Mohsin Hamid

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Mohsin Hamid
محسن حامد
Mohsin Hamid reading, Brooklyn.jpg
Born (1971-07-23) 23 July 1971 (age 49)
Lahore, Pakistan
Alma materPrinceton University
Harvard Law School
GenreLiterary fiction
Notable worksMoth Smoke
The Reluctant Fundamentalist
Exit West

Mohsin Hamid (Urdu: محسن حامد‎; born 23 July 1971) is a British Pakistani novelist, writer and brand consultant. His novels are Moth Smoke (2000), The Reluctant Fundamentalist (2007), How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia (2013), and Exit West (2017).

Early life and education[edit]

Born to family of Punjabi and Kashmiri descent,[2] Hamid spent part of his childhood in the United States, where he stayed from the age of 3 to 9 while his father, a university professor, was enrolled in a PhD program at Stanford University. He then moved with his family back to Lahore, Pakistan, and attended the Lahore American School.[3]

At the age of 18, Hamid returned to the United States to continue his education. He graduated summa cum laude with an A.B. from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University in 1993 after completing an 127-page-long senior thesis, titled "Sustainable Power: Integrated Resource Planning in Pakistan", under the supervision of Robert H. Williams.[4] While he was a student at Princeton, Hamid studied under Joyce Carol Oates and Toni Morrison. Hamid wrote the first draft of his first novel for a fiction workshop taught by Morrison. He returned to Pakistan after college to continue working on it.[5]

Hamid then attended Harvard Law School, graduating in 1997.[6] Finding corporate law boring, he repaid his student loans by working for several years as a management consultant at McKinsey & Company in New York City. He was allowed to take three months off each year to write, and he used this time to complete his first novel Moth Smoke.[7]


Hamid moved to London in the summer of 2001, initially intending to stay only one year. Although he frequently returned to Pakistan to write, he continued to live in London for eight years, becoming a dual citizen of the United Kingdom in 2006.[8] In 2004 he joined the brand consultancy Wolff Olins, working only three days a week so as to retain time to write.[9] He later served as managing director of Wolff Olins' London office, and in 2015 was appointed the firm's first-ever Chief Storytelling Officer.[10]

Hamid's first novel, Moth Smoke, told the story of a marijuana-smoking ex-banker in post-nuclear-test Lahore who falls in love with his best friend's wife and becomes a heroin addict. It was published in 2000, and quickly became a cult hit in Pakistan and India. It was also a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Award given to the best first novel in the US, and was adapted for television in Pakistan and as an operetta in Italy.[11]

Moth Smoke had an innovative structure, using multiple voices, second person trial scenes, and essays on such topics as the role of air-conditioning in the lives of its main characters. Pioneering a hip, contemporary approach to English language South Asian fiction, it was considered by some critics to be "the most interesting novel that came out of [its] generation of subcontinent (English) writing."[12] In the New York Review of Books, Anita Desai noted:

One could not really continue to write, or read about, the slow seasonal changes, the rural backwaters, gossipy courtyards, and traditional families in a world taken over by gun-running, drug-trafficking, large-scale industrialism, commercial entrepreneurship, tourism, new money, nightclubs, boutiques... Where was the Huxley, the Orwell, the Scott Fitzgerald, or even the Tom Wolfe, Jay McInerney, or Brett Easton Ellis to record this new world? Mohsin Hamid's novel Moth Smoke, set in Lahore, is one of the first pictures we have of that world.[13]

His second novel, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, told 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. It was published in 2007 and became a million-copy international best seller, reaching No.4 on the New York Times Best Seller list.[14][15] The novel was shortlisted for the Booker Prize, won several awards including the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award and the Asian American Literary Award, and was translated into over 25 languages. The Guardian selected it as one of the books that defined the decade.[16]

Like Moth Smoke, The Reluctant Fundamentalist was formally experimental. The novel used the unusual device of a dramatic monologue in which the Pakistani protagonist continually addresses an American listener who is never heard from directly. (Hamid has said The Fall by Albert Camus served as his model.[17][18]) According to one commentator, because of this technique:

maybe we the readers are the ones who jump to conclusions; maybe the book is intended as a Rorschach to reflect back our unconscious assumptions. In our not knowing lies the novel's suspense... Hamid literally leaves us at the end in a kind of alley, the story suddenly suspended; it's even possible that some act of violence might occur. But more likely, we are left holding the bag of conflicting worldviews. We're left to ponder the symbolism of Changez having been caught up in the game of symbolism—a game we ourselves have been known to play.[19]

In an interview in May 2007, Hamid said of the brevity of The Reluctant Fundamentalist: "I'd rather people read my book twice than only half-way through."[20]

His third novel, How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia, was excerpted by The New Yorker in their 24 September 2012 issue and by Granta in their Spring 2013 issue, and was released in March 2013 by Riverhead Books.[21][22] As with his previous books, How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia bends conventions of both genre and form. Narrated in the second person, it tells the story of the protagonist's ("your") journey from impoverished rural boy to tycoon in an unnamed contemporary city in "rising Asia," and of his pursuit of the nameless "pretty girl" whose path continually crosses but never quite converges with his. Stealing its shape from the self-help books devoured by ambitious youths all over "rising Asia," the novel is playful but also quite profound in its portrayal of the thirst for ambition and love in a time of shattering economic and social upheaval. In her New York Times review of the novel, Michiko Kakutani called it "deeply moving," writing that How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia "reaffirms [Hamid's] place as one of his generation's most inventive and gifted writers."[23]

Hamid has also written on politics, art, literature, travel, and other topics, most recently on Pakistan's internal division and extremism in an op-ed for the New York Times.[24] His journalism, essays, and stories have appeared in TIME, The Guardian, Dawn,[25] The New York Times, The Washington Post,[26] The International Herald Tribune,[27] the Paris Review, and other publications. In 2013 he was named one of the world's 100 Leading Global Thinkers by Foreign Policy magazine.

Hamid's latest novel, Exit West (2017), is about a young couple, Nadia and Saeed, and their relationship in a time where the world is taken by storm by migrants. It was shortlisted for the 2017 Booker prize.

His novels have also been criticized for providing a limited, often one-dimensional representation of Muslim existence, invoking religious symbols/beliefs only to associate them with possibly fundamentalist or terror-sympathizing leanings.[28]

Personal life[edit]

Hamid moved to Lahore in 2009 with his wife Zahra and their daughter Dina. He now divides his time between Pakistan and abroad, living between Lahore, New York, London, and Mediterranean countries including Italy and Greece. Hamid has described himself as a "mongrel"[29] and has said of his own writing that "a novel can often be a divided man’s conversation with himself."[30]

List of works[edit]

  • Moth Smoke (2000) ISBN 0-374-21354-2
  • The Reluctant Fundamentalist (2007) ISBN 0-241-14365-9
  • How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia (2013) ISBN 978-1-59448-729-3
  • Discontent and Its Civilisations: Despatches from Lahore, New York & London (2014) ISBN 978-0-241-14630-9
  • Exit West (2017) ISBN 978-0-241-97907-5

Awards and honours[edit]

The following list contains notable awards and honours awarded to Mohsin Hamid.


  1. ^ "Mohsin Hamid". Front Row. 24 April 2013. BBC Radio 4. Retrieved 18 January 2014.
  2. ^ Hamid, Mohsin (15 August 2007). "After 60 Years, Will Pakistan Be Reborn?". The New York Times. Retrieved 7 November 2019.
  3. ^ Perlez, Jane (12 October 2007). "Mohsin Hamid: A Muslim novelist's eye on U.S. and Europe". The New York Times. Retrieved 13 November 2018.
  4. ^ Hamid, Mohsin (1993). "Sustainable Power: Integrated Resource Planning in Pakistan". Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  5. ^ Kinson, Sarah (6 June 2008). "Why I write: Mohsin Hamid". The Guardian. Retrieved 13 November 2018.
  6. ^ Rice, Lewis (18 July 2000). "A Novel Idea". Harvard Law Bulletin. Archived from the original on 14 November 2018. Retrieved 13 November 2018.
  7. ^ Thomas Jr., Landon (23 April 2001). "Akhil and Mohsin Get Paid: Moonlighting Salomon Smith Barney, McKinsey Guys Write Novels". Observer. Retrieved 13 November 2018.
  8. ^ Hamid, Mohsin (9 September 2007). "Mohsin Hamid on becoming a UK citizen". The Guardian. Retrieved 13 November 2018.
  9. ^ "Profile – Mohsin Hamid". Design Week. 8 November 2007. Retrieved 13 November 2018.
  10. ^ Grothaus, Michael (1 May 2015). "Why Companies Need Novelists". Fast Company. Retrieved 13 November 2018.
  11. ^ "Anisfield-Wolf Award citation". Archived from the original on 8 February 2009. Retrieved 2 January 2010.
  12. ^ Basu, Shrabani (7 October 2007). "The Crescent and the Pen," The Telegraph (Calcutta)
  13. ^ Desai, Anita (21 December 2000). "Passion in Lahore" New York Review of Books
  14. ^ "Taking a hermit to a party and letting him dance" Dawn
  15. ^ Best Sellers, Hardcover Fiction, The New York Times, 29 April 2007.
  16. ^ Guardian Books of the Noughties
  17. ^ Freeman, John (30 March 2007). "Critical Outakes: Mohsin Hamid on Camus, Immigration, and Love", Critical Mass.
  18. ^ Solomon, Deborah (15 April 2007). "The Stranger - Questions for Mohsin Hamid". The New York Times. Retrieved 14 November 2018.
  19. ^ Kerr, Sarah (11 October 2007). "In the Terror House of Mirrors". New York Review of Books.
  20. ^ Reddy, Sheela (14 May 2007). "Mohsin Hamid - Pakistani writer Mohsin Hamid gets an enthusiastic welcome on his first visit to India". Outlook India. Retrieved 14 November 2018.
  21. ^ Hamid, Mohsin (24 September 2012). "The Third-Born". The New Yorker. Retrieved 14 November 2018.
  22. ^ Granta Issue 122: Betrayal Spring 2013
  23. ^ Kakutani, Michiko (21 February 2013). "Love and Ambition in a Cruel New World". The New York Times. Retrieved 13 November 2018.
  24. ^ Hamid, Mohsin (21 February 2013). "To Fight India, We Fought Ourselves". The New York Times. Retrieved 13 November 2018.
  25. ^ "Paying for Pakistan" Dawn 7 May 2007
  26. ^ Hamid, Mohsin (22 July 2007). "Why Do They Hate Us?". The Washington Post. Retrieved 13 November 2018.
  27. ^ "Flailing, But Not Yet Failing" The International Herald Tribune 18 March 2009
  28. ^ Mian, Zain R. (19 January 2019). "Willing representatives: Mohsin Hamid and Pakistani literature abroad". Herald Magazine. Archived from the original on 20 December 2020. Retrieved 6 March 2021.
  29. ^ "The Pathos of Exile". TIME. 18 August 2003.
  30. ^ "My Reluctant Fundamentalist" Archived 8 April 2009 at the Wayback Machine Powells Original Essays
  31. ^
  32. ^ Ashlin Mathew (22 November 2013). "Three Indians in race for DSC prize for South Asian Literature 2014". India Today. Retrieved 22 November 2013.
  33. ^ "Leading Global Thinkers of 2013" Foreign Policy December 2013
  34. ^ ""Tiziano Terzani Prize" Press Release". Archived from the original on 28 July 2014. Retrieved 20 June 2014.
  35. ^ Mankani, Mahjabeen (20 June 2014). "Mohsin Hamid's novel shortlisted for International Literary Award". Dawn. Retrieved 14 November 2018.

Further references[edit]

  • article (in Italian). Accessed 4 March 2007
  • Houpt, S.: "Novelist by Night", The Globe and Mail, 1 April 2000
  • Patel, V.: "A Call to Arms for Pakistan", Newsweek, 24 July 2000

External links[edit]