Pakistani author Mohsin Hamid has described the coverage of Pakistan in the international media as a “horror film franchise”.
“Most news outlets are owned by big entertainment corporations that depend on shocking people for their success and Pakistan is one such horror story that sells. It is like a big Hollywood Friday 13th franchise,” said Hamid at a pre-launch event for the Festival of Asian Literature at Asia House in London which kicks off on May 7.
“But that isn’t Pakistan. It is a very complicated place with a long history and my books are an attempt to re-complicate what’s been over-simplified in the news agenda. I don’t want to be a propagandist or say that Pakistan is just great. There are problems but it is a much more complex place than we are given to believe,” added the author of acclaimed books such as The Reluctant Fundamentalist and Moth Smoke.
Hamid is here as part of a British tour for his latest novel,’How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia’,which he describes as a “non-religious and secular kind of Sufi love poetry”.
Structured as a self-help book,Hamid’s new work of fiction is a comment on the “blatant branding and self-marketing that defines the capitalist world we live in”.
“It is not damning capitalism as such. Capitalism is like the law of the jungle with a few rules. There isn’t another system that works for our society but left unchecked,capitalism can have a dehumanising effect,” Hamid said.
“At the heart of it though,the book is just a love story about a very transitory and non-possessive kind of love,” said the father of two who has been living between New York and London over the years and is now based in his birthplace of Lahore.
All his books have a distinct echo of his Lahore roots but,as in the case of his previous works,he leaves the setting in his new book fairly ambiguous.
“It could be India,Pakistan or anywhere in Asia. Every city struggles with similar issues,” added the 42-year-old Harvard graduate who gave up a career in management consultancy to become a writer.
‘The Reluctant Fundamentalist’,conceived just before the September 11,2001 attacks in New York,reflected a similar clash of ideas and cultures.
Its post-9/11 release went on to make headlines around the world and earned it a place in The Guardian’s list of books that defined the last decade.
The story of disillusioned Wall Street banker Changez Khan has now been turned into a film by New York-based Indian filmmaker Mira Nair,something the writer describes as the true success of the book.
“It is a story by a Pakistani author,made into a film by an Indian filmmaker working in Hollywood with the lead role played by a British Pakistani actor (Riz Ahmed). It is truly representative of the book’s politics – that we can collaborate even if we don’t always agree,” said Hamid in reference to the film which releases in India and the UK on May 10.