Tag Archives: How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid, book review: The reader is brought face to face with the realities of war

By Lucy Scholes

With novels like The Reluctant Fundamentalist and How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia, Mohsin Hamid has proved himself a writer able to speak directly of and to the moment. His latest work, Exit West, is no exception. In it he situates a love story amidst the refugee crisis, painting a nuanced portrait of contemporary migration, from the horrors of Western hysteria to what it really means to leave one life behind in the hope of building another.

It begins like any “boy meets girl” story – eyes are locked across a classroom, an invitation to get a drink after class is declined but not rebuffed, accepted a week later, and two young people begin to spend more and more time together. The relative gentleness of this courtship, however, is contrasted against a backdrop of increasing civil unrest. The unnamed Middle Eastern city in which Hamid’s two lovers, Saeed and Nadine, live is on the brink of disaster, “swollen with refugees but still mostly at peace, or at least not yet openly at war”, but, as Hamid expertly shows, the slide into conflict, violence and the frightening curtailment of civil liberties happens all too easily. Read more

Source: Independent.co.uk

Draws and drawbacks of success for writers by Mohsin Hamid

In our glaringly unequal world, commercial success seems a panacea. It frees the infinitesimally few writers who achieve it to write: NYT

Mohsin hamidFor writers in our thoroughly marketized global culture and economy, the draws of commercial success are clear. As Virginia Woolf wrote 85 years ago: “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction,” circumstances likely “out of the question, unless her parents were exceptionally rich or very noble.”

Her words apply to men today as well. Ours is a glaringly unequal world. Money and a room of one’s own are distant prospects for many young writers. Commercial success seems, therefore, a panacea. It frees the infinitesimally few writers who achieve it to write. Read more

Mohsin Hamid on Sufi love, drones and globalisation

In this interview, Pakistani novelist Hamid discusses his works with the editors of Oxford Islamic Studies Online.

Mohsin hamidAttar, Rumi, Ghalib—the list of Sufi poets that I’ve been influenced by is probably longer than I can articulate, since in addition to those I’ve read, there are many more who have shaped the culture of Lahore in which I grew up. My first novel, Moth Smoke, was in a sense a post-modern riff on the Sufi theme of the love of a moth for a candle flame. Moth Smoke looked at what happened after such a love was consummated. What is interesting about Sufi thought is that, although it emerges from a Muslim tradition, it transcends religious groupings and can even transcend religious faith. It’s humanist in many ways. Yet it is also ancient, and has co-existed with much more orthodox forms of religion for well over a thousand years. That fascinates me. The Sufi notion that love enables transcendence fascinates me. I’m drawn to explorations that base their inquiry on what one feels, rather than on what one believes.

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Mohsin Hamid, Cyrus Mistry shortlisted for literature prize

Cyrus Mistry’s ‘Chronicle of a Corpse Bearer’, Mohsin Hamid’s ‘How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia’ and Nayomi Munaweera’s ‘Island of a Thousand Mirrors’ have been shortlisted for the DSC South Asian Literature Prize 2014.

Apart from these, Nadeem Aslam’s ‘The Blind Man’s Garden’ and two translations ‘Book of Destruction’ by Anand and Benyamin’s ‘Goat Days’ will also be vying for the prize money of $50,000.

The list was announced Wednesday in London at a ceremony.

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Mohsin Hamid: I did not want to price myself out of my own dream

Mohsin hamidDevin Leonard interviews novelist Mohsin Hamid on his Latest novel and McKinsey past in Bloomberg Businessweek

You had a successful career in business before you published your first novel. How did you end up as a writer? 
I stumbled into consulting. I didn’t know how you could make a living trying to write fiction. So I went to law school and had this enormous debt, so I interviewed for a job at McKinsey.

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How to write a minor classic

Mohsin_how-to-getSelf-help books sell more than their literary betters in ‘Rising Asia’, so it would be no wonder if the how-to format takes over fiction. And if fiction, why not reviews as well? As thus:

One: Come from a fashionable country. Readers, and not only in the West, want to know what Pakistanis think about everything, so you can’t go wrong if you live there and write about it—always given, of course, that you studied at Princeton and Harvard, and people can understand what you say.

Two: Write a rags-to-riches story. Slumdog Millionaire andThe White Tiger have not exhausted the genre; besides, those two are set in India, and a Pakistani fable has somewhat different nuances. As long as there is enough misery in the depiction of the village, city-dwellers will feel comfortable. Your readers are there, and they don’t know anything about rural life, so pile it on. You can only get satisfyingly rich in a city, in this case Lahore.

Three: Make it different. Not every story can be about a boy and a tiger in a lifeboat. If your tale is ordinary, put it in the form of something new, like a how-to book under twelve headings.

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Mohsin Hamid on his new novel, “How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia”


The book started as a joke

Filthy Rich began, Hamid has said, “as a joke” with his friend John Freeman, the editor of Granta, about how people persevere with novels as a form of self help, because they perceive novels to be good for them. The idea stuck. “Why,” Hamid writes in Filthy Rich, “for example, do you persist in reading that breathtakingly boring foreign novel, slogging through page after page after please-make-it-stop page of tar-slow prose and blush-inducing formal conceit, if not out of an impulse to understand distant lands that because of globalisation are increasingly affecting life in your own?” This sentence is an example of the flexibility of Hamid’s use of the second person. Who is it he is addressing here?

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The inspiration behind the book

There wasn’t a single inspiration, but I wanted to take on a pretty big canvas and look at a broader section of society unlike my first two novels. I thought about what kind of novel would let me do that. The self-help book form started as a joke with my friend, but the more I thought about it, the more it made sense.

Origins in a Sufi form

Although the new book’s form owes a debt to epic Victorian novels and self-promotional advice tomes, Hamid insists that its true literary ancestor is the Sufi love poem: “The Sufi poem, sort of Sufism in a nutshell, is Islamic mysticism where love is used as the prism for relating to the universe. And it generally expresses itself in the form of love poems, which are second-person addresses, very often, and quite often nameless second-person addresses.”

Elaborating on his plan for the book’s scope, Hamid says, “I wanted to write a big, sprawling, 19th-century, 800-page book, but I didn’t want it to be much longer than 200 pages.” That’s partly because he wants to write work that won’t unnerve young readers weaned on tweets and YouTube videos. “For me, the project is to not have literature be in a ghetto,” he says.

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The marketization of water

In his new novel, How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia, Mohsin Hamid’s nameless protagonist is an ambitious young man who moves from the countryside to a megalopolis in search of his fortune. The city is modeled on Lahore, Pakistan, where Hamid was born and partly raised and where — after living in the United States and England — he has now settled with his family.

The story of moving from the country to the city is a story that is common in Pakistan and throughout the world, Hamid tellsFresh Air‘s Terry Gross. “Something like half the world’s people now live in cities for the first time in human history, but in the course of the next generation, 25, 30 years, that number’s going to go to 80 or 90 percent, which means that a couple billion people are going to move to cities in Asia, in Africa, in Latin America. … [S]o, in a sense, this is a story of that mass migration in Pakistan, but also elsewhere.”

Having made it to the big city, Hamid’s main character aims to get rich with a series of business scams that include taking goods that have expired and giving them labels with a longer shelf life. He finally finds wealth boiling tap water and selling it as expensive mineral water.

Hamid — who is also the author of The Reluctant Fundamentalist, which has been made into a movie starring Kate Hudson, Kiefer Sutherland and Liev Schreiber and comes out in April — had a point when he made water the basis of his protagonist’s successful scam.

“The marketization of water, the sort of application of a kind of uber-capitalism that you see all over the world … you can see … most clearly in water,” Hamid says, “because water used to be almost free. You could get water from a river, from a canal, from a well, from wherever, and now of course we’re running out of clean water in most of Asia and much of Africa and much of Latin America, and so people don’t have clean drinking water. We can live for a month without food, but we can’t last more than a couple of days without water, so people are selling water — both at the luxury level, where you have these high-end mineral waters, and also at the level of just poor people needing something to drink.”

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The NYT review of Mohsin Hamid’s new novel, ‘How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia’

hamidMr. Mohsin Hamid’s new novel, “How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia,” tells a compelling story that works on two levels — in this case as a deeply moving and highly specific tale of love and ambition, and as a larger, metaphorical look at the mind-boggling social and economic changes sweeping “rising Asia.”

Set in an unnamed country that resembles Pakistan the novel chronicles the 70-odd-year-long life of an unnamed hero who journeys from an impoverished village to a sprawling city and who makes — and loses — a fortune in the water (“bottled hydration”) business.

The story is couched as a kind of self-help book and told in the second person, with a protagonist referred to only as “you.” What might initially seem like a clumsy narrative technique is actually a device that allows Mr. Hamid to zoom in and out from his hero’s life, as though he were using a telephoto lens, moving in to give us up-close-and-personal glimpses of “you’s” enduring relationship with a woman he meets when they are teenagers (she is always referred to as “the pretty girl”) then moving back to show us the ways in which his entrepreneurial career mirrors that of millions of others as they become part of a new urbanized demographic that is changing the shape of the world. (The New York Times)

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Here is a Granta interview with Hamid on new his new book