My Son the Fanatic Summary The story tells from Parvez a Pakistani Taxi Driver in Northern England and his son Ali. Parvez used to care very much for his only son and was because of this very shocked when Ali changed his behavior. He left his girlfriend, distanced himself from his other friends and gave away most of the things which were in his room. The shocked Parvez is talking after this with his taxi driver colleagues who suggest that the young Ali is taking drugs. Parvez is convinced from this idea and talks as well to Bettina, a prostitute and friend of him, who describes him the usual signs of drugs. Parvez supervises his son and realizes that he actually isn’t taking drugs but that he is a religious fanatic. The father wants to talk to his son and goes out for a dinner with him. While eating, Ali accuses Parvez’s western lifestyle and openly criticizes his behavior. The discussion escalates and Parvez is drinking too much alcohol to play down his anger. After this Parvez talks another time to Bettina who tries to support him and who even talks to the fanatic in the taxi. But when Ali insults her for her work as a prostitute she goes out of the taxi and leaves Parvez and Ali alone. When they arrive at home Parvez is really angry about his son’s behavior, especially because he had made bad experiences with religion and he hits his face. Ali, probably shocked by this, answers with the simple question “Who’s the fanatic now?” when the story ends.
Setting The story is set in a not specified town in Great Britain. You can suggest that it is a rather big town, when hearing from traffic jams and the taxi drivers. The story isn’t related to the colonization times but seems to take place in the 1980s or the 1990s, so rather in our time (arguments are again: traffic jam, lots of taxis). The next important part of the setting is Ali’s room which dramatically changes from a teenager’s room with television, video games, books and cricket bats in a very tidy and ordered room with a surprising emptiness. In the social environment of the Protagonist we’ve the taxi drivers, the prostitutes and Parvez’s wife, who is just like in other short stories suppressed by him. Parvez in Alis clean room Parvez afraid: talks to his collegues (drug theory) no drugs but praying dinner with Ali Parvez talks to Bettina "I've lost my son" Bettina meets Ali Parvez and Ali drove home and went up Parvez hits Ali's face. The Characters Ali Parvez Bettina son of Parvez second generation immigrant broke his education as an accouter left his girlfriend cleaned out his room left all his friends religious fanatic, devout acts like Parvez’s father (tells him what is right and wrong) first generation immigrant from Punjabi (Pakistan) taxi driver proud of his son not religious since his religious education adopted western values, unable to accept religious fanaticism alcoholic and violent (in the end) superior to his women prostitute good friend of Parvez (for years) beautiful not religious and no understanding for religious fanaticism knows a lot about “underground phenomena” (drugs,…) nice, friendly understanding The Author: Hanif Kureishi Hanif Kureishi was born 1954 in Great Britain. He had a Pakistani father and a British mother. So he used to grow up under two cultures and that’s one of the topics he often deals with in his plenty works. Kureishi wanted to be a writer since his childhood but started publishing his first works when Salman Rushdie was sentenced to death by religious fanatics (see also 3.2.4. The Author: Salman Rushdie). Shocked by this outbreak of violence in the Muslim world, Hanif Kureishi often criticizes fanatic behavior and made it to one of his central themes in lots of his plays and novels. The author received several prices for his works and was even once nominated for the Oscars for the best screenplay with the film “My Beautiful Launderette”. Historical Background The Pakistan community in Great Britain The Pakistanis are a minority in Great Britain. They immigrated after Indians declaration of independence.. In Northern Britain they often form separated groups with own quarters in which they often have separate shops and markets. Furthermore it’s interesting that every 6th Pakistani men in Great Britain is working as a taxi driver. Today the Pakistan community changes in that far that she begins to demand full integration instead of creating a separate group. But even though there are still some radical and fanatic groups working in an international network to terrorize the country. The relation to the short story is that the story is set in a Pakistani community and that furthermore Parvez is a taxi driver. The religious fanatic is Ali, who rejects the western lifestyle and isn’t accepting that his father has another opinion. Main themes Generation gap A Generation gap describes differences in understandings and ratings of certain phenomena between members of two generations. In “My Son the Fanatic” we have this difference between Parvez (a first generation immigrant) and his son Ali (second generation immigrant). Parvez probably immigrated to England because he saw the Western lifestyle as something progressive and desirable. Parvez dislikes religious education because he had bad experiences while he was educated. Ali is a second generation immigrant and suddenly changed to religious fanaticism without that the reader knows from a certain occasion which leads to this. Religious fanaticism In the short story there’s Ali who has changed into a religious fanatic and claims that his opinion is the only right one. Religious fanaticism often leads to violent breakouts and so it’s quite surprising that in the short story the non-fanatic immigrant hits his son instead of Ali. But even though you feel, when you read the short story, rather sympathy for Parvez and not for Ali that far. So Hanif Kureishi rates religious fanaticism as well as something bad and wants to convince you to get the same opinion. And anyhow religious fanaticism leads as well in this short story to a violent breakout, even though it is one from the other side, it isn’t rated as being something good.