How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia

How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia by Mohsin Hamid

(The bad news: I can't find a decent blurb for this book. More bad news: I can't make up a decent blurb for it either - anything I could come up with would do injustice to the story/storytelling. The good news: my edition uses as "blurb" an excerpt from the very beginning (it's from the second page) which works decently as an introduction not only to the story but also to the storytelling. Thus, I'll just cite that same excerpt and pretend like it's a blurb.)

This book is a self-help book. Its objective, as it says on the cover, is to show you how to get filthy rich in rising Asia. And to do that it has to find you, huddled, shivering, on the packed earth under your mother's cot one cold, dewy morning. Your anguish is the anguish of a boy whose chocolate has been thrown away, whose remote controls are out of batteries, whose scooter is busted, whose new sneakers have been stolen. This is all the more remarkable since you've never in your life seen any of these things.


Your brother's work is in some senses like being an astronaut, or slightly more prosaically, a scuba diver. It too involves the hiss of air, the feeling of weightlessness, the sudden pressure headaches and nausea, the precariousness that results when an organic being and a machine are fused together. Then again, an astronaut or aquanaut sees unimaginable new worlds, whereas your brother sees only a monocolor haze of varying intensities. 

Mohsin Hamid's stories always have a very interesting appeal to me. I don't pick up his books with the intention of falling head-over-heels but I pick them up with the expectation of something different, insightful, and interesting. Admittedly, after being intrigued by The Reluctant Fundamentalist and rather disappointed by Exit West I wasn't sure what I was going to get myself into with How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia but I was willing to take the chance that I might not really like it. Luckily, Hamid did anything but let me down. In fact, this is my new favorite book of his.

In the beginning I really wasn't sure what to think of the narrator's voice. Sure, I really like stories being told in second person but the whole "this is a self-help book, have I mentioned that this is a self-help book yet? Hey, btw, this is a self-help book" really wasn't my cup of tea. But, plowing on beyond my initial scepticism I quickly realized that this book was incredibly easy to just fall into. The story flows nicely and moves along quickly, the writing style sweeps you up and carries you into the life of a person trying everything they can to make mad money. Before I knew it I was a hundred pages in.

Still, I wasn't quite sure what to make of the story. While it was easy to read I didn't really feel like reading it at home (instead choosing to stick to my usual "read in-between lectures and seminars" routine). That is, until I was almost at the end and I realized, just as with The Reluctant Fundamentalist, that there really was more going on than the book claimed. I don't want to spoil anything, thus I won't even give you any hint as to what more there might be (just know that it is worth sticking with this story to the end if you find it as easy to read as I have). Frankly, I was more distraught in the end than I expected to be for the first ~180 pages. Not in a bad way, just in an emotional way.

Just like his style of writing, which sets up a scenario over a couple of paragraphs to be paid off, wittily, within half a sentence that leaves you stunned (see quote), this book is mostly set-up for a satisfying and stunning ending. 

His  occupation requires patience and the fortitude to withstand a constant sense of low-level panic, both of which out of necessity your brother has acquired. In theory it also requires protection in the form of goggles and respirators, but these are clearly optional, as your brother and his master have neither, placing thin cotton rags over their mouths and noses instead. Hence, in the near term, your brother's cough. Over the long term, the consequences can be more serious. But a painter's assistant is paid, the skills he learns are valuable, and in any case over sufficiently long a term, as everyone knows, there is nothing that does not have as its consequence death.


Admittedly, while this was a very interesting book it wasn't mind-blowingly amazing. Thus, I'll give it 4 out of 5 stars.


Name: How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia
Deutscher Titel: So wirst du stinkreich im boomenden Asien
Author: Mohsin Hamid
Publisher: Hamish Hamilton
Pages: 240 pages
Where?: Amazon (English edition), Amazon (deutsche Ausgabe)


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