Saturday, June 4, 2016

Discontent and its Civilizations - Mohsin Hamid

As I have read and loved Hamid's previous three novels - 'Moth Smoke', 'The Reluctant Fundamentalist' and 'How To Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia' - I confess my low-expectations principle certainly wasn't applicable here.

Nor was it necessary! This collection of essays and articles (published in heavyweight publications, such as the Guardian, the NY Times, the Independent etc.) is as well-pondered as it is well-penned.

Effortlessly divided into three parts - Life, Art and Politics - Hamid exposes his views in the light of his experience of living on three continents. Where Olivier Truc is a journalist writing books, Hamid is very much a writer who happens to produce articles. The difference is extremely perceptible in their style : Truc has none. (Which is OK for a journalist.) Hamid writes Real Literature.

While he also contemplates urgent and crucial topics, like the US drone strikes in Pakistan, it was his views on literature that struck me the most. 
Hamid argues that the new 'Golden Age' TV shows ('The Wire', 'GOT', 'Mad Men', 'Girls'... you know the kind) in their treatment of plot and character are now rivalling the novel, thus representing a major crisis for fictional writing. 
His hope is that the crisis will prove an opportunity for change, that will make the novel "boldly go where no one has gone before", pretty much like the arrival of photography brought about a revolution in painting.
"Television is not the new novel. Television is the old novel."
Food for thought!

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