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How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia: A Novel

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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 and Exit West, 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.

ISBN-13: 9781594632334

Media Type: Paperback(Reprint)

Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group

Publication Date: 03-04-2014

Pages: 240

Product Dimensions: 5.10(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.80(d)

Age Range: 18 Years

Mohsin Hamid is the author of the international bestsellers Exit West and The Reluctant Fundamentalist, both finalists for the Man Booker Prize. His first novel, Moth Smoke, won the Betty Trask Award and was a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Foundation Award. His essays, a number of them collected as Discontent and Its Civilizations, have appeared in The New York Times, the Washington Post, The New York Review of Books, and elsewhere. He lives in Lahore, Pakistan.

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Excerpted from "How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia"
by .
Copyright © 2014 Mohsin Hamid.
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Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Reading Group Guide


How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia tells the story of an anonymous man's 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 genre-bending and playful but also reflective and profound in its portrayal of the thirst for ambition and love in a time of shattering economic and social upheaval. How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia, Mohsin Hamid's third novel, confirms that this radically inventive storyteller is among the most important of today's international writers.


Mohsin Hamid grew up in Lahore, Pakistan, and attended Princeton University and Harvard Law School. In addition to How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia, he is the author of the international bestseller and Man Booker Prize finalist The Reluctant Fundamentalist and the PEN/Hemingway Award finalist Moth Smoke,which was also a New York Times Notable Book and was awarded the Betty Trask Award. Hamid contributes to Time, The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The International Herald Tribune, Granta, and other publications. He lives in Lahore with his wife and children.


Originally appeared in The New Yorker:
This Week in Fiction: Mohsin Hamid
September 17, 2012
Posted by Cressida Leyshon

This week's story, "The Third-Born," opens with a sick young boy curled up on a packed-earth floor under his mother's cot, whimpering in pain. When did this image first come to you?

The week of my multi-day marriage in Pakistan, my wife wasn't herself. She was tired, drained, out of sorts. She loves dancing but could barely get to her feet. A doctor said she was fine. My aunts said, "It happens. Just nerves." Eventually, though, my wife started crying, and I told her to pull herself together, no one was forcing her to get married, and this was starting to get ridiculous.

The day after our wedding, we found out she had hepatitis E, probably from eating contaminated food. It took her a month to recover. We cancelled our honeymoon. Even now, when I think about the look she gave me as we heard her diagnosis, I'm sheepish-and if looks were uppercuts, well, I'd be curled up on the floor, whimpering in pain.

So I'd say, to the extent I can, that the image came in parts, and congealed when I started writing. For me, creating a character is like acting. I have to imagine being them. Empathy is about finding echoes of another person in yourself. And when I imagined being the boy in this story, these were some of the echoes I found.

The story is taken from the opening chapters of a novel you're working on, How To Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia, which follows this boy from childhood into adulthood. Your first two novels were set in Pakistan, yet you never specify your protagonist's homeland in this case. Was that a deliberate choice? How specific and how universal have you been in your account of the boy's surroundings and situation?

My first novel does have a few pages set in New York, and my second is largely about events in New York, even though it takes the form of a one-sided conversation in a Pakistani café. So this is the first time I've set a novel entirely in one country. I wanted to use Pakistan as a template, but not be bound by it. Not having any names in the novel, except for continent names, was a way for me to de-exoticize the context, to see it fresh. You have to think differently when there's religion but no words "Islam" or "Christianity," food but no Afghani tikka or Wiener schnitzel, beloveds but no Laila or Juliet. I wanted to find my way to something universal, and since I work with words, I tried to teach myself through selective abstinence.

The story, like the novel, is told in the second person. As a result, the reader is both privy to the protagonist's innermost thoughts and yet often allowed to understand the implications of events that the boy (and later man) is not yet aware of himself. Did you always know you were going to tell his story in the second person? Did it present any particular challenges?

I've tried to avoid the second person in all three of my novels, and versions of it have found their way in every time-increasingly so, in fact. I suppose it's because I can't shake the idea that a novel is like a dance, with two people dancing, writer and reader, and it's a bit strange to pretend I'm doing it by myself. This time around, after a couple of failed drafts, I gave in to the second person completely, and I found it pretty liberating as a form: you can move from a hyper-intimate first-person-like perspective to a cosmically removed third-person-like one very easily. It seems to invite that kind of riffing.

The boy lives with his mother, his two older siblings, and his father's extended family in a small village, while his father works in the city as a cook. The boy's mother persuades his father to take her and the three children back to the city with him. "You embody one of the great changes of your time," you write. "Where once your clan was innumerable, not infinite, but of a large number not readily known, now there are five of you. In the history of the evolution of the family, you and the millions of other migrants like you represent an ongoing proliferation of the nuclear. It is an explosive transformation-the supportive, stabilizing bonds of extended relationships weakening and giving way, leaving in their wake insecurity, anxiety, productivity, and potential." Do you think the nuclear family, rather than the clan, offers more potential for the fiction writer?

Nuclear families are easier to write, at least for me. They have fewer moving parts. But the clan is important. It's vital to understanding the world. The problem is that I gravitate toward compression. Slender books. So a writer like me doesn't have natural recourse to one of the usual clan-writing options, which is to approach it through a big, sprawling, multitudinous novel. Without open spaces for narrative and characterization, clan-writing can become essayistic. But I think there are ways to re-appropriate essayistic writing in fiction. Certainly I'm trying to figure out ways to do so. Tell, don't show. Sometimes. Then again, there are writers who make clan-writing on a compressed canvas look effortless: Lampedusa, Achebe. Wow.

You grew up in Pakistan, but spent part of your childhood in the United States, and as an adult, have divided your time between Pakistan, the States, and Britain. Your first novel, Moth Smoke, was about a young banker in Lahore, your second novel, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, concerned an American-educated banker who has returned home to Pakistan. The boy at the center of "The Third-Born" has little chance of leaving his homeland to study abroad, or of becoming a banker in his twenties. What was it like to examine the way society functions from another part of the spectrum? Does chance play as powerful a role in those lives as it does in this one?

Chance plays a powerful role in every life-our brains and personalities are just chemical soup, after all; a few drops here or there matter enormously-but consequences often become more serious as income levels go down. The new novel is about seventy years in a man's life, but because it's all set in the historical present, it could also be the stories of a dozen different people at a dozen different levels of society, all occurring right now. I wanted to see what happens when you fuse a lifelong saga with a society-wide one. Two segmentations: one along time, the other along class, operating simultaneously. Like slicing an apple on two axes, the vertical of an individual and the horizontal of a community, to see what kind of fruit it really is on the inside. What kind of fruit I really am. A nutty one, clearly.


  • Why do you think the author chose to write this novel not only in the second person but also in the form of a self–help book? What effect did these choices have on your experience as a reader?
  • How does the transition from rural to urban life affect the family? What challenges does it alleviate for them, both individually and as a unit, and what new challenges does it create?
  • What first intrigues the hero about the pretty girl? In what ways does her rise parallel—and diverge from—his? Were you surprised by the course of their affair? Why do you think the author chose to give it this form rather than craft a more conventional romance? What does the book ultimately have to say about love?
  • What happens to morality—for the hero, his father, and the pretty girl—in the pursuit of ambition? What happens to love?
  • Apart from continents, no place is named in the book and all of the characters are anonymous. Why do you think the author chose to forgo names? What effect does this anonymity have on the telling of the story and on your experience reading it?
  • The story spans the hero's entire life, from early childhood to death. How does the author convey such a broad sweep of time in so few pages? What insights about mortality does the story offer?
  • The book is set against a backdrop of massive and often brutal economic and social change. In what ways does this context limit the hero's life choices? In what ways does it liberate him? What might this story look like played out elsewhere in the world?
  • At one point the hero becomes affiliated with a group of “idealists,” and at other points his father's faith and his wife's religious–minded activism are discussed. What do you think the novelist's attitude toward religion is?
  • In Chapter 9, “Patronize the Artists of War,” the role of “information” and its less–than–benign uses emerges, and the tenor of the narrative shifts as well. How would you describe this shift, and how are these two developments related?
  • After finishing the book, what do you think of the title? In what sense does the novel ultimately offer “self–help”? How does it blur the boundaries between genres—fiction, nonfiction, self–help, and even sci–fi?
  • What did you think of the ending of the book? Was it surprising, given the title? Satisfying? Where did it leave you as a reader, and where do you think the author intended it to leave you?
  • What People are Saying About This

    Philip Pullman

    A marvelous book.

    Dave Eggers

    “This brilliantly structured, deeply felt book is written with the confidence and bravura of a man born to write. Hamid is at the peak of his considerable powers here, and delivers a tightly paced, preternaturally wise book about a thoroughly likable, thoroughly troubled striver in the messiest, most chaotic ring of the global economy. Completely unforgettable.”
    —Dave Eggers

    Ben Fountain

    Mohsin Hamid is one of the best writers in the world, period. Only a master could have written this propulsive tale of a striver living on the knife's edge, a noir Horatio Alger story for our frenetic, violent times. The road to filthy riches is nasty, brutish, and long, yet Hamid's talent is such that we see the humanity in all this striving—indeed, on finishing this extraordinary book, one wonders if the striving might be the sincerest expression of our flawed, fragile humanity.

    Jay McInerney

    How To Get Filthy Rich In Rising Asia is a dazzling stylistic tour de force; a love story disguised as a self help parody freighted with sly social satire. As timely and timeless a novel as I’ve read in years.”
    —Jay McInerney

    From the Publisher


    “A showcase for its author’s audacious talents… both an affecting and highly specific tale of love and ambition, and a larger metaphorical look at the startling social and economic changes that are … changing the lives of millions” — Michiko Kakutani, in her “10 Favorite Books of 2013,” The New York Times

    A Foreign Policy Leading Global Thinker
    Shortlisted for the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature
    Named a Best or Notable Book of 2013 by The New York Times, National Public Radio, The Chicago Tribune, Vogue, Apple, The Observer (London), The Sunday Times (London), Financial Times, The Christian Science Monitor, Huffington Post, Kansas City Star, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Book Page, Publishers Weekly, and Kirkus Reviews
    A Vogue "Favorite Novelist"

    “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, 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.” –Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

    “Thanks to Hamid's meticulous use of detail—and his sympathy for a man on the make in a society of endemic poverty—we engage deeply with a serious character whose essence remains his own yet who stands as a figure representative of his time and place, an effect only the best novelists can create… This tale of an unscrupulous striver may bring to mind a globalized version of The Great Gatsby. Given the unabashed gimmickry of Hamid's how-to design, it's a pleasant surprise to find that his book is nearly that good.” –Alan Cheuse, NPR

    "A love story and bildungsroman disguised as a self-help book, and the result has all the inventiveness, exuberance and pathos that the writer's fans have come to expect… Marvelous and moving." –TIME Magazine

    Extraordinarily clever… Hamid has taken the most American form of literature—the self-help book—and transformed it to tell… a surprisingly moving story.” –Ron Charles, The Washington Post

    “The marriage of… two curiously compatible genres—self-help and the old-fashioned bildungroman—is just one of the pleasures of Mohsin Hamid’s shrewd and slippery new novel, a rags-to-rishes 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 pases straight through into the bloodstream. It intoxicates.” –Parul Sehgal, The New York Times Book Review

    Wonderfully astringent… Hamid is a sly witness to a traditional culture’s dizzying trajectory—supermodels stalk city billboards; a drone hovers ominously in the sky—but his satiric impulse gives way to compassion for the intimacies that keep us tethered in a rapidly changing world.” –Vogue

    “This is one of those original works that are also resonant as a record of human experience and geo-political shift, and a strong argument for Hamid as one of the most important writers working today. An enjoyable read no matter who ‘you’ are.” –The Daily Beast

    "Relentlessly brilliant… Hamid is a master stylist, and his third novel is, I think, his best thus far… There is something so rich and so deeply authentic in [the protagonist’s] romance that its rendering alone hooks the reader… the novel ends with one of the most stunning final sentences I’ve read in contemporary fiction, a sentence that no review will ever quote, but an indelible sentence, which will live in your heart, mind, and soul long after you read it." –The Los Angeles Review of Books

    "Dazzling an addictive, muscular piece of storytelling… [How To Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia] shows a writer at the height of his powers, with a hell of a story to tell… a tremendous novel: tender, sharp and formally daring, a portal into a fast-moving, vividly realised world." –The Guardian

    "Mohsin Hamid’s latest novel boasts a startlingly distinctive voice as commanding and unadorned as its title." –Pico Iyer, The New York Times Book Review

    "Hamid exercises perfect control as he spins the life story of one man's struggle with turbulent times and economics in his unnamed Asian city. It's an impressive feat that he reveals this life, infancy to death, in a little more than 200 pages. That he achieves this with humor and pathos, and creates a last line that evokes the sweep of Molly Bloom's soliloquy in Ulysses—well, it knocked the skepticism right out of me… Vivid, pungent and sweet, How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia is the kind of well-told literary novel that restores faith in the genre. More of this, please." –Cleveland Plain Dealer

    "Hamid is as much an inventive stylist as he is a gifted storyteller… As a result, his novels are compulsively readable, and "Rising Asia" is no exception… Tremendously profound and entertaining." –Alex Gilvarry, Boston Globe

    “Bracingly inventive… it might be the best book you read in 2013.” –V Magazine

    "Astounding… An ambitious, moving story about love and loneliness [that] constantly surprises… by reinventing itself just as characters reinvent themselves… At the heart of the book is [the] consideration of what it means to succeed, to rise or to help oneself. How does one live and die? …The questions simmer below the surface of this tremendous,wise and surprisingly moral book." –The San Francisco Chronicle

    An utter delight… How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia is one of the most tender narratives you will ever read… Amazing.” –Counterpunch

    “Hamid is one of the best writers working todayHow to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia is filled with flashes of brilliance, deeply moving passages, and … beautifully clear prose.” –The Millions

    “Mohsin Hamid’s hotly anticipated new book tells the story of young love between capitalism and the latest target of its cupid’s arrow: Asia… Political, romantic, exciting, and a page-turner throughout.” –Harper’s Bazaar

    "Brilliant In its cleverness, its slightly cruel satire and its complex understanding of both Western and Eastern paradigms, How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia is pure Hamid… His storytelling style is both timeless and contemporary, a postmodern Scheherazade… This novel is smart about many things, including medicine and the processes of death, but is smartest of all about literature itself.” –Marion Winik, Newsday

    "Isn’t this the definition of great fiction, that even when it begins with a character (tubercular, hiding on the dirt floor under his mother’s cot) who’s nothing like you, by the end you are convinced that it really is about you? That’s a kind of miracle, of the sort that self-help books can only dream of achieving." –Salon

    "The protagonist, who Hamid also calls 'you,' is, despite the absence of a name or identified origin, a wonderfully particularized person… when, in the last stages of life, 'you' gains a measure of serenity and wisdom, you have tears in your eyes and know that Hamid’s novel has done that which few novels are capable of: It has deepened feeling and provoked questions about the meaning of your own world… gripping storytelling.” –Washington Independent Review of Books

    The kind of game Leo Tolstoy might have written, clear-eyed in its dissection of human folly, ambition and love.” –Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

    “Although Hamid's fictional works vary in style and substance, a distinctive sensibility pervades all three: simultaneously warm and ironic, elegant and profane, urbane but equipped with a strong B.S. detector.” –The Los Angeles Times

    "In just 12 crisp chapters, you go from a diseased rural nobody to the model of self-made success. It is quite a journey… [A] considerable literary talent [who] deploy[s] the second-person narrative with astonishing skill… Hamid depicts a land where getting rich is not so much a luxury as a survival tactic." –The Economist

    My recommendation for book groups this month is Mohsin Hamid's wry third novel, How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia, and it 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… [that] offers a surprisingly heartfelt conclusion.” –Christian Science Monitor

    "An astonishing and riveting tale of a man's journey from impoverished rural boy to corporate tycoon." –The Nation

    Fiction fans should be grateful Mohsin Hamid left his New York corporate cubicle to pursue his grand ambitions of becoming a novelist.” –The Atlantic

    Effervescent… a universal story, wrought in tightly minimal, evocative prose… Mr. Hamid has delivered a payload more nourishing than any self-help book.” ­–The New York Observer

    "A powerful reverie on life in a time of soul-shaking change." –Businessweek

    "Hamid’s choice to write a bildungsroman wrapped inside a self-help manual is an inspired one… Hamid has left us with no doubts about how state and market, law and crime, nation and corporation, and money and violence go together—in rising Asia as in the rest of the world." –Bookforum

    “Mohsin Hamid is one of the most talented and formally audacious writers of his generation, and his electrifying new novel… is a vital and affecting portrait of a teeming and significant, but largely unrecorded culture. It is a bold formal experiment contained within an elegant novella. It is moving and charming and funny. When you reach the end, you want to go straight back to the beginning. And yes—that does mean you.” –The Telegraph

    “Mohsin Hamid’s third novel… is many things—a love story; an interrogation of the purpose of literary fiction; a portrait of an Asian city… In its compassionate glimpse into another’s life, Hamid’s novel suggests that the routes to success prescribed by self-help books are less hopeful and compelling than the moments that a novel so treasures, the moments in which life is lived.” –The Sunday Telegraph

    “An ultra-intelligent and knowing account of life in the developing world, as well as an increasingly moving love-story… Simply brilliant.” –The Daily Mail

    Daringly originalpage-turning.” –The Independent

    “Cast as a self-help book, about one man's rise from poverty to wealth… Hamid’s beautifully conceived and exquisitely executed novel demonstrates that, in the right hands, narratorial tricks can be a serious matter, affording slants on the big realities and myths of our time unavailable to meat-and-potato realism.” –Adam Lively, The Sunday Times

    How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia turns out to be as much moral fable as it is satire. Fortunately, Hamid makes each mode as fresh as the other.” –New Statesman

    “The many selves of You, our hero, form a portrait gallery of a disconnected man in a discontinuous world. Self-help books that aren’t a novel try to make sense of all this. And fail.” –Bryan Appleyard, The Sunday Times

    "At once a quietly moving story of an individual man and a sweeping epic chronicling the economic, social and cultural development of an entire region of the world." –Vox Magazine

    "Hamid’s story is at once fable-like and existential… the novel is a parable about a new kid of loneliness, a homelessness quite different from the one characteristic of the protagonist’s impoverished and uncertain beginnings." –The Financial Times

    "How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia is dead short and narrated in a weird way that rarely gets done in novels… It’s a winning and surprisingly readable bash at some pretty wild experimentation. Hamid’s portrait of rising Asia makes bold use of a newfangled way of compressing a whole life into 200 zipalong ‘hit book’ pages." –Dazed and Confused

    "Ambition rules in this playful third novel... subtle and rich." –Publishers Weekly

    This brilliantly structured, deeply felt book is written with the confidence and bravura of a man born to write. Hamid is at the peak of his considerable powers here, and delivers a tightly paced, preternaturally wise book about a thoroughly likable, thoroughly troubled striver in the messiest, most chaotic ring of the global economy. Completely unforgettable.” –Dave Eggers, author of A Hologram for the King

    "Mohsin Hamid is one of the best writers in the world, period. Only a mastr could have written this propulsive tale of a striver living on the knife's edge, a noir Horatio Alger story for our frenetic, violent times. The road to filthy riches is nasty, brutish, and long, yet Hamid's talent is such that we see the humanity in all this striving—indeed, on finishing this extraordinary book, one wonders if the striving might be the sincerest expression of our flawed, fragile humanity." –Ben Fountain, author of Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk

    “A dazzling stylistic tour de force; a love story disguised as a self-help guide, freighted with sly social satire. As timely and timeless a novel as I’ve read in years.” –Jay McInerney, author of Bright Lights, Big City and How It Ended

    A marvelous book.” –Philip Pullman, author of The Golden Compass