A Year in Reading: Mohsin Hamid

December 13, 2013 | 1 book mentioned 4

coverI’d like to stand up and suggest Spilt Milk by Chico Buarque to any reader looking for some reading. The novel’s Portuguese title (which sounds gorgeously like what spilt milk looks like) is “Leite Derramado.” It’s under 200 long and yet crams in a century of Brazilian history, dozens of characters, formal inventiveness, tropical heat, racial tensions, old aristocrats, infidelity, drug violence, dramatic monologue, and a singer-songwriter’s mastery of oral cadence. It also oozes braininess and sex. If you aren’t intrigued, you’re a hard, hard soul. Ease up. Slip in.

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is the author of the novels Moth SmokeThe Reluctant Fundamentalist, and How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia. His award-winning fiction has been featured on bestseller lists, adapted for the cinema, shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, and translated into over 30 languages. His essays and short stories have appeared in The New York Times, The Guardian, The New Yorker, Granta, and many other publications. Born in 1971 in Lahore, he has spent about half his life there and much of the rest in London, New York, and California.


  1. Mr. Hamid,

    If you happen to check this comment section, would love to know what you thought about the adaptation of your novel, “The Reluctant Fundamentalist.” I found the film fascinating and thought Riz Ahmed did a marvelous, charismatic job. It took several viewings to totally absorb the content.

    My favorite part was the one set in Istanbul. There was a mythic quality, the two “fathers” (the financial mentor and the Turkish publisher) squaring off, with the very soul of their spiritual son in the balance. My favorite scene was the quiet lunch between Changez Khan and the publisher (played by Haluk Bilginer?). Even the quiet gesture of the older man’s gracefully scooping a morsel of food from Kahn’s plate was evocative and meaningful.

    Best regards to you. I am looking forward to diving in to “Spilt Milk” based on your writeup,

    Maureen Murphy (“Moe Murph”)

  2. Spelling error, Para 2, last line: “Khan” — (lunch break ending, in a rush…!)

  3. Hello, Mr. Hamid,

    Just bobbing up again from a year in the future, with an observation related to a review last week in the “Spectator” of two new selected volumes of the poetry of Seamus Heaney. Several themes in the review very much reminded me of “The Reluctant Fundamentalist.”

    Craig Raine aptly described the refusal of Heaney (a Catholic of Northern Ireland) to settle for black-and-white “fundamentals” in his poetry. This stance put him under no little pressure from Republicans there during the worst of “The Troubles.” One of the things I loved about your novel, and its film adaptation, was Changez Khan’s bravery in continuing down his own path. He loses his father-figure in high finance, is viewed with suspicion by the CIA in Pakistan when he returns, and is likely risking equal suspicion from the Taliban.

    Raine (himself a fine wordsmith) has a wonderful quote about Heaney’s work:

    “Hear the disdain here for the righteous, the politically certain, the morally overbearing. It is no accident that when Heaney first began to write, he signed himself Incertus. It expresses an existential truth about his moral configuration, his helpless, deliberate and conscious commitment to awkward complication.”

    Your novel and movie haunt me and I wish both were more widely read and discussed in the US. I found some of the mainstream critical reviews of the film incredible obtuse and point-missing. The “deliberate and conscious commitment to awkward complication” is a sadly lacking skill in many quarters!

    Best Regards,

    Maureen Murphy (“Moe Murph”)
    Washington, DC

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