Mohsin Writes Love Story Disguised As Self-Help Guide

New Delhi
Mohsin Writes Love Story Disguised As Self-Help Guide

The Reluctant Fundamentalist author Mohsin Hamid has come out with his third novel which is a love story disguised as a self-help guide and a clever and sharply satirical book about today's world.

How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia, published by Penguin's Hamish Hamilton imprint, is the story of a young boy, born into a poor family.

As the years pass, he moves to a slum in the city, gets a brief education, flirts with militancy, and then, hungry for advancement, sets up a bottled water business, the ultimate symbol of the modern South Asian city - a place where nothing works but everything can be had at a price.

But as he leaves his past behind, one thing remains constant and true - his love for the girl he met as a teenager.

Written with wit, intelligence and deep humanity, the novel is told in the second person through the conventions of a self-help guide to becoming rich.

According to the Lahore-based Hamid, 42, unless one is writing one, a self-help book is an oxymoron.

"You read a self-help book so someone who isn't yourself can help you, that someone being the author. This is true of the whole self-help genre. It's true of how-to books, for example. And it's true of personal improvement books too.

"Some might even say it's true of religion books. But some others might say that those who say that should be pinned to the round and bled dry with the slow slice of a blade across their throats. So it's wisest simply to note a divergence of views on that subcategory and move swiftly on," he writes.

Hamid says to be effective, a self-help book requires two things.

"First, the help it suggests should be helpful. And second, without which the first is impossible, the self it's trying to help should have some idea of what help is needed."

He also feels that none of the foregoing means self-help books are useless.

"On the contrary, they can be useful indeed. But it does mean that the idea of self in the land of self-help is a slippery one. And slippery can be good. Slippery can be pleasurable. Slippery can provide access to what would chafe if entered dry." 

Hamid's first two novels established him as a radically inventive storyteller with his finger on the world's pulse. His debut work Moth Smoke (2000) is the story of an ex-banker in post-nuclear test Lahore who falls in love with his best friend's wife and becomes a heroin addict. The book was a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Prize.

The Reluctant Fundamentalist (2007), the story of a Pakistani man who decides to leave his high-flying life in America after a failed love affair and the terrorist attacks of 9/11, was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. The film of "The Reluctant Fundamentalist", directed by Mira Nair, will be released this summer.

How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia is a striking slice of contemporary life at a time of crushing upheaval. Romantic without being sentimental, political without being didactic, and spiritual without being religious, it brings an unflinching gaze to the violence and hope it depicts.

And it creates two unforgettable characters who find moments of transcendent intimacy in the midst of shattering change.

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