How to get filthy rich in rising asia

Here’s a tip. When you pick up this new novel by Mohsin Hamid —
his follow-up to his multimillion-
selling The Reluctant Fundamentalist
—don’t make the mistake of using it as a how-to-get-rich guide.

Words by: ROBERT COLLINS

Here’s a tip. When you pick up this new novel by Mohsin Hamid — his follow-up to his multimillion-selling The Reluctant Fundamentalist — don’t make the mistake of using it as a how-to-get-rich guide.

If you do, well, admittedly you might find yourself, like the book’s protagonist, living in sudden luxury in a heavily fortressed house in a city that looks and sounds much like Hamid’s own native Lahore in Pakistan. Hamid studied at Princeton and Harvard Law before giving up life as a McKinsey and Company management consultant in Manhattan to become a full-time writer. His breakout novel The Reluctant Fundamentalist has just been turned into a movie starring Kiefer Sutherland and Kate Hudson. I think we can say the guy knows how to make a dollar.

But, if you do choose to follow the tips in his latest novel, which comes dressed up as one of those self-help business manuals that’s all the rage across Asia right now, then you may, like the unnamed, budding hero of Hamid’s novel, find yourself making so much money on the back of your dodgy business that you now have to spend your life paying off corrupt city officials just to keep the long arm of the law off your collar. Your business? Getting an army of minions to boil up tap water and repackage it as mineral water. Yep – you’ve made your fortune in counterfeit water. Congratulations.

And if you do, like the book’s main character, make a packet after you’ve absorbed every one of Hamid’s tongue-in-cheek nuggets of self-help advice in this blisteringly clever and absorbing tale of love and fortune, be warned that you may also find yourself trapped in a tragic, loveless marriage with your do-gooding wife (as the spouse of an up-and-coming Asian tycoon such as yourself, she whiles away her days, natch, running a not-for-profit organisation for women’s rights). And you may find that, all these decades on, you’re still pining for “the pretty girl” (that’s what she’s called throughout the book) who stole your heart when you were just a jumped-up parvenu from the sticks who had arrived in the big city to make your first tentative moves up the greasy pole.

Hamid has, with a mini-stroke of genius, taken a Choose Your Own Adventure book (“you”, the reader of the book, are the hero of the story) and turned it into a work of triple-A literary fiction. It’s clever, funny, gripping and — biggest surprise of all — incredibly moving. On top of that, the whole story comes via a witty, knowing send-up of the whole self-help industry, complete with chapter titles on how to make a mint in new booming Asia: Dance with Debt; Be Prepared to Use Violence; Focus on the Fundamentals. Who doesn’t tick off that checklist of basics on their way to work in the morning?

My tip? Read this book. It’s a pot of gold.

Words by ROBERT COLLINS