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Moth Smoke (2000)
by Mohsin Hamid
Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0312273231, Paperback)Since the late 1970s, India in all her infinite variety has been brought to life as a posse of Indian authors writing in English have exploded onto the scene: Salman Rushdie, Arundhati Roy, Anita Desai, Rohinton Mistry, Vikram Seth, Bharati Mukherjee--the list is legion. But what of Pakistan--that Siamese twin, painfully separated in the partition of 1947? Though neither as numerous nor as well known as their Indian counterparts, Pakistani writers are beginning to make an impression on Western readers. Novelists from Rushdie to the Pakistani Bapsi Sidwha have written about the partition and the bloody civil war that followed; even stories set in modern-day Bombay or Lahore cannot escape the aftershocks of the division. On the surface, Mohsin Hamid's first novel, Moth Smoke, seems more domestic than political drama: narrated from several different perspectives, it tells the story of Daru Shezad's ill-fated affair with his best friend's wife, Mumtaz. But in a country like Pakistan, the personal and the political are difficult to separate, and as the story moves along, the divisions between gender, class, and opportunity provide a not-so-subtle commentary on the fissures that run through contemporary Pakistani society. The novel begins, tellingly, with a historical fragment about the internecine wars of succession that followed the rule of Emperor Shah Jahan (builder of the Taj Mahal):
Imprisoned in his fort at Agra, staring at the Taj he had built, an aged Shah Jahan received as a gift from his youngest son the head of his eldest. Perhaps he doubted, then, the memory that his boys had once played together, far from his supervision and years ago, in Lahore.Jump ahead several hundred years to Lahore in the summer of 1998. Childhood playmates Daru and Ozi have just reunited again after Ozi's three-year stay in America. Glad as he is to see his old friend, Daru can't keep his eyes off of Ozi's wife, Mumtaz. "You know you're in trouble when you can't meet a woman's eye," he says. But woman trouble isn't his only problem; he's also addicted to hash, which leads to his dismissal from an upscale job as a banker. Soon Daru spirals out of control into a degraded existence on the fringes of society. Then a young boy is killed in a hit-and-run accident, and he is accused and jailed. Shah Jehan would probably recognize this age-old story of love and revenge playing out once more--this time against the backdrop of the Indian-Pakistani arms race. Hamid artfully weaves the subcontinent's tragic history into his characters' no-less-tragic present, rendering Moth Smoke a novel that resonates on many levels. --Sheila Bright
(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:30:22 -0400)
A portrait of contemporary Pakistan featuring an adulterous romance between two ultra-rich jet setters. He is a banker and she is the wife of his best friend, and she is escaping the constraints of marriage and motherhood by prowling the city as a journalist.
Two editions of this book were published by Audible.com.
An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.
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