Mohsin Hamid on his new novel, ‘How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia’

Pakistani novelist Mohsin Hamid. Credit: Jillian Edelstein
Pakistani novelist Mohsin Hamid. Credit: Jillian Edelstein

The nameless protagonist in Pakistani native Mohsin Hamid’s third novel, “How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia,” leaves his poor village behind for the glamour of the big city. Written in the style of a self-help book, the story traces the protagonist’s transformation from a simple rural boy to a swank urban tycoon. Along the way, Hamid’s funny, poignant novel explores Asian urbanization, materialism, love and loss.

Can you tell me a bit about the inspiration for the book?

I wanted to write a novel about the huge changes in Asia and much of the world as billions of people move out of the countryside, move to huge cities and start new lives in a new urban environment. My hometown had about a million people when I was born 41 years ago, and it has 10 million today. The same thing that happened to America in the 20th century, when people were leaving the countryside for the cities, is now playing itself out in Asia, Latin America and Africa. There are more economic opportunities in the city.

Not many books are written in the second person. What was your reason for this?

On the surface, the novel is about urbanization and the ferociousness of the market. But underneath that, it is a spiritual quest — how does one find happiness in the midst of this dislocation and materialism? It is really about trying to find some antidote to the anxiety we all feel. It was important for me to be able to talk to the reader. It allows a kind of honesty between us.

I’m curious about the character of the pretty girl, an important thread throughout the book.
She is the boy’s female counterpart. She’s living in a slum and wants to get out, and eventually works her way up and starts her own business. She’s ferociously independent, but still has the need for connection and intimacy. There are more and more women breaking away from cultural traditions, and the changing the economy allows them to make a living. She’s part of that trend.

What are your attitudes about the cultural phenomena in your novel?

The market is essentially about self-centeredness, but life is also about loss. We need some narrative about loss – previously our traditional folk stories or religion provided this, but if we’re leaving behind our villages, can stories do the same? This novel is an exploration of that. One way we center ourselves is love. It can be romantic love, children, it can be a cause. For me, that blatantly sentimental claim is vital to the story.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

After Eric Garner death, religious leaders meet to…

Interfaith leaders convened with city officials to discuss what the community can do to help dial down heightened tensions after Eric Garner's death.

Local

'Suspicious' Hamilton Heights fire caused by power strip:…

An extension cord overload caused the deadly fire in Hamilton Heights late Monday that killed a 15-year-old girl and injured at least 12 others.

National

At 91, Marvel creator Stan Lee continues to…

By Piya Sinha-RoyLOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Marvel Entertainment's chief emeritus Stan Lee may be in his ninth decade, but it hasn't stopped him from adding…

National

Islamic State says beheads U.S. journalist, holds another

Islamic State insurgents released a video purportedly showing the beheading of U.S. journalist James Foley, who had gone missing in Syria nearly two years ago.

Movies

Review: Sadly, Matthew Weiner's 'Are You Here' is…

"Mad Men" creator Matthew Weiner tries his hand at movies with "Are You Here," a misjudged Owen Wilson-Zach Galifianakis comedy that turns into a drama.

Movies

Review: 'Love is Strange' is not only a…

John Lithgow and Alfred Molina tie the knot in "Love is Strange," but the film winds up being more about living with people than an activist picture.

Movies

Frank Miller on writing 'Sin City'

Frank Miller's comics career is a long and storied one, with "Sin City" being one of his most individual creations. Here, in his own words,…

Movies

Interview: Jessica Alba is a stripper again in…

Jessica Alba has gotten used to vague phone calls from director Robert Rodriguez, the Austin-based auteur who has made a habit of putting Alba into…

NFL

2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL…

2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL defense (DEF)

NFL

2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL…

2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL quarterbacks (QB)

MLB

Shane Greene travels unlikely road to Yankees stardom

Shane Greene was throwing a bullpen session on a quiet field at Daytona Beach Community College one day when the ball started moving.

NFL

2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL…

2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL tight ends (TE)

Wellbeing

Another way stress hurts your unborn baby

Mothers know to try staying calm during pregnancy, as stress has been linked to behavioral and developmental problems for their babies. But now, a new…

Tech

Siren: A new dating app that puts women…

Online dating can be brutal, especially for single women. Noting that many women hate wading through inappropriate messages and photos, two tech entrepreneurs decided to…

Wellbeing

What eye symptoms need emergency attention?

Many people experience temporary eye-related problems such as pink eye (conjunctivitis) from a cold virus or a scratched cornea resulting from an object coming into…

Sex

Big weddings may lead to longterm happiness

Dreaming of a big wedding? A new study indicates that the longer your guest list, the happier you’ll be in the long run. A new…