Tag Archives: Mohsin Hamid

Exit West

Exit Westby Mohsin Hamid

Over the past couple of years, I have become quite a fan of Mohsin Hamid. His books are insightful and entertaining. His reputation as a writer of great fiction is well established and well deserved, so I embark on each new book with high expectations.

Opening in an unnamed city, presumably in the middle or far east, Exit West is a love story with a hint of science fiction/fantasy. As their lives are shattered by war and intimidation, Saeed and Nadia meet at college and soon become lovers. Whilst their relationship blossomed, stories began to circulate of mysterious black doors appearing all over the city, offering an opportunity to start a new life elsewhere. That is where the science fiction comes in. Individuals passing through these doors are transported, via a companion doorway in another location. 

Saeed and Nadia are amongst those who pay to use one of these doors to escape from the death and destruction that surrounds them. Looking for a new life leads the couple to make several such trips, taking in Greece, London and California. 

Each of the places they visit offers a mix of opportunities and troubles. As the number of these black doors grows, the number of travellers grows with them, bringing with it increasing pressure on the points of arrival. 

The subject of immigration is a very relevant one at the moment and this book taps into that, but from the point of view of the immigrants themselves. Saeed and Nadia face many difficult decisions and their relationship is tested many times before they eventually find themselves somewhere to call home. 

Although this book is very different from his previous works, it does share their intriguing insights into human nature. His characters are all well-formed and very easy to feel empathy for. Leaving your home behind to step into the unknown is a daunting prospect and would test the resilience of any individual doing so. In Exit West, Hamid asks some very difficult questions about not only immigration but also about tolerance and acceptance. 

I admit that I was not sure about the concept of the doorways. Not that I have any issues with the idea of instantaneous interdimensional transportation. As an avid reader of science fiction and fantasy, these concepts are not new to me, but I have never come across them in the context they appear here. I can see that many of Hamid’s regular readers might find the idea of the doorways distracting and off-putting. For myself, they were simply a convenient device to enable the more intense and intriguing examination of human nature and xenophobia.

Mohsin Hamid’s standing as a great writer remains undiminished. An interesting, insightful and novel that only goes to prove what a good writer he is. 

How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia

How to get filthy rich in rising Asiaby Mohsin Hamid

A second-person self-help parody, this book goes to prove what a great writer Mohsin Hamid is. It is, fundamentally, a love story wrapped around an insightful any typically affectionate, if at time critical look at the struggles and aspirations of modern day Asia.

Through Hamid’s clever narrative we follow one man’s journey from the poor village of his birth, to the greedy heights of the big city. But ambition and success do not necessarily make for a happy life. Whilst the narrator never questions the sacrifices he has made for his success, the reader undoubtable will. 

Once again, Hamid’s writing opens a window into a culture that is both fascinating and frustrating. A great book. 

The Reluctant Fundamentalist

The Reluctant Fundamentalistby Mohsin Hamid

Mohsin Hamid is building quite a reputation as a writer to watch, and with Reluctant Fundamentalist, that reputation is assured. 

Reluctant Fundamentalist is one of the most unusual books I have read recently. The entire book is a one-sided conversation, as our young fundamentalist tells his story to an apparent stranger he meets in a street café in Lahore. 

The story he tells this un-named American, is one of infatuation, disappointment and regret. Beginning with his nervous start at Princeton, we discover a rather shy young man who has much to prove, both to himself and his contemporise.

After leaving Princeton, he secures himself a much sought after position with an influential corporation, it seems he has everything he could possibly want. Or has he? After falling in love with the beautiful but sad Erica, nothing can ever be the same again.

Hamid has created a genuinely likeable character, one I found it easy to relate to. 

The climax of the book is an unexpected one, with a twist I didn’t see until the very end.

A truly enjoyable read. Mohsin Hamid is a gifted writer. A fully recommend his work to anyone interested in stories about people, rather than events. 

Moth Smoke

Moth Smokeby Mohsin Hamid

I read a review of this book a while back and, interested as I am becoming in Asian writers, decided to give it a go. 

Set in Lahore, Moth Smoke tells the story, though several voices, of Daru Shezad. Daru is a well-educated Junior Banker. So far his life has been fairly easy, mainly due to the respect people had for his father. He seems to have everything, but he soon learns just how fragile his way of life really is. 

Losing his job is the start of a journey that leads Daru on a much darker road. He falls in love with his best friend’s new wife, starts selling drugs, gets hooked on heroin and becomes involved with a criminally minded owner of a rickshaw business. 

But Daru is not a bad guy. He is trapped by a system that is corrupt and based on family ties rather than ability. He is also weak, and makes poor decisions. 

The road that Daru finds himself on is lonely and dark and the end is inevitable, if unexpected.

I found myself having a great deal of sympathy for Daru, even when I knew he was making terrible mistakes. We all reach points in our lives when we have to make decisions that we know will change our futures, and we don’t always get it right. IN Moth Smoke, Mohsin shows us what can happen if we get it wrong. More importantly, what happens when we can’t see the mistakes we have made and don’t do something to correct it.

Very well written and well observed. An insight into life in a country I know almost nothing about. I really enjoyed this book and will definitely be adding his second book, “The Reluctant Fundamentalist” to my wish list.