Free Reading Moth Smoke – Bilb-weil.de

When Daru Shezad is fired from his banking job in Lahore, he begins a decline that plummets the length of this sharply drawn, subversive tale Before long, he can t pay his bills, and he loses his toehold among Pakistan s cell phone toting elite Daru descends into drugs and dissolution, and, for good measure, he falls in love with the wife of his childhood friend and rival, Ozi the beautiful, restless MumtazDesperate to reverse his fortunes, Daru embarks on a career in crime, taking as his partner Murad Badshah, the notorious rickshaw driver, populist, and pirate When a long planned heist goes awry, Daru finds himself on trial for a murder he may or may not have committed The uncertainty of his fate mirrors that of Pakistan itself, hyped on the prospect of becoming a nuclear player even as corruption drains its political willFast paced and unexpected, Moth Smoke portrays a contemporary Pakistan as far vivid and disturbing than the exoticized images of South Asia familiar to most of the West This debut novel establishes Mohsin Hamid as a writer of substance and imagination


10 thoughts on “Moth Smoke

  1. Jim Fonseca Jim Fonseca says:

    Daru, our protagonist, is permanently unhappy disconnected from his feelings, his friends, his life Perhaps this is due to the death of his mother by a stray celebratory bullet when Daru was young Daru drifts in and out of modern elite society in Lahore, Pakistan in the late 1990 s The book was published in 2000 It turns out that modern elite society in Lahore is a lot like modern elite society in, let s say, Los Angeles The elite, many educated in American colleges, drive Hummers to and Daru, our protagonist, is permanently unhappy disconnected from his feelings, his friends, his life Perhaps this is due to the death of his mother by a stray celebratory bullet when Daru was young Daru drifts in and out of modern elite society in Lahore, Pakistan in the late 1990 s The book was published in 2000 It turns out that modern elite society in Lahore is a lot like modern elite society in, let s say, Los Angeles The elite, many educated in American colleges, drive Hummers to and from their gated communities through the dirt and past the poverty They party with alcohol, booze and dope while they hit on each other s spouses Pot and ecstasy are the drugs of choice Daru drifts and lets himself get pulled into the underworld of drug dealing and organized crime He seems to be an observer as he watches his own life dissipate like the puff of smoke when a moth is drawn to a candle flame The book s true value is in its local color of modern Pakistan and the glimpse of that society we share with the drug dealing Daru as he drifts along the interface of the elite and the poverty stricken His characters reflect the author b 1971 who lived in the US as a child for a few years when his father was a professor at Stanford Hamid himself returned and graduated from Princeton and Harvard Law School Moth Smoke was regarded as innovative, using multiple voices and including mini essays on things such as the role of air conditioning in the lives of its characters There is good writing and the story moved along at a good pace and kept my attention Photos of Lahore top from.cloudfront.net middle from weather pk.com weather images cityPhoto of the author from his web site mohsinhamid.comEdited 12 13 19 to add photos and correct typos


  2. Kinga Kinga says:

    Penguin has released a new edition of Mohsin Hamid s debut novel Moth Smoke with a slightly misleading cover At first glance it seems that there is a couple against the sunset reaching out for each other Excuse me while I cringe It s only when you take a closer look that you realise they have rather jaded expressions on their faces and they are not actually reaching for each other she is passing a joint to him Now, this corresponds with the book better It s a novel about Pakistan in the 90 Penguin has released a new edition of Mohsin Hamid s debut novel Moth Smoke with a slightly misleading cover At first glance it seems that there is a couple against the sunset reaching out for each other Excuse me while I cringe It s only when you take a closer look that you realise they have rather jaded expressions on their faces and they are not actually reaching for each other she is passing a joint to him Now, this corresponds with the book better It s a novel about Pakistan in the 90s, about those who, thanks to corruption and connections, found themselves at the top of the food chain, and those who got left behind It is also about sex, drugs and air conditioning.The first chapter shows us a glimpse of a prison cell, and in the following one I found myself in a position of the judge The second person narrative makes it clear that I am about to rule guilty or not in the defendant s case As many over worked judges out there, I seem to not have had the time to read the dossier and hoped that the testimonies will be enough for me to pass a verdict It s finally with the third chapter that the Dramatis person are fully introduced We meet outrageously rich Ozi and his beautiful new wife Mumtaz and his not rich and definitely wifeless best friend, whom Ozi has just reconnected with after returning to Pakistan from the US With a dangerous triangle set up like this, trouble is almost certain to follow.Jorge Luis Borges said once I found that really good metaphors are always the same you compare time to a road, death to sleeping, life to dreaming, and those are the great metaphors in literature because they correspond to something essential Mohsin takes from that school of thought when he implements his moth and candle metaphor, admittedly not the most original way of implying self destructive behaviour Yet, it is done brilliantly Moths, apparently, get confused with artificial sources of light like light bulbs or candles and while trying to correct their flight trajectory end up spiralling around closer and closer to the light source eventually bringing their own downfall upon themselves.In short, this is what the book does, it spirals around the centre that we know is there but we haven t touched yet Also, it is of course a metaphor for the decline of the characters, and maybe even the country.Reading Moth Smoke is a little like watching a train wreck, if you excuse this cheap simile I am from Borges school of thought as well The smoke and smell of something burning permeate the pages and with each chapter it is harder to see who is right and who is wrong So when the judgment moment comes you are likely to end up with a hung jury I know I did I published it originall on www.bookmunch.wordpress.com


  3. Samra Yusuf Samra Yusuf says:

    Desires see no bounds, ecstasies have no walls, ambitions are not to confine, and we are left exhausted in heat of our own passions and unsaid illusions we so love to live in, as life goes on We are choked in sepulcher of our own doomed state, we are asphyxiated by the hands of overpowering demons of dark desires, and we are drowned deep in wintery black waters of fervent sensations that leave us only to float We keep burning day in and day out in the fervor and at the end, the circle ends and Desires see no bounds, ecstasies have no walls, ambitions are not to confine, and we are left exhausted in heat of our own passions and unsaid illusions we so love to live in, as life goes on We are choked in sepulcher of our own doomed state, we are asphyxiated by the hands of overpowering demons of dark desires, and we are drowned deep in wintery black waters of fervent sensations that leave us only to float We keep burning day in and day out in the fervor and at the end, the circle ends and we crash into fire unshakably.Like a moth turns to smoke.This is what I implicit from title, and this is what Mohsen must have had in head to go with, that he miserably failed to deliver Albeit he seems desperate to color the story in all shades of feverish passions and stolen jerky moments..of two so called moths with no fire to circle round but only a collapse by coincidence..A slut of a woman, so shallow and underdeveloped character named mumtaz,is the most annoying creature of Mohsin,I practically growled at the undecided state of her mind and how she betrays the loving father of her very young children Betrayal, is a sin unforgivable, and unforgotten Her extramarital affair with the best friend of her husband, shows the wantonness and infidelity of her character, and that invidious friend Daru Shezad is another failed instalment in the whole lot of melodrama He is a typical middle class Lahori, wanting so bad to be membered in elite, and with a trait of face maintenance and pretense that makes them so unsolicited..This face maintenance is a wide spread, contagious disease in big cities, and at times you feel like walled around money machines and cultured beasts, talking big ,bragging broad and boasting broader.sucks doesn t it So,Daru is a drug dealer com banker, who ends up in Jail for the murder of a boy he didn t kill And mumtaz is to wait till the day he gets out, there were some references from the time of first bomb experiments in Pakistan, and a lotabout elite parties and drinking.simply crap


  4. Komal Komal says:

    Once we were eating mangoes, the three of us together I said Sindhris are my favourite Daru said, You can t juice Sindhri, only cut them He said, Chaunsas are my favourite because they re the best for sucking She said, I like Anwar Ratores, because they re small and you can have two or three at a time The fact that this book mentions mangoes and all its eligible pure breeds is a testament to its Pakistani ness Never abuse mangoes in front of a Pakistani you will be clubbed It s our fuOnce we were eating mangoes, the three of us together I said Sindhris are my favourite Daru said, You can t juice Sindhri, only cut them He said, Chaunsas are my favourite because they re the best for sucking She said, I like Anwar Ratores, because they re small and you can have two or three at a time The fact that this book mentions mangoes and all its eligible pure breeds is a testament to its Pakistani ness Never abuse mangoes in front of a Pakistani you will be clubbed It s our fuit, it s our food, it s our legal lust tasted by lips of the spoilt elite to the lowlifes of backstreets There is not a born Pakistani on Earth who does not admire mangoes to a degree of infinity and there is not aqualified bunch of mangoes that you ll find elsewhere in the world Personally, I prefer Chaunsas myself.Moth Smoke was, at once, a brilliant as well as a disheartening read It tells us the story of a man called Darashikoh mercifully shortened to Daru and the ultimate debilitation life leads him into It also tells us of his love, Mumtaz, and her husband, Aurangzeb, who happens to be Daru s best friend Like most fictitious dramas, Moth Smoke was driven by its characters, much less the story We begin with Daru and his position in the global community The setting is the city of Lahore, one of the three bigs of Pakistan, if you will the other two being Islamabad and the infamous port city of Karachi I m not going to elaborate on the story here, there s not much I can say either way The novel isof a monologue coming from Daru and explaining the tumult of feelings whirling inside him with every step he takes into a fate of destruction While being quite the intrguing and smart character, he was by no means a likable one I hated Daru from the begining till the end However, every act that the man performed was bound to a need that the reader slowly learns over the course of the book.Mumtaz was, perhaps, my most admired character by far This lady is everything a lady should be and should not be, simultaneously I m interested in things women do that aren t spoken about. Mumtaz s history was disconcerting and engaging to read Many women will not be able to sympathize with her She d always been a victim of self doubt a self proclaimed monster at every step Deeming herself an unworthy mother and torn between her husband and his best friend, Mumtaz s conflicted mind leads her into a desperate state of ill psychology and self destruction that she also unknowingly bestows upon her illicit lover Aurangzeb, while providing much support to the background of the previously mentioned characters, plays no pivotal role in the story He s somewhatnormalized than the rest of the cast, however.The book often broke the fourth wall to directly address the readers, often switching views of the various major and minor characters, who give the narration a smoother flow by voicing their side of the story that s concerned with Daru We come to know the manvia the eyes of others than his own thoughts and, grudgingly, dispute over his moral values and their drastic development However, Moth Smoke is subject to theelite and the vile classes of the Pakistani society It wavers between the two extremes and is a poor imitation of the realities in Pakistan and, perhaps, even in Lahore I would not recommend it to someone who s looking to pry deeper into the culture since this would be a complete misrepresentation of it This is where it fails the most in my eyes Perhaps the alcohol, drugs and all the sex was a bit exaggerated in my opinion, unless Lahoris, you all really aren t that sneaky of a bunch are you Can t pull it off better than Karachi, thoughThere are two social classes in Pakistan, Professor Superb said to his unsuspecting audience, gripping the podium with both hands as he spoke The first group, large and sweaty, contains those referred to as the masses The second group is much smaller, but its members exercise vastly greater control over their immediate environment and are collectively termed the elite The distinction between members of these two groups is made on the basis of control of an important resource air conditioningDespite it all, based purely on entertainment value, it sthan good for everyone The book also does not refrain from tackling taboo subjects in detail and banishing the odd and awkward aura of the conservative society the rest of the world often falsely classifies the literate Pakistani folks into It s a purely adult fiction Flecked with bites of local vocabulary and inside jokes, the novel is often a delight for the Pakistani readers It s strong, its environment relatable and the virtual cruise through the named streets of Lahore makes the experience muchreal than it actually is I could shoot the cap off a bottle of Pakola at twenty paces. Doesn t Pakola bring back such fond memories Ultimately, Moth Smoke is a love story going side by side with the disintegration of a once well respected middle class family man While my heart just got distasteful at the end, the novel left a mark It s also extremely well written and constantly reminded me of how muchexquisite and classy our literature can be when sat together with the contemporary, usually hemorrhage inducing, western dramas Mohsin Hamid has become a star in my eyes and I can not wait to feast upon The Reluctant Fundamentalist soon And with a last stardrop, a last circle, I arrive And she s there, chemical wonder in her eyes.


  5. Bharath Bharath says:

    This is the story of Daru, his friend Ozi and Ozi s wife Mumtaz After losing his job, Daru s life goes on a downward spiral drugs adultery The story is not very engaging since the motivation of the characters, what they want in life and the rationale for their actions is unclear The book does well to change the narrative among various characters providing a view for each person s thoughts In spite of that, the thoughts seldom run deep enough.The story would have been better withpos This is the story of Daru, his friend Ozi and Ozi s wife Mumtaz After losing his job, Daru s life goes on a downward spiral drugs adultery The story is not very engaging since the motivation of the characters, what they want in life and the rationale for their actions is unclear The book does well to change the narrative among various characters providing a view for each person s thoughts In spite of that, the thoughts seldom run deep enough.The story would have been better withpositivity, richer episodes and a better story line There is little reason to appreciate the rapid downward spiral of the characters lives On the other hand it is probably a good first book.


  6. Zarish Fatima Zarish Fatima says:

    So giving this book 3 stars is kind of unfair because technically it lies on either 5 stars or 1 star I hated each and every character in this books, i hated their guts, i hated the hypocrisy and i hated their attitudes, their ignorance their infatuations and mostly their selfishness Which is something because there are not many writers who develop the characters well enough to be judges and criticized.Every character in this book was alive, i had a mental image of them, they were real talking So giving this book 3 stars is kind of unfair because technically it lies on either 5 stars or 1 star I hated each and every character in this books, i hated their guts, i hated the hypocrisy and i hated their attitudes, their ignorance their infatuations and mostly their selfishness Which is something because there are not many writers who develop the characters well enough to be judges and criticized.Every character in this book was alive, i had a mental image of them, they were real talking and bullshitting This book picks up the most corrupt part of the society the lowest the most twisted and immature set of mentality who unfortunately have the money and resources to influence.The book could be said to be about a man, who wantsthen he has, he ungrateful for what he has, and is not ready to embrace the sharp reality of his existence instead figures a short a way out, drugs, woman he should not be with and company he can not afford He is middle class but has had a taste of elite life style but somehow never gets over the fact that he is not one of them He wants all that he does not have and like most thinks he is most worthy of it, just because he is smart and has a delusion that he is better person This is story of people who are ripping this country part because they think it is free buffet and everyone should get a share when it is being served bigger the better Its is story of degradation and decline, of sin and survival and selfishness and sabotage It is story of disintegrating society values and human nature the prophets perform miracles because language lacks the power to describe faith hats off for this one


  7. W W says:

    While Mohsin Hamid s later,and mediocre efforts,like Exit West have achieved a lot of acclaim,his first and best book,Moth Smoke,is often overlooked In terms of the craft of storytelling,and sheer impact,this is his finest effort The protagonist is Dara Shikoh Shehzad Daru ,named after the Mughal prince,who was slain by his brother Aurangzeb,in the battle for the Mughal throne In the book,Aurangzeb is the best friend of Daru,but like the Mughal princes,the two have a bitter falling out Daru While Mohsin Hamid s later,and mediocre efforts,like Exit West have achieved a lot of acclaim,his first and best book,Moth Smoke,is often overlooked In terms of the craft of storytelling,and sheer impact,this is his finest effort The protagonist is Dara Shikoh Shehzad Daru ,named after the Mughal prince,who was slain by his brother Aurangzeb,in the battle for the Mughal throne In the book,Aurangzeb is the best friend of Daru,but like the Mughal princes,the two have a bitter falling out Daru falls for Aurangzeb s wife,Mumtaz the historical Mumtaz Mahal happened to be the mother of the two princes.Daru falls from grace,loses his job,and becomes poor He has to resort to some unsavory means to survive,as he covets his best friend s wife Eventually,like the historical Dara Shikoh,he lands in a lot of trouble The story is rich in drama,and conflict,quite unputdownable The reader also gets a flavour of life in Lahore,and the trials and tribulations of the Pakistani middle class.It doesn t feel like a first novel It s very deft,very assured The themes of lust,friendship,betrayal and revenge,are masterfully combined to create a powerful story,that stays in memory Hamid s second book,The Reluctant Fundamentalist,catapulted him to fame But for me,Moth Smoke,is even better


  8. Anusha Jayaram Anusha Jayaram says:

    It s only now, after my third reading of the book, that I m even attempting to put down my thoughts on it No, not because it s abstract or painful reading But because there were so many, many things in the book that I found beautiful, poetic, tragic, so real that I could reach out and touch it I was overwhelmed Even now, I doubt I d be able to do justice to how much I am in awe of Mohsin Hamid for crafting this masterpiece But I must start somewhere, for my own record, so I remember just wh It s only now, after my third reading of the book, that I m even attempting to put down my thoughts on it No, not because it s abstract or painful reading But because there were so many, many things in the book that I found beautiful, poetic, tragic, so real that I could reach out and touch it I was overwhelmed Even now, I doubt I d be able to do justice to how much I am in awe of Mohsin Hamid for crafting this masterpiece But I must start somewhere, for my own record, so I remember just why I fell so in love with this book.The scope of this book is tremendous it ranges from intense emotions at the personal level, to the choices and consequences of an empire fragmented It weaves these two themes together very deftly You hardly notice it happening, but the backdrop of the social setting emerges in all its detail through the personal narrative Side note Throughout the book, I kept marvelling at the familiarity of the thought processes and cultural constructs I encountered Which was surprising only because, I had no idea there could be so many commonalities in the Indian and Pakistani ways of life very region specific, of course, but still As the back cover puts it, quite neatly, this book is the story of Daru s decline.Darashikoh Shezad carries a lot of baggage anguish at his mother s shocking, untimely and avoidable death, unsettling undercurrents in his superficially peaceful growing years, his resentment at the double standards in society the gulf between the rich and the not so rich Daru loses his job at the worst possible time to do so, when the economy is crumbling and jobs are virtually impossible to come by His childhood friend, Aurangzeb Ozi, to his friends has just returned from New York with his wife and child Ozi comes from a rich and powerful family, with a retired civil servant for a father Things spiral out of control, starting with Daru falling for Ozi s wife, Mumtaz To make thingscomplicated, he begins to try heroin, a little bit at a time, and soon, he he s on a one way trip down the slippery slope. Daru s slow but sure decline is effortlessly detailed You see through his eyes, experience his beautiful drug induced descriptions Apart from these druggy, poetic passages, the language is crisp, for the most part, but that doesn t take away from the beauty of it Most of the narrative is in the voice of Daru And his voice becomes quickly familiar to the reader Each character has a unique voice Murad Badshah s painstaking manner of speech has the unmistakable flavour of the lilting, polite Urdu Then there is Mumtaz, clear sighted and courageous Willing to state things as they are.I was intrigued at her emotion or lack of it for her child Intrigued at the fact that Hamid had given her this facet too, one of the several reasons I love this book It explores the ideas of maternity society thrusts upon women, unconsciously, making some like Mumtaz feel like social misfits when they find they do not conform.I was fascinated by Mumtaz s journey through the inevitable phases initially of denial, lying to herself about how she feels and later, accepting herself the way she is She calls herself a monster, agonises about why she doesn t feel the way she is supposed to, towards her son But finally, she makes her peace with herself I was blown away by the way her personality was sketched, by how uncannily I was able to relate to her, empathise with her Although there are only two chapters in her voice, they re very powerful describing how her relationship with Ozi unraveled bit by bit, her struggle with motherhood and acceptance of who she is, and her relationship with Daru, and why she stayed with him past the warning signs.Then there s Ozi s voice, contradicting Daru s narrative which, up until then you ve become comfortable with Once Ozi is done narrating his version of their growing years, it s in such stark contrast to Daru s narration that you begin to start questioning both versions, and begin to suspect that the truth lies somewhere in between But you still know Daru was not lying about Ozi running the boy over Never ever once does Ozi mention it himself, skillful manipulator that he is There s a subtlety in all of this, in the multiple Rashomon esque points of view that you re being presented with Nothing is overstated or blatant.For instance, Daru s own double standards are gently laid bare for your examination How he resents bitterly the way his rich acquaintances treat him, while he looks down on certain others himself This hypocrisy is evident in his mistreatment of his servant Manucci, and in his condescending attitude towards Murad.The title, Moth Smoke, seems odd at first, but soon becomes familiar when viewed in context of the standard Shamma Parvana references in oh so many songs The moths appear again and again through the book, coloured from different perspectives, exactly like a theme song s recurring refrain.The composition is intricate, brilliantly thought through, misdirecting the readerthan twice, packing in that added dose of suspense into an already heady mix of drugs, crime, adultery, and so muchSpoiler Start Regarding the misdirection When the story begins, you don t have any idea what Daru s crime is Slowly, you begin to think he s killed someone, or is at least being accused wrongly or correctly of killing a boy.Somewhere in the middle, Daru, high on heroin, theorises that Muazzam Mumtaz s son is the reason for all of his misery He even follows Muazzam s car, revolver in lap, and you feel certain this is the crime he is being accused of Only to be surprised when he doesn t kill the child Then, the burglary plot unfolds Now, you re sure Daru has killed the little boy at the boutique that he and Murad are raiding You re convinced even after that episode concludes, that this is what has happened It s only towards the end, that you realise what has actually happened That Daru has been accused of killing the boy that Ozi killed, ran over in his Pajero And then it hits you Ozi s revenge His way of exacting vengeance for Daru s affair with Mumtaz, of which he d known for some time then And your mind is in a whirl You re left open mouthed at this revelation, devastating as it is You ve only heard of poetic justice being meted out in books and movies But this this is the very definition of Poetic Injustice.You can only shake your head in awe, for how beautifully and thoroughly your mind has been manipulated by Hamid You may, if you re surprised enough, even go back to the chapter where Murad and Daru carry out their burglary And then, while you re read it,carefully this time, you find that there was only a gunshot It never connected with any person, only resulted in a shattering of glass And then you remember Daru s earlier practice sessions of how he finds himself a lousy shot, evenso, if it s a moving target.And you wonder how you could ve missed this while reading it through the first time Spoiler End The names of major characters in the book are deliberately chosen, in accordance with the imagined predictions made in the prologue Aurangzeb, the emperor, Shuja, who is not Shuja courageous , Murad, who does not fulfill his Murad destiny , and Dara, the fallen prince.All siblings All sons of Shah Jahan Your mind wanders back to snippets of history you ve read somewhere You remember reading about the speedy trial Aurangzeb the original rigged for his brother, Darashikoh, and how he got Dara condemned to death, having declared him a heretic The epilogue is a commentary, in the same vein as the prologue, on the present social and political state of the country and subcontinent atomized, atomic states To sum up, this book is right up there with my all time favourites I could read it severaltimes and never fail to marvel at Mohsin Hamid s genius


  9. Fatima Fatima says:

    To be precise, good book with nothing good in it, complexes, jealousies, adulteryrelevantly having an affair with husband s best friends , alcohol, drugs and what not I never came through such complex characters and unfortunately I found them real rather than just characters If you know Lahore and its suburbs, you can actually relate to it very well, the existence of elite class, their immoralities, the working of drug suppliers, stories of red light areas so on and so forth Every char To be precise, good book with nothing good in it, complexes, jealousies, adulteryrelevantly having an affair with husband s best friends , alcohol, drugs and what not I never came through such complex characters and unfortunately I found them real rather than just characters If you know Lahore and its suburbs, you can actually relate to it very well, the existence of elite class, their immoralities, the working of drug suppliers, stories of red light areas so on and so forth Every character justifies its wrong doings so well that I am perplexed like NO, but YES, I have seen these people.Hamid has written what people usually don t admit about their behaviours.He created Mumataz actually, the outstanding character, she is the women of strength and the only person with the feeling of guilt which she tried to compensate till the end,in her own way, which I think is again a mistake Ozi turns out to be silent revenger and Daru the ignorant, blamer and self piteous.The second favourite animal after moth in the story is Chipkali lizards I laughed at how he defines it At some point it seems like he is describing some woman DIt is all about when PEOPLE DO NOT FEAR CONSEQUENCES ANYMORE, things begin to change in strange negative way and once you are into it, there is no ways out.Altogether GOODREAD it is


  10. Anum S. Anum S. says:

    The frustration I felt while reading Moth Smoke is the kind of frustration you feel when you re watching a horror movie and you re watching the idiotic side character walk towards a noise in a dark house and you know they re about to face a gruesome death So you re sitting there yelling at the screen don t go there you stupid but they re slowly walking there anyway, not calling anyone for help, enabling you to feel both satisfied and slightly disgusted when the blood and gore starts.That was The frustration I felt while reading Moth Smoke is the kind of frustration you feel when you re watching a horror movie and you re watching the idiotic side character walk towards a noise in a dark house and you know they re about to face a gruesome death So you re sitting there yelling at the screen don t go there you stupid but they re slowly walking there anyway, not calling anyone for help, enabling you to feel both satisfied and slightly disgusted when the blood and gore starts.That was a very long analogy for the slow, steady destruction of our main character Darashikoh in this story And if you re thinking that Darashikoh is a completely ridiculous name for a protagonist, you re right, it is The reason Hamid used it is because this book reimagines the story of the Mughal prince Dara Shikoh our hero, or rather, anti hero and his trial at the hands of his brother Aurangzeb Ozi in this story Weirdly enough, Ozi s wife and Daro s lover Mumtaz gets her name from the Queen Mumtaz Mahal, who was the aforementioned Daro Shikoh and Aurangzeb s mother in Mughal Times, so unless Mohsin Hamid is implying some weird mother son sexual relationship in late seventeenth century, I don t know what happened there.Be that as it may, the Mughal connection is present but fleeting or maybe it s very very important and I need a two hour lit class to recognize it What dominates the narrative are two juxtaposed storylines, one set in a courtroom, where a judge ostensibly you listens to the testimony of the important people in Daro s life the best friend Ozi, the wife and lover Mumtaz, the drug supplier Murad Badshah These people come as witnesses, speaking at the trial of Daro s crime, the specifics of which are as yet hidden from us Interspersed between this courtroom drama, told in flashbacks, is the story of Daro s decline After losing his job because of his disdain for an obnoxious customer, Daro, an orphan who lives alone, finds that the lifestyle he has grown accustomed to is no longer possible on a life of no salary Having studied at a prestigious school at the benevolence of his best friend Ozi s father, Daro can no longer use the connections Ozi can to get a job This lack in finances is made worse by the reappearance of Ozi from abroad, with a child and wife in tow.The wife, Mumtaz, also plays a huge part in the narrative as the sexy, disenchanted wife, uncomfortable in her marriage and unable to love her child Moonlighting as a male reporter exposing details of the Pakistani underbelly, Mumtaz shows up at Daro s place unannounced, whisking him off to secret adventures and late night dalliances Her dissatisfaction with life, her inability to accept lack of love for her child, and the facades she wears makes her one of the two in the pair of most interesting characters in this novelI m interested in things women do that aren t spoken about Mumtaz s attraction to Daro plays a huge part in the rise and fall of Daro s fortunes, exacerbating his drug addiction whenever there is a fluctuation in the relationship Unable to deal with the reality of his situation, Daro spendsandon drugs like heroin His uncomfortable alliance with rickshaw driver and small time criminal Murad Badshah, the second in the pair of most interesting characters in this story, lead toanddrug taking, and eventually to an actual employment as a drug dealer Like most of the characters in Moth Smoke, Murad Badshah is a largely dislikeable character, prone to violence and eager to incite Daro into crimes, but he was my favourite because he felt so real And say what you may about Mohsin Hamid s writing, but you can never deny that all his characters feel three dimensional and alive, and never like they are flat cardboard cutouts While Hamid s delivery may get a little extravagant, his characters always help keep the narrative grounded And with a last stardrop, a last circle, I arrive And she s there, chemical wonder in her eyes.What also works out well is that Hamid is writing what he seems to know A lot of Pakistani writers, when tackling poverty, seem to inadvertently strike a tone that scondescending and incomprehensible than not It s obvious that these are people who have never even attempted to put themselves into the shoes of people with less privilege Hamid s writing, on the other hand, feels as real as if he has seen these circles from the inside His character Daro, middle class and surrounded by richer friends, comes across as unlikable but also authentic His contempt for and envy of the rich, between constantly trying and failing to fit into the elite circles that Ozi is so casually a part of, forms the connection between these two characters not too visible on the page that has the greatest role in the narrativePeople don t believe in consequences any A large part of the story is about the consequences of action, or in Daro s case, inaction A certain lethargy is threaded through Daro s existence in this novel his inability to get a job, his eventual acceptance of the stronger drugs, the slow decline into robbing boutiques This is a counterpoint to the harsher actions of other people, like Ozi, whose powerful Pajero knocks over a young boy on a bike, in a brutal hit and run And while Daro, witness to the accident, is the one who picks the boy up and takes him to the hospital, he is unable to make Ozi feel repentant for this mistakesbigger cars have the right of way Actions and their consequences are a theme Hamid did well in The Reluctant Fundamentalist, one of the first books I read by him, and he does it well over here too Another thing to appreciate about this author is that he is unapologetic in his desi ness I have a vivid memory of once reading a Sweet Valley title which made a reference to Scarlett O Hara from Gone with the Wind, and I didn t get that reference Only when years later I finally read Margaret Mitchell s classic did I finally understand But for that Sweet Valley title, having to explain who Scarlett was was unnecessary because that s the kind of cultural currency it s easier to carry as an American citizen Just like a Pakistani knows what kind of a drink Pakola is or what owning a Suzuki says about your economic status, we all indulge in cultural currencies in our literature which roots you in places And Mohsin Hamid does this with a sort of bold abandon, an I don t care if you didn t get that reference sort of arrogance that makes me love his references Other Pakistani authors attempt at times to root their stories in Pakistani soil, but their attempts to then explain the Pakistan ness makes the whole fa ade awkward and unwieldy When you write as an American or Australian writer, you don t attempt to explain who Scarlett O Hara is or why pumpkins are relevant to Halloween or what Santa Claus s relationship to Christmas is Pakistani authors not only define eid, they also explain the religious background and the festival itself in detail Hamid s story, which might not refer to the religious, certainly does not condescend to explain in excruciating detail every little thing to its audience These little details are why I m excited about the movie adaptation for this novel, starring Indian actor Irrfan Khan and director Asif Kapadia, him of the Oscar winning documentary Amy on the life of Amy Winehouse fame Apparently an Indian adaptation was in the works before too but couldn t pull through because of financial constraints What s evensurprising is that there was also a Pakistani movie adaptation back in 2002, at a time when Pakistani movies were not the rage they are these days But if we are going to consider possible candidates for Pakistani books being adapted for the silver screen, books by Hamid would definitely be on top of the list.Recommendation Not the best thing ever, but not bad either If you re just starting out with Pakistani fiction, don t read this If you ve already read a few and want to increase your list, then by all means, check this out ORIGINAL UPDATE Review to come It s been a while since I wrote one, so it ll probably be chunky and off kilter Apologies