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Moth Smoke, Mohsin Hamid’s deftly conceived first novel, tells the story of Daru Shezad, who, fired from his banking job in Lahore, begins a decline that plummets the length of Hamid’s sharply drawn, subversive tale. Fastpaced and unexpected, Moth Smoke portrays a contemporary Pakistan far more vivid and complex than the exoticized images of South Asia familiar to the West. It established Mohsin Hamid as an internationally important writer of substance and imagination, a promise he has amply fulfilled with each successive book; this debut novel, meanwhile, remains compelling and deeply relevant today.
MOHSIN HAMID Mohsin Hamid grew up in Lahore, Pakistan, and attended Princeton University and Harvard Law School. He contributes to Time, The Guardian, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The International Herald Tribune, and other publications. After a number of years living in New York and London, he has again made Lahore his home.
- How does knowing Daru’s crime in advance affect your reading of his story? Does it give the novel extra momentum? Did you find yourself prejudging the narrator?
- Were you surprised by any of the author’s depictions of modern Lahorefrom the posh spots to the gritty slums?
- Do you think Daru does the “right” thing by keeping the details of the accident and the boy’s death a secret?
- How does Daru and Mumtaz’s romantic relationship alter their friendship and their destinies? Should they have refrained for Ozi’s sake? What does each get out of the affair?
- Who are the book’s “moths”in love with the flame, blinded by their emotions, dancing to their deaths?
- Discuss Manucci’s role in Daru’s household. Why do you think he stays on even as Daru is unable to pay him?
- How would you describe the interplay among classes in Lahore? How did you feel about Daru’s violence against his servant?
- What do you think Mumtaz is seeking in her work as an undercover journalist? Does “Zulifar Manto” help her gain the separate identity she so desperately desires?
- As more of Mumtaz’s history and emotional state is revealed, do you find her character more or less relatable? Is she a “bad mother”? Why or why not?
- The author paints an unflinching portrait of Daru’s descent into addiction and desperation. How did you react to his transformation from a downandout but reasonable man to a deeply troubled “monster”? Would you consider him an antihero or worthy of reader sympathy?
- Did getting a more complete point of view from both Mumtaz’s and Ozi’s perspectives change your perception of Daru or the events?
- Were you satisfied with the ending of this bookdid everyone get the appropriate karmic payout? Why or why not?