John Updike

Source: The New Yorker

During American Literature lectures this week, we have been discussing the novel Terrorist by John Updike, which examines the concept of the relationship between religion and terrorism. This novel is significant in its examination of terrorism as it was one of the first post 9/11 literary works to discuss the topic at a time when other writers were hesitant to approach such a sensitive topic.

During the lecture at the beginning of the week we were shown a short clip from a documentary which shows the moments before, during and after the two planes hit the World Trade Centre. Seeing the terror and destruction which this event caused alters the way in which Terrorist is read as the reader can imagine how people would react if the terrorist attack was to take place in the novel.


Cover of Terrorist

Source: New York Times

While on Erasmus, I studied another novel which also examines how American society changed  after the September terrorist attacks. In the novel The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid, the main character Changez, who is of Pakistani origin, lives a privileged life in pre-9/11 New York as an employee at a prestigious law firm. While away on a business trip, he sees coverage of the attacks on TV and it becomes very apparent upon his return to the US that attitudes towards people of Middle Eastern descent have suddenly become extremely negative. There is a sense within the narrative of the novel that this particular race of people have now become associated with violence and terrorism.

Reading Terrorist after studying The Reluctant Fundamentalist is interesting as it is fascinating to see how different writers have approached and discussed the same topic Terrorist is a very different literary work to what we have studied so far in American Literature in terms of when it was published, but I have found it intriguing to read a novel which discusses such a recent and emotional event.


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