Thursday, December 19, 2013

"How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia" by Mohsin Hamid

How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia, a fiction novel (very) vaguely in the guise of a self-help book, is written entirely in the second person. This means we never learn the name of the protagonist ("you") nor his love interest, "the pretty girl." The point of view conceit had me concerned at first because I hadn't liked how it was used in Otsuka's The Buddha in the Attic, done entirely in the "we." I felt it erased individual characters, making the book less affecting.

However, the same is not true in Filthy Rich, since the reader remains in the world of the protagonist, his feelings and desires becoming fully-fleshed, even if he's not given a name. The novel follows the protagonist from his youth in poverty to his success as an entrepreneur, to his eventual old age. For anyone who's read books about Asia (it reminded me particularly of India, though I don't think that's the setting), a lot of the themes are familiar: poverty, corruption, bribery, and violence. Yet because the novel follows such a lengthy portion of the protagonist's life, the stories feel somewhat new.

The novel is slim and easy reading, and though it isn't my favorite of the novels that deal with similar themes, it's a worthy enough read.

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