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‘We are being culturally, technologically driven towards anxiety-inducing elements of identity’: Mohsin Hamid | Eye News,The Indian Express

The Pakistani author, known for his 'The Reluctant Fundamentalist', on upending dystopias and how 9/11 led to his latest novel

In The Last White Man (Hamish Hamilton, Rs 599), his fifth novel that will release at the end of the month, Mohsin Hamid throws up an interesting proposition — what happens when a White man wakes up one morning and realises he is no longer so. That his deracination is part of a great changeover taking shape in his city. How would the future unspool? Can one really become the Other? In this interview, the Lahore-based writer, 50, known for novels such as The Reluctant Fundamentalist (2007) and Exit West (2017), speaks of nurturing this story since 9/11, thwarting bigotry with empathy and writing less to say more.

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Edited excerpts:

What led you to this story?

This story was born, in a way, by my own experiences of living in the West, particularly in America. In the first 30 years of my life, I spent 18 years there. Having gone to elite universities, worked in well-paying jobs and living in a cosmopolitan city like New York, I experienced, I guess, some degree of discrimination, but it had felt relatively minor. After 9/11, suddenly, I was being stopped at airports and pulled aside for extra screening, I would fly into the country and be called up at immigration and kept for hours. I’d get on to a bus with a backpack, a bit unshaven on the weekend, and people would look uncomfortable, and, sometimes, they would switch their seats. I felt this profound sense of loss. I wanted things to go back to how they were before 9/11. I didn’t want to be this person of suspicion or threat. I started thinking, what have I lost exactly? In a way, even though I’m a brown-skinned man, with a Muslim-sounding name, I had benefitted in many of the advantages of a kind of Whiteness, of being just a person treated as a regular person, quite significantly. I started to think, should I actually want to go back to that way of seeing me? Or, should I, instead, ask myself, what was the system that I was complicit in? What did it mean, to be treated this way in a world where clearly many people are not? Decades since, I eventually stumbled upon this idea of a man who had thought himself as White, and then he suddenly isn’t. And I thought, that’s my way into this book.

https://indianexpress.com/article/express-sunday-eye/mohsin-hamid-pakistani-author-interview-novels-the-last-white-man-8072526/


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