How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia: A Novel

( 13 )


"Mr. Hamid reaffirms his place as one of his generation's most inventive and gifted writers." –Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

"A globalized version of The Great Gatsby . . . [Hamid's] book is nearly that good." –Alan Cheuse, NPR

"Marvelous and moving." –TIME Magazine

From the internationally bestselling author of The Reluctant Fundamentalist, the boldly imagined ...

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"Mr. Hamid reaffirms his place as one of his generation's most inventive and gifted writers." –Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

"A globalized version of The Great Gatsby . . . [Hamid's] book is nearly that good." –Alan Cheuse, NPR

"Marvelous and moving." –TIME Magazine

From the internationally bestselling author of The Reluctant Fundamentalist, the boldly imagined tale of a poor boy’s quest for wealth and love . . .

His first two novels established Mohsin Hamid as a radically inventive storyteller with his finger on the world’s pulse. How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia meets that reputation—and exceeds it. The astonishing and riveting tale of a man’s journey from impoverished rural boy to corporate tycoon, it steals its shape from the business self-help books devoured by ambitious youths all over “rising Asia.” It follows its nameless hero to the sprawling metropolis where he begins to amass an empire built on that most fluid, and increasingly scarce, of goods: water. Yet his heart remains set on something else, on the pretty girl whose star rises along with his, their paths crossing and recrossing, a lifelong affair sparked and snuffed and sparked again by the forces that careen their fates along.

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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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

Partly disguised as a get-rich-quick manual, this novel is actually a singular start-and-stop love story and a spectacular satirical romp about one young man's rise from poverty to corporate success. The author of The Reluctant Fundamentalist has created another, equally unique venture into human nature and modern culture. Editor's recommendation.

The New York Times - Michiko Kakutani
It is a measure of Mr. Hamid's audacious talents that he manages to make his protagonist's story work on so many levels. "You" is, at once, a modern-day Horatio Alger character, representing the desires and frustrations of millions in rising Asia; a bildungsroman hero, by turns knavish and recognizably human, who sallies forth from the provinces to find his destiny; and a nameless but intimately known soul, whose bittersweet romance with the pretty girl possesses a remarkable emotional power. With How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia Mr. Hamid reaffirms his place as one of his generation's most inventive and gifted writers.
The Washington Post - Ron Charles
…extraordinarily clever…Hamid…has taken the most American form of literature—the self-help book—and transformed it to tell the story of an ambitious man in the Third World. It's a bizarre amalgam that looks like a parody of the genre from one angle and a melancholy reflection on modern life from another…Working within the frame of a self-help book would seem constricting at best, annoying at worst, but Hamid tells a surprisingly moving story…His protagonist is never named, indeed, there aren't any named people or places in this novel…But the story manages to be both particular and broad at the same time.
The New York Times Book Review - Parul Sehgal
The marriage of these two curiously compatible genres—self-help and the old-fashioned bildungsroman—is just one of the pleasures of Mohsin Hamid's shrewd and slippery new novel, a rags-to-riches story that works on a head-splitting number of levels. It's a love story and a study of seismic social change. It parodies a get-rich-quick book and gestures to a new direction for the novel, all in prose so pure and purposeful it passes straight into the bloodstream. It intoxicates.
Publishers Weekly
Ambition rules in this playful third novel from PEN/Hemingway Award finalist Hamid (The Reluctant Fundamentalist). The novel follows the unnamed narrator’s journey from his village childhood to becoming a corporate superstar in the big city. The novel is told in the second person, the narrator ushering us through a life in an unidentified developing Asian country while elucidating the many conditions that must be met to become filthy rich. The hero seems to be on the right track; still, he must navigate the usual obstacles in life that could hinder the way to his final goal: family illness, bad luck, and most dangerously, love. The protagonist is merely a teenager when he meets his ideal woman, but this pretty girl’s life has a similar arc as the hero’s. Though readers may find it frustrating that they never overlap for long, the intermittent intersections provide them an anchor to the lives they left in desperation. The book takes its formal cues from the self-help genre, but the adopting of that form’s unceasing optimism also nullifies any sense of depth or struggle. Fortunately, Hamid offers a subtle and rich look at the social realities of developing countries, including corruption, poverty, and how economic development affects daily life from top to bottom. Agent: Jay Mandel, William Morris Endeavor. (Mar.)
Library Journal
The title could come from one of those get-rich-quick books, and in fact Hamid imaginatively uses that genre's format to shape his narrative. But this is very much a novel, by the author of the Betty Trask Award-winning Moth Smoke and the best-selling, Man Booker-short-listed The Reluctant Fundamentalist. Here, the nameless protagonist goes from rags to riches as he builds a corporate empire based on that increasingly scarce commodity, water. He also crosses paths repeatedly and passionately with a pretty young woman on the rise. Hamid always manages to nail the realities of the culturally seismic post-9/11 world.
Kirkus Reviews
An extravagantly good alternate-universe Horatio Alger story for the teeming billions, affirming all that's right--and wrong--with economic globalization. "The whites of your eyes are yellow," writes Hamid (The Reluctant Fundamentalist, 2007, etc.), "a consequence of spiking bilirubin levels in your blood. The virus affecting you is called hepatitis E. Its typical mode of transmission is fecal-oral. Yum." The "you" in question is the unnamed protagonist, addressed throughout, unusually, in the second person through the fictive frame of a self-help book that is fairly drenched in irony. But, like Hamid's debut novel, Moth Smoke (2000), there's more than a little of the picaresque in this bildungsroman. As our anonymous hero comes of age and goes well beyond majority, he confronts the challenges not only of chasing out the hep E virus, but also of finding love, work and satisfaction in life--the stuff of everyday life everywhere. The younger subject's family lives in an overcrowded, urban slum in some unnamed South Asian nation--perhaps, to judge by a few internal clues, the author's native Pakistan, though he is careful not to specify--where his father's small salary as a cook ("he is not a man obsessed with the freshness or quality of his ingredients") is at least enough to fend off the starvation so many of their neighbors endure. The family, like many of the people our hero will meet, is displaced from the countryside, having followed an early lesson of the vade mecum: "Moving to the city is the first step to getting filthy rich in rising Asia." Indeed, he attains material success, but he's always just out of reach of the true love of his life--and if anything else, this exceptionally well-written novel is not about the Hobbesian grasping and clawing of first impression, but about the enduring power of family, love and dreams. Another great success for Hamid and another illustration of how richly the colonial margins are feeding the core of literature in English.
The Barnes & Noble Review

One of the reasons we read is to escape the cabin fever of our own little worlds. But just as some of us are more adventurous travelers than others, some are more adventurous readers. "I'm tired of reading books about people I might run into at Whole Foods," a friend complained, while another groused with startling insularity about having to absorb a cultural history lesson with each new far- flung book.

Mohsin Hamid's wry third novel, How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia, might just satisfy both reluctant and bold literary explorers. It is at once accessible and exotic, and most definitely filthy rich in fresh material for literary discussion. Hamid, born in 1971, was reared in both America and Pakistan and educated at Princeton and Harvard Law. He currently lives in Lahore yet writes in English, and has described himself as "geographically transgendered." Straddling multiple cultures has enabled him to speak to a wider, more diverse audience.

There's a line in Hamid's cunning first novel, Moth Smoke, that captures his ironic treatment of dishonesty and the rampant corruption in his native Pakistan: " 'I never lie,' I lied." It's spoken by his main character, a banker in Lahore, to his best friend's wife, with whom he soon falls into an obsessive affair, part of a downward spiral that includes losing his job and sliding into debauchery and drug dealing.

Even at their most roguish, Hamid's characters can be charming — or at least sympathetic, if not actually admirable. His second novel, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, concerns a young Pakistani graduate of Princeton thriving in corporate New York until September 11th upends his world. By applying a disarmingly light touch to his exploration of serious issues about class, power, violence, decadence, and religious fundamentalism, Hamid has become an appealing voice of contemporary Pakistan.

In How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia, Hamid's unnamed protagonist does what he has to do to get ahead in an unnamed, rapidly developing city much like Lahore. This involves on-the-job sales training — first, hawking bootlegged DVDs, then groceries past their prime with false new expiration dates, and finally water he boils himself and seals in used bottles collected from restaurants. As his business slaking a growing city's thirst grows, so does the magnitude of his graft: there are more people to pay off, including contractors, inspectors, tax men, bankers, and bureaucrats. And, with wealth comes the need for protection — alarms, barbed wire enclosures, and round-the-clock armed guards.

All of this is spelled out with matter-of-fact assurance in the form of a pseudo-self-help book. You want to get rich in rising Asia? This is what it takes. The first person "writer" of this purported manual addresses one of his readers — the unnamed water executive — in the tricky second person, "you," following him over a span of seven decades. He first zeroes in on him as a boy in his dirt-poor village, "huddled, shivering, on the packed earth under your mother's cot" suffering from hepatitis E, whose "typical mode of transmission is fecal-oral. Yum."

Over the course of twelve chapters — wryly echoing twelve-step programs — the book spells out what "you" must do to advance: Move to the City; Get an Education (however inadequate); Learn from a Master; Work for Yourself; Be Prepared to Use Violence; Befriend a Bureaucrat; Dance with Debt; Have an Exit Plan. Despite the injunction not to get entangled in love, the protagonist falls as a teen into a lifelong obsession with an elusive "pretty girl" from his neighborhood, a young woman as determined to move up in the world as he is. His infatuation, alas, is unrelieved by his arranged marriage to a lovely, much younger woman, who after completing her law degree, gives him a much-loved son but lives an increasingly separate life.

The narrator's ironically instructive, deadpan voice calls to mind Daniel Orozco's tour-de-force title short story from the collection Orientation, a monologue in which an office worker shows a new employee the ropes with bizarre, inane instructions: "This is your phone. Never answer your phone. Let the Voicemail System answer it." Less loftily, Hamid's narrator's halfhearted apologies — "This book, I must now concede, may not have been the very best of guides to getting filthy rich in rising Asia" — also evoke the funny, tenacious optimism of the young Indian hotel manager in the movie The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, who keeps reassuring his alarmed residents, "Everything will be alright in the end. If it's not alright, it's not the end."

Some readers may be tempted to rush past the arch, occasionally tiresome recursive reflections on the self-help genre that open each chapter. But there's plenty to discuss in Hamid's attempt — not altogether successful — to lend a playful but deeper metafictional level to his novel. "Look," his narrator starts, "unless you're writing one, a self-help book is an oxymoron." How's that? Well, it's because "You read a self-help book so someone who isn't yourself can help you, that someone being the author." Further, "Like all books, this self-help book is a co-creative project." Huh? "It's in being read that a book becomes a book?. Readers don't work for writers. They work for themselves." From there, it's just a short leap to the conclusion that to become rich in rising Asia, you also need to work for yourself — but remember that "time is the stuff of which a self is made."

The thwarted love story that flickers through the novel is more engaging, humanizing the protagonist and providing a sweetly sentimental counterbalance to the book's sobering trajectory, which encompasses "the reality that with age things are snatched from a man, often suddenly and without warning." The consummately practical pretty girl's pursuit of a modeling career — followed by acting, a television cooking show, and a high-end home furnishings boutique — requires strategic liaisons, which means that although she initiates sex with her old friend on several occasions when their paths cross over the years, she won't allow herself to be held back by something as elemental as love. Yes, "the pursuit of love and the pursuit of wealth have much in common," the taskmaster penning Hamid's narrative admits, including "the potential to inspire, motivate, uplift, and kill." But, he insists — just one of many dubious points — that love is a distraction to be avoided.

Hamid's water-industrialist's enduring attachment to this ever- changing "pretty girl" recalls Mario Vargas Llosa's wonderful novel The Bad Girl, which details the difficult, eponymous "mala niña's" damaging lifelong hold on his narrator. Vargas Llosa's tale of frustrated love, underpinned by decades of social turmoil, revolutions, and the recurrent heartbreak of failed democracy in his native Peru, becomes a sort of extended allegory for an undauntable desire not just for love but for freedom.

Hamid's engaging saga of the vicissitudes of life set against a backdrop of corruption and increased violence ultimately takes a more personal, less political turn. Even though his mock how-to spells out a path toward triumphing over poverty, the underlying irony is the hollowness of such success. Beneath its insouciant tone, How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia offers a surprisingly heartfelt conclusion: In the end, what really matters is not the business connections you make in this world but the deeper, loving relationships that demonstrate "the capacity for empathy" and going "beyond yourself." Which surely is a universal message, relevant to even the most hesitant armchair traveler.

Heller McAlpin is a New York–based critic who reviews books for, The Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, Christian Science Monitor, and other publications.

Reviewer: Heller McAlpin

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781594632334
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 3/4/2014
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 181,156
  • Product dimensions: 5.10 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Mohsin Hamid

Mohsin Hamid's first novel, Moth Smoke, won the Betty Trask Award and was a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Prize. His second, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, a bestseller in the United States and abroad, was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. Hamid contributes to Time, The New York Times, and The Washington Post, among others. He lives in Lahore, Pakistan.


Although he was born and raised in Lahore, Pakistan, award-winning novelist Mohsin Hamid spent part of his childhood in California while his father attended grad school at Stanford. Returning to the U.S. to complete his own education, Hamid graduated from Princeton University and Harvard Law School. He worked for a while as a management consultant in New York, then moved to London, where he continues to work and write.

Hamid made his literary debut in 2000 with Moth Smoke, a noir-inflected story about a young banker living on the fringes of Lahore society who plummets into an underworld of drugs and crime when he is fired from his job. Providing a rare glimpse into the complexities of the Pakistani class system, the book was called "a brisk, absorbing novel" (The New York Times Book Review), "a hip page-turner" (The Los Angeles Times), and "a first novel of remarkable wit, poise, profundity, and strangeness" (Esquire). Moth Smoke received a Betty Trask Award and was named a New York Times Notable Book of the Year.

In 2007, Hamid added luster to his reputation with The Reluctant Fundamentalist. Written as a single, sustained monolog, this "elegant and chilling little novel" (The New York Times) is an electrifying psychological thriller that puts a dazzling new spin on culture, success, and loyalty in the post-9/11 world. The book became an international bestseller, as well as a Barnes & Noble Recommends selection; it was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, the Decibel Award, and the Commonwealth Writers Prize, and went on to win the South Bank Show Award for Literature.

There is no question that Hamid's unusual life experience, a cross-cultural stew of influences and perspectives, has informed his fiction. In addition to consulting and writing novels, he remains a much-in-demand freelance journalist, contributing articles and op-ed pieces -- often with a Pakistani slant -- to publications like Time magazine, The Guardian, The New York Times, The Independent, and The Washington Post. He holds dual citizenship in the U.K. and Pakistan.

Good To Know

Some fascinating outtakes from our interview with Hamid:

"When I was three years old I spoke no English, but fluent Urdu. We moved from Pakistan to America for a few years. I got lost in the backyard because all the townhouses were identical. I was knocking on the door of the townhouse next to ours by mistake, and some kids gathered around, making fun of me. For a month after that I didn't say a word. When I started speaking again, it was entirely, and fluently, in English."

"I once woke up in Pakistan and found a bullet in the bonnet of my car. Someone had fired it into the air, probably to celebrate a wedding, and it had hit on the way down. That incident set in motion an entire line of the plot of my first novel, Moth Smoke. Without it, the protagonist would not have been an orphan."

"My wife was born four houses from the house in which I had been born in Lahore, Pakistan. But we met for the first time by chance in a bar in London, thirty-two years later. It's a small world."

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    1. Hometown:
      London, U.K.
    1. Date of Birth:
    2. Place of Birth:
      Lahore, Pakistan
    1. Education:
      A.B., Princeton University, 1993; J.D., Harvard Law School, 1997
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt

An essay by Mohsin Hamid In 2009, after two decades spent mostly in London and on the Atlantic coast of the United States, I moved back to Pakistan to write my third novel. I'd often visited my birth city of Lahore in the interim, sometimes for six months or even a year, but always with a fixed departure date in mind. This return, though, was different. I came with no plans to leave.
Pakistan is frequently thought of as a place apart: unique, violent, troubled. And it is. But it also a piece of a whole: a world knitting itself together, an Asia being transformed. I re-entered life in Lahore to find pits being dug for office towers, a surfeit of cell-phone masts and shopping malls, proliferating traffic jams and commuter-hour radio shows. I visited Delhi, Bombay, Dubai, Bangkok and observed the same. I saw an East becoming more like the West, or rather a planet where such sweeping distinctions were dissolving.

And much else seemed to be dissolving. Old ways of doing things. Neighborhoods. A stampede for wealth was underway, pulled along by televised lives of previously unimagined opulence, beaten from behind by the switch of crushing poverty. Money was becoming religion; religion was becoming politics. Spirituality, it seemed, could wait.

But death does not wait. To be human is to know ever-present mortality. And so we ache. Our selves ache. Dashing forward together, we recognize we will be plucked away, alone. In the face of this, as Asia rises, as the pursuit of money becomes paramount, as past repositories of solace are drained of meaning, what, if anything, can a novel do?

Modern science increasingly suggests that what we think of as the self is an illusion. "You" are in actuality a bundle of neural processes, most of them unconscious. Yet you need the illusion of a self. And you create it with stories. With stories about who you are, and stories about your surroundings.

Some of these stories may be novels. And some of these novels may play, as the novel I was writing began to do, with notions of self-help, with notions of self-transcendence, which is to say with love and with death. For novels are illusions trying to make sense of illusions, stories trying to make sense of stories. Novels, in other words, are ourselves.

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Interviews & Essays

I View Readers as Participants: Mohsin Hamid on Writing in the Second Person We've been serious fans of Mohsin Hamid's work since his debut novel, Moth Smoke, was selected for the Discover Great New Writers program in 2000. His second novel, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, was a 2007 B&N Recommends selection.

How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia begins with a familiar trope: impoverished rural boy makes big; but Hamid's crisp imagery and often wry tone, mesmerizing prose, and visionary storytelling (water rights are key), make How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia a peerless political novel, one that has received rave reviews from The New York Times and The Washington Post.

Like The Reluctant Fundamentalist, How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia is written with the immediate intimacy and underlying urgency of the second person POV — a device not often seen in modern literature (perhaps because it requires a level of narrative control that few writers are able to pull off.)

We asked Mohsin what drew him back to the second-person perspective, and this is what he told us. —Miwa Messer, Director, Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers

I didn't set out to write my third novel, How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia, in the form of a self-help book told in the second person about "you." In fact, I tried desperately to write it in other, straighter, ways. But I failed. Douglas Adams says that the secret to flying is throwing yourself at the ground and missing — which pretty much sums up my approach to novel-writing.

The form any novel takes matters. Form is the container a novel uses to carry the liquid of its story. A changing human environment requires changing forms, a thermally insulated flask, say, where previously a teacup might have sufficed. The novel stays novel by evolving, by finding new ways to pass stories into the consciousness of readers.

The second person, which isn't used often, has some special attributes. It makes the reader-writer relationship more explicit, draws attention to it, to you reading and me writing, which is to say to the reality of how a book functions. Second person opens up formal space for all kinds of play, and also, maybe, for a chance at a kind of honesty.

I say honesty because I don't view the reader of a novel as a passive audience member. I view readers as participants. Readers are imagining a novel out of printed words into something else, something they are co- creating in their minds: an individualized world of people, emotions, images. For me, that's what gives novels their power.

And because readers are participants — players of novels, as musicians are players of music — it felt important to me, in this novel, to be able to speak to readers directly, to be able to use the "you" of the second person, blurring boundaries between character, reader, and writer, freeing us to move in different ways.

How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia is also written, partly humorously but partly seriously, as a self-help book. This isn't as strange as it may seem. Literary novels are often marketed as a kind of self-help: "If you read this book," we're told, "it will be good for you. You'll learn about place x, or about time y, or you'll be comforted, or you'll know more about a problem that should be bothering you."

I wanted to explore this notion that novels are a species of self-help book. How could writing a novel help a writer? How might reading a novel help a reader? These were some of the questions whirling around in my head. The six years I spent writing How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia allowed me to hunt for answers to them. Hopefully, reading the book — playing the book — might do something similar for you.

So, should you decide to go ahead, we'll spin a tale together. It will be the story of an entire life, from childhood to old age, from poverty to wealth, and from love to... But no, first things first. If we start, best we start at the beginning. —Mohsin Hamid

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 13 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 13 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 17, 2014

    Short, powerful, involving

    Pretends self-consciously to be a how-to book but under that thin veneer tells a moving story of poverty, corruption, and love in a country that is obviously Pakistan. The author's jaunty, cynical tone, sharply observed characters and highly realistic eye mix strangely with his deep sympathies for the human beings whose lives pass through these pages.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted April 27, 2013

    Fascinating read, a very unusual style of writing a self-help bo

    Fascinating read, a very unusual style of writing a self-help book but in reality a love story...this book is totally captivating and you can't put it away!!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 7, 2013

    Highly Recommended

    I didn't think Mohsin Hamid could top Reluctant Fundamentalist...but he did. Amazing read. Satiric and heartfelt at the same time. I read it on the plane on the way to Pakistan from the appropriate. I even went to the market place he mentions in Lahore, so I could see it. Whether we live in Rising Asia or Recovering America.....this book is highly relevant. I will be waiting for his next book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 3, 2014

    Wonderful book

    Highly recommend. Poignant and thought provoking. Poetically written.

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  • Posted April 9, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    I did not like the writing style of this book and the story did

    I did not like the writing style of this book and the story did not grip me. Overall, I did not enjoy this book.

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  • Posted April 5, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    How to Get Filthy Rich in Ris­ing Asia by Mohsin Hamid is a fic­

    How to Get Filthy Rich in Ris­ing Asia by Mohsin Hamid is a fic­tional book in guise of a self-help book (but with a story). Mr. Hamid has writ­ten two pre­vi­ous books which were very well received, how­ever this is the first book I have read from his pen.

    An uniden­ti­fied pro­tag­o­nist works towards his dream of becom­ing filthy rich. His jour­ney from a poor boy to a cor­po­rate leader is chron­i­cled in this book shaped as a busi­ness self-help book.

    How­ever, this young man can­not help but think about a pretty girl he once encoun­tered. The pretty girl's path is cross­ing with his rise in the busi­ness world through­out their lives.

    At first I was a bit taken aback by the for­mat of How to Get Filthy Rich in Ris­ing Asia by Mohsin Hamid, but I kept on read­ing as the novel expended into the uni­verse of an unnamed pro­tag­o­nist and his rise in the busi­ness world of Asia. Once I got used to the for­mat and the writ­ing style, I found a delight­ful book with a sim­ple, yet rapid story full of love and hope.

    In between each chap­ter a decade or so passes, the reader is left to fig­ure out the blanks (it’s not dif­fi­cult). We meet our pro­tag­o­nist when he’s a young boy, next a teen, a man at the start of his career, soon we jump to meet him as a mar­ried busi­ness­man (with­out any men­tion of the wife pre­vi­ously), etc. – you get the idea. A life in chap­ters, each chap­ter starts with a sup­posed busi­ness les­son, but the author inter­weaves busi­ness with a full life filled with love, hap­pi­ness and regrets.

    The more I read How to Get Filthy Rich in Ris­ing Asia, the more I real­ized how our own lives can be sim­ply told in chap­ter head­ings. I’m sure many peo­ple think of their lives in such a way, divided into mem­o­rable and / or impor­tant events. For myself I found that life's chap­ter head­ings are not always what you would imag­ine. For exam­ple I remem­ber the moment I told my par­ents I'd be join­ing the Army much clearer then the whole expe­ri­ence itself.

    The novel takes a cyn­i­cal and sar­donic look at a devel­op­ing nation with all it's quirks, pos­i­tives and neg­a­tives aspects. The book helped me under­stand the real­ity in which peo­ple live, their strug­gles and pro­vided a per­sonal, despite the anonymity, story behind local eco­nomic forces. In Hamid's world there is no "mak­ing do", you either make it or you don't using what­ever means are at your dis­posal (rich par­ents, con­nec­tions, bribes — all which are cov­ered in the "man­ual") while lux­u­ries such as love and friend­ship are sim­ply in the way.

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