Mohsin Hamid

Portrait Mohsin Hamid
© Jillian Edelstein

Mohsin Hamid was born in Lahore in 1971. He spent part of his childhood in the USA, where his father worked at Stanford University. After the family returned to Pakistan, he attended Lahore American School, afterwards studying at Princeton University, where Joyce Carol Oates and Toni Morrison, among others, were teaching at the time. It was in a workshop run by Toni Morrison that he wrote the first draft of a debut novel. He completed his studies there summa cum laude, then went on to gain further qualifications at Harvard Law School. After his studies, he worked in New York for management consultants McKinsey & Company.

He took some periods off in this period, during which he completed his literary debut »Moth Smoke« (2000). It was an ambitious first work, both in terms of form and content, which interweaves narrative instances with storylines. It is above all the first person voice expressed directly in the present tense that lends this decidedly contemporary novel – which has a court case at its centre – its special verve. The novel was filmed by Azfar Ali, and the critics labelled »Daira« the »first experimental film in Pakistani television«. Hamid’s second novel »The Reluctant Fundamentalist« (2007) became an international bestseller, and later a film by Mira Nair. Once more, it is the individual tone of the main character that captures the reader – Changez, carrying out a constant monologue in a café in Lahore, always on the threshold of a dialogue that never happens, talking about a love affair, about the suspicion he experienced following 9/11, and how he finally lost his job and left America to come to Pakistan. Hamid’s most recent novel, »How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia« (2013) uses the direct form of addressing the reader that is typical of self-help and career guidance books, which he satirises together with the economic and cultural circumstances that give rise to such books. With virtuosity, he tells the story of the rise of a nameless boy and of an excessive economic system in which water becomes a traded good.

Hamid regularly writes essays and articles for international magazines and newspapers, among others for »The New York Times«, »Time Magazine«, »The Guardian« and »The New Yorker«, and he has been awarded numerous prizes. His debut novel received the Betty Trask Award and was shortlisted for the Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award. »The Reluctant Fundamentalist«, like »Moth Smoke«, was chosen by the »New York Times« as a »Notable Book of the Year« and won the Ambassador Book Award, the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award as well as the Asian American Literary Award. Hamid lives in Lahore, New York and London.