinted in Kureshi’s 1997 collection of short stories. The story is also adapted into a film of the same title.

It is obvious in the story that the relationship between Parvez and Ali is bad and that they do not understand each other. A reason for this mainly is Ali’s development to a Muslim, which Parvez does not notice. Of course Parvez notices that his son’s behaviour has changed, he notices for example his son’s computer disks, videotapes, new books and fashionable clothes beside the dustbin and that Ali throws out his possessions like his TV, his video-player, his stereo system and his guitar, but Parvez is not able to bring up the subject of Ali’s unusual behaviour. Of course this behaviour results from Ali’s religion and there is a rule he has to stick to called Zakat and also when Ali is growing a beard and when he is praying five times a day Parvez does not recognize his son’s Islamic religion. So Parvez does not only have problems to understand his son, he also misunderstands his son by interpreting his behaviour as being addicted to drugs. But although Parvez does not understand his son anymore he loves Ali anyway. He works long hours for Ali and yearns for the time when they were “brothers." So Parvez decides to go out with his son because he desires “more than anything” to know why his son’s behaviour has changed. By this I think Parvez wants to restore his old relationship with his son. But by Ali’s claim that he has an appointment and that he refuses to accompany his father it becomes clear that Ali does not like his father anymore. So Parvez has to insist on his opinion that no appointment could be more important than that of a son with his father. Here even Parvez describes their relationship as father and son, which shows that their relationship has become worse and worse. Especially when they are together in the restaurant the religious aspect why they do not understand each other becomes clear. Ali does not accept his father’s way of life because he does not stick to the Koran. It is also obvious that Parvez suffers from his son’s intolerance towards him. So Parvez even cries eyes filled and tries everything to please his son so that they will be “brothers” again. But Ali does not seem to notice his father anymore. Even when Parvez is growing a beard to please his son, Ali does not seem to notice it. So Parvez feels that he has lost his son.

In my opinion it also shows that they have “lost” each other. Parvez stumbled and fell in the road, scraping his hands and ripping his trousers. The boy didn’t even offer him his hand. I would interpret this situation as Parvez is at his lowest point here. He does not know how to please his son in order to become “brothers” again. And Ali does not come to meet his father to give him the “helping hand” to come together again. Another situation, which shows that they are really apart from each other, is when Parvez and Bettina drive around with the taxi. They meet Ali and take him with them. In this situation it even seems that Bettina has a closer relationship to Parvez than Ali has because he gets into the back seat, where passengers normally sit, while Bettina sits in the front, beside Parvez. In addition, I think it is not only the religious aspect which makes Parvez and Ali understands each other so badly. I would also interpret their situation as generation conflict because they often have different attitudes towards life. Parvez for example says: “Was it asking too much for Ali to get a good job, marry the right girl, and start a family” or “While I am here on earth I want to make the best of it. And I want you to as well”. So Parvez wants his son to make “the best” of his life but this life is for sure not the life Ali wants. For example Parvez works long hours for Ali to spend a lot of money on Ali’s education as an accountant, but this is not what Ali wants. Ali wants to give up his studies in accounting and he is going to work in prison with poor Muslims. And there are many more examples of these contrary attitudes: While Parvez thinks he has lived a decent life, Ali does not think so because in his opinion his father has broken countless rules of the Koran. Or while Parvez thinks that they have to fit in England, Ali thinks that Parvez is “too implicated” in Western civilisation. Because of this generation conflict and their bad situation resulting from Ali’s religious behaviour the situation escalates. Parvez who feels that he has lost his son loses his temper and hits the boy kicked him over. Then he dragged the boy up by the front of his shirt and hit him. The boy fell back. Parvez hit him again. T he boy’s face was bleeding. Although the story ends at this point, you can figure out that by this act Parvez and Ali have “lost” each other forever.



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