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

Brooklyn man charged in roommate's stabbing death

A Brooklyn man accused of violently stabbing his roommate to death on Monday is in police custody and faces murder charges.

International

Dinosaurs could have survived asteroid strike

It turns out there is a good and a bad time for the planet to be hit by a meteor, and dinosaurs were just unlucky.…

National

OkCupid admits to Facebook-style experimenting on customers

By Sarah McBrideSAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - OkCupid, a top U.S. matchmaking website, intentionally mismatched users to test its technology, the IAC/InterActive Corp service said on…

Local

MTA fares still increasing 4 percent in newly…

The agency said the 4 percent increases, previously announced in December, will remain steady even as the MTA deals with increasing labor costs.

Movies

Interview: Brendan Gleeson on the way 'Calvary' depicts…

Brendan Gleeson talks about how his new film "Calvary" began over drinks and how his character here is the opposite of the lead in "The Guard."

Movies

'Get on Up' producer Mick Jagger on the…

Mick Jagger, a producer on the James Brown biopic "Get on Up," talks about the time had to tell the singer some bad news and his favorite JB record.

Television

'Glee' star Lea Michele to appear on 'Sons…

"Glee" star Lea Michele has been confirmed as a guest star in the final season of "Sons of Anarchy."

Television

TV watch list, Monday, July 28: 'The Bachelorette'…

See Andi Dorfman make her big choice on tonight's 'Bachelorette' finale.

MLB

Angelo Cataldi: Ryan Howard deserves better from Phillies

Just last week, Ryan Howard endured the embarrassment of a benching that was inevitable, and yet still shocking.

NFL

Larry Donnell has inside track in Giants tight…

Little-known Larry Donnell of Grambling State currently has the inside track, as the second-year player has received the bulk of the first-team reps.

NFL

Computer to Jets: Start Michael Vick over Geno…

Jets general manager John Idzik says the choice of who starts between second-year quarterback Geno Smith and veteran Michael Vick will be a “Jets decision.”

MLB

Yankees looking to trade for Josh Willingham: Report

CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reported Sunday the Yankees are interested in Twins outfielder Josh Willingham.

Travel

Glasgow: Hey, hey, the gangs aren't here

This European city has done a good job getting rid of its more violent residents and revitalizing with artists.

Education

Babson College tops list of best colleges for…

Money magazine has just released its inaugural list of "The Best Colleges for Your Money" -- and the answers have surprised many. Babson College, which…

Education

NYC teens learn how to develop apps during…

Through a program sponsored by CampInteractive, the high schoolers designed their own community-focused apps.

Tech

The Ministry of Silly Walks app is both…

Monty Python have dug into their back catalogue for cash-ins once more, but with the Ministry of Silly Walks app, they've made something that's fun too.