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How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia: A Novel Hardcover – March 5, 2013

4.3 out of 5 stars 288 customer reviews

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Amazon Guest Review of “How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia,” by Mohsin Hamid

By Nell Freudenberger

 Nell Freudenberger

Nell Freudenberger is the author of, The Newlyweds and Lucky Girls.

I was at a party the other night, when the man standing next to me said, "Where is the next great novel in the second person" (Will someone PLEASE start inviting me to some better parties?) As it turned out, I had an answer without even thinking about it, since I had just finished Mohsin Hamid's extraordinary How To Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia.

This is the kind of novel with a conceit that any writer would envy: the book's structure mimics that of the cheap self-help books sold at sidewalk stands all over South Asia, alongside computer manuals and test-prep textbooks. Each chapter begins with a rule--"Work for Yourself," "Don't Fall in Love," "Be Prepared to Use Violence"--and expertly evolves into a narrative.

In precise, notably unsentimental prose, Hamid tells the story of an unnamed boy who moves from a village to a city. Hamid's decision not to name his character or his new home (which feels like Lahore, but could be any number of South Asian cities) is part of what makes the book so urgent and contemporary. "At each subsequent wonder you think you have arrived, that surely nothing could belong more to your destination than this, and each time you are proven wrong until you cease thinking and simply surrender to the layers of marvels and visions washing over you." This boy's journey is part of an enormous migration that is one of the great twenty-first-century stories, and yet Hamid makes it feel intimate and individual: a saucer-eyed kid in the dark on the back of a truck.

How To Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia is a love story as much as a success story, and the opposition of its hero's twin passions gives the book a propulsive intensity. I found myself unable to do anything else until I finished it, and I don't think there's a reader on earth who could help wanting Hamid's hero to succeed--both in business and in his pursuit of "the pretty girl" whom he has loved since childhood. Her capital is a beautiful face that is emblematic of the way her country's ideals are changing; their tumultuous relationship both depends upon their shared past and is frustrated by their common need to escape it.

This short novel encompasses an especially eventful life, as its hero builds a small bottled water operation into a hugely successful company and realizes at least some of his dreams. At the same time, the substance of each chapter calls the self-help precept that began it into question--and finally the larger meaning of helping oneself. Can we help ourselves, and how much of our destinies do we control? What is the price of becoming "filthy rich," and does it mean something different for a village kid than it would for someone born into more comfortable circumstances? Hamid is especially moving on the subject of the hero's siblings, whose failure to capitalize on the city's promise has more to do with chance than with their particular characters. What the reader comes away with above all else is a feeling of tenderness for humankind as a whole--so vulnerable, and with such fierce desires.

From Bookforum

Though it wears the clever fleece of the self-help book, How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia is really a bildungsroman, the story of a protagonist's formation across the precarious terrain of youth and entrance to the state of adulthood. —Siddhartha Deb

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Riverhead Books; 1 edition (March 5, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594487294
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594487293
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.8 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (288 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #206,350 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Mohsin Hamid and his PR people created plenty of pre-release buzz for How To Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia. So, like a lot of other folks, I woke up on March 5th eager to read my pre-ordered e-copy. Overall, a huge thumbs up to Hamid, a phenomenally talented writer. "You," the never-named protagonist of his third novel, is not a particularly likeable character. He and his story, told by an unsentimental narrator known as "I," make for some dark reading. They are, however, wholly believable in the third world where widespread poverty drains individuals and impacts almost every aspect of society including questions of morality.

Where the novel soars is in Hamid's masterful writing. He tells the story of "You," his world and his life with a style and economy of words that speed the reader along. One example: "And where moneymaking is concerned, nothing compresses the time frame needed to leap from my-s***-just-sits-there-until-it-rains poverty to which-of-my-toilets-shall-I-use affluence like an apprenticeship with someone who already has the angles all figured out."

The self-help book format that begins each chapter, and may irritate some readers, reflects a genre popular with a certain demographic searching for inexpensive ways to improve their lot in life. Few novelists could write an entire work in which no character, city or country has a name. "You" and the half dozen people who matter in his life--the pretty girl, his parents, wife/ex-wife, son and thieving brother-in-law--are purposely imprecise and unsympathetic, composites of countless real-life individuals and their stories. In 240 pages of exquisite writing, Hamid manages to tell the tale of an extraordinary octogenarian and leave readers from widely diverse backgrounds with a story they will remember for a long time.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The author of "How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia" styles the novel as a sort of self-help book of how to succeed in modern Asia as related by an undescribed third person narrator. It is a clever conceit.

The book has twelve chapters each laying out a guideline for success in business in modern Asia very similar to those guidelines available in any number of actual nonfiction business books geared to developing the next set of great entrepreneurs and blue-chip businessmen (and women.) The guidelines include "Get an Education," "Don't Fall in Love," "Avoid Idealists," "Work for Yourself," and similar others. The proud and confident protagonist of this book--an unnamed "you"--follows these guidelines to what one can call a successful business career.

Whether the successful business career also equates to a successful life is another question and that may be the essential theme of this book. Readers will have to judge for themselves how the protagonist, and the narrator, evaluate the life of the protagonist as he leaves his hardscrabble rural environment as a young man and makes his business career in the big city.

Learning the rules to being a business success as he goes along, he leaves his village and family behind, has an irregular, long-term, mostly distant relationship with a young model, sees his parents die, gets married and has a son, and maneuvers deftly through the poverty, crime, bizarre bureaucracy, and transformative economy of the (unnamed) Asian nation feeling its way in a global evolution.

Very much like "The White Tiger," by Aravind Adiga, Mr.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Mohsin Hamid's task was tough: writing a novel that would measure up to the compelling and dramatic opus that helped him make his name, The Reluctant Fundamentalist. The fact that he has done this so well in this novel, which takes a similarly wry and cynical look at the daily lives of those living in the "emerging economies" of the world, is a tribute to both his skill as a writer and to his ability to take those experiences and transform them into compelling fiction. This won't appeal to all readers of "Reluctant Fundamentalist", given its very different tone and focus, but together the two books not only gave me two wonderful and distinctive reading experiences but helped me grasp the realities that lie behind the global demographic trends.

What made "Reluctant Fundamentalist" so vivid and so compelling was the voice: Hamid's main character was speaking directly to someone he has encountered in a Pakistani city, and explaining the process by which he became what he is today -- the man of the title. In contrast, the narrator of this novel is Hamid himself, or his proxy: a cynically omniscient presence, who speaks to the main character, an unnamed Pakistani toddler/boy/adolescent/young man/aging man, who defies the odds to do just what the title promises, become filthy rich (or at least, what passes for filthy rich in his world). "In the world of cooks and delivery boys and minor salesmen, the world to which you have belonged, a resident's bond is a rest stop on the incessant treadmill of life," the narrator 'instructs' his character at a key turning point in the latter's journey. "Yet you are now a man who works for himself, an entrepreneur.
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