Cover image for Moth smoke
Moth smoke
Hamid, Mohsin, 1971-
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux, [2000]

Physical Description:
244 pages ; 22 cm
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When Daru Shezad gets himself fired from his banking job, he instantly removes himself from the ranks of Pakistan's cellphone-toting elite and sets in motion the tragicomedy that will drag him into a life of drugs and crime. Nor can he help falling in love with his oldest friend's wife, to whom he is drawn like moth to flame. But when a heist goes awry, Daru finds himself on trial for a murder he may not have committed. His uncertain fate mirrors that of Pakistan itself, animated by nuclear weapons and sapped by corruption.

Author Notes

Mohsin Hamid grew up in Lahore, attended Princeton University and Harvard Law School and worked for several years as a management consultant in New York. His first novel, Moth Smoke, was published in ten languages, won a Betty Trask Award, and was a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Award. His essays and journalism have appeared in Time, the New York Times and the Guardian, among others. His latest novel is The Reluctant Fundamentalist (2007) published by Penguin. He will be featured at the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival 2015 program. He is the author of Exit West, which in 2018, won the inaugural Aspen Words Literary Prize.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

Hamid subjects contemporary Pakistan to fierce scrutiny in his first novel, tracing the downward spiral of Darashikoh "Daru" Shezad, a young man whose uneasy status on the fringes of the Lahore elite is imperiled when he is fired from his job at a bank. Daru owes both the job and his education to his best friend Ozi's father, Khurram, a corrupt former official of one of the Pakistan regimes who has looked out for Daru ever since Daru's father, an old army buddy of Khurram's, died in the early '70s. As the story begins, Ozi has just returned from America, where he earned a college degree, with his wife, Mumtaz, and child. From the moment they meet, Daru and Mumtaz are drawn to each other. Mumtaz is fascinated by Daru's air of suppressed violence, and Daru is intrigued by Mumtaz's secret career as an investigative journalist; the two share a taste for recreational drugs, sex and sports. But their affair really begins after Daru witnesses Ozi, driving recklessly, mow down a teenage boy and flee the scene. Daru decides then that Ozi is morally bankrupt. But as Daru becomes more dependent on drugs, the arrogance he himself has absorbed from his upper-class upbringing stands out in stark contrast to his circumstances. Daru's noirish, first-person account of his moral descent, culminating with murder, interweaves with chapters written in the distinctive voices of the other characters. One in particular comes vividly to life: Murad Badshah, a sort of Pakastani Falstaff, officially the head of a rickshaw company, but kept afloat by drug dealing and robbery. Hamid's tale, played out against the background of Pakistan's recent testing of a nuclear device, creates a powerful image of an insecure society toying with its own dissolution. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Set in Hamid's native Lahore, Pakistan, this first novel provides a pitch-perfect tale of the destruction of a young man. Socialy unconnected, Daru loses his precarious footing among the respectably employed and falls into an abyss of emotional depression, moral turpitude, and criminal activity. He goes from bank employee to drug dealer to holdup man, while falling in love with Mumtaz, the journalist wife of Ozi, Daru's boyhood best friend and rival. Ozi strips daru of his self-respect, and Mumtaz can never merely be Daru's lover, for she is both liberated and besieged by her own moral ambiguity. With a sure hand, hamid paints Daru, Lahore, the weight of Western materialist values, and evolving and devolving friendships, giving us near-photographic realism softened by the shading influences of well-turned phrases. Moving quickly but inviting prolonged retrospection, this first novel lays bare a human core that festers in its own unremitting heat. Hamid is a writer to watch. For all public libraries.-Francisca Goldsmith, Berkeley P.L., CA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Prologuep. 3
1. Onep. 5
2. Judgment (before Intermission)p. 7
3. Twop. 10
4. Opening the purple box: an Interview with professor Julius superbp. 35
5. Threep. 39
6. The big manp. 59
7. Fourp. 72
8. What lovely weather we're having for the Importance of air-conditioning)p. 101
9. Fivep. 111
10. The wife and mother (part one)p. 147
11. Sixp. 159
12. The best friendp. 184
13. Sevenp. 195
14. Judgment (after Intermission)p. 234
15. Eightp. 237
16. The wife and mother (part two)p. 241
17. Ninep. 245
Epiloguep. 247