How To Get Filthy Rich In Rising Asia: A Novel, by Mohsin Hamid
If this is by no means a bad book, this book is not quite as good as it could be. In reading this book it appears that there are at least a few aspects to the author’s schitck. For one, he writes about the behavior of South Asians from the point of view of an insider. This is a book written by someone who is familiar, at least as an observer, with the migration of rural poor to the city in search of education and jobs and a better life that few of them end up finding to any great degree. For another, this book is frustratingly opaque, not being very clear about what city and country the main characters live in or even the identities of the two main characters, neither of whom end up filthy rich but certainly end up relatively well off over the course of their lives, all things considered. This book portrays itself as a self-help book but then the author tips his hand at the end and makes it a less straightforward offering than it seems to be at first, with its pithy lessons and its cynical tone.
This book is a bit more than 200 pages and it is written, at least most of the way as a self-help book in which the author seeks the audience’s cooperation in creating a morality tale of sorts that expresses the sort of decisions that allow one to succeed in the corrupt developing nations of South Asia or the Middle East. As the author is Pakistani, let us assume that he is writing about a young man who goes to a city like Lahore and is table to take advantage of the opportunities of education and the right contacts to succeed in business while having fallen in love with a streetwise girl who is able to escape Pakistan altogether, at least initially, as a model. We see a boy gain some important wisdom, learn insightful skills in how to handle business, deal with corruption with considerable aplomb and then end up being cast off as an elderly man who nonetheless can still teach others of his ways before an inevitable death in which he has found some success over the course of a complex and bittersweet life.
This book is certainly one that can be easily enjoyed, and likely will find an appreciative audience. The first chapter of this book in particular is a masterpiece of understated humor, and the ending and much of the plot has a delicate sense of understated humor. The book feels a bit like a cheat, though, when one finishes with it. It is as if the author tired of the charade that most of the book involves, including discussions about not finding in love and finding mentors and being willing to use one’s connections to protect one’s interests, and decided at the end to make the book a morality tale of a different kind instead of a self-help book. If the cynicism of making a fake self-help book was not enough the author has to add to it being cynical about being a cynical self-help author who decides to chastise the reader for buying into the cynicism the author was presenting. The author would have done better to make a straight job of it, to be cynical throughout and end up with an anti-hero and anti-heroine gloriously successful and filthy rich just in time to die, but the author muffs the ending because he cannot see it through. At least there are some fun moments along the way, though.