From the bestselling author of How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia, and Exit West, coming in March 2017, “a near-perfect essay collection, filled with insight, compassion, and intellect." (NPR)
Mohsin Hamid’s brilliant, moving, and extraordinarily clever novels have not only made him an international bestseller, they have earned him a reputation as a “master critic of the modern global condition” (Foreign Policy). His stories are at once timeless and of-the-moment, and his themes are universal: love, language, ambition, power, corruption, religion, family, identity. Here he explores this terrain from a different angle in essays that deftly counterpoise the personal and the political, and are shot through with the same passion, imagination, and breathtaking shifts of perspective that gives his fiction its unmistakable electric charge.
A “water lily” who has called three countries on three continents his home—Pakistan, the birthplace to which he returned as a young father; the United States, where he spent his childhood and young adulthood; and Britain, where he married and became a citizen—Hamid writes about overlapping worlds with fluidity and penetrating insight. Whether he is discussing courtship rituals or pop culture, drones or the rhythms of daily life in an extended family compound, he transports us beyond the scarifying headlines of an anxious West and a volatile East, beyond stereotype and assumption, and helps to bring a dazzling diverse global culture within emotional and intellectual reach.
This collection of 36 essays will be of most interest to dedicated fans of Pakistani novelist Hamid (How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia). Others, however, may be disappointed to find that the pieces, most of which were previously published, tend to be topical and of limited scope. Hamid, who has also lived in New York City and London, provides a voice of reasoned tolerance on the issues dividing the Middle East and the West,, but he might have been better served by writing a memoir. Instead, he offers thoughts on a wide variety of topics, some more rewarding than others: e-books, whether TV dramas are the new good novels, the home-cooked dinner he almost made for Toni Morrison, etc. An essay on President Obama's 2009 speech in Cairo seems out of date; the piece would have benefited from an afterword giving Hamid's view of the speech's lasting significance. The lighthearted essays dilute the impact of the more substantive sections especially those delving into the so-called clash of civilizations, such as the title essay, in which he writes: "The idea that we fall into civilizations, plural, is merely a politically convenient myth."