A Pakistani-British writer chronicles his odyssey through the war on terror
Discontent and its Civilizations:
Dispatches from Lahore, New York, and London
by Mohsin Hamid
$27.95 List Price
One could say, with no snark intended, that back in the year 2000, twenty-nine-year-old Mohsin Hamid was the ultimate bourgeois bohemian. He had just published a well-received first novel. He lived on lovely Cornelia Street, in a corner of the West Village once inhabited by artists and writers but, by the dawn of the twenty-first century, affordable mainly to investment bankers and management consultants. As it happened, this debut novelist was also a management consultant. And in a deal of sugar-shock sweetness, his employer, McKinsey & Company—famous for overworking its bright young climbers—allowed this graduate of Princeton and Harvard Law three months off per year to write fiction. This guy, as Frank Sinatra might have crooned, had the world on a string, the string around his finger.
But even back then, before the twin towers came tumbling down, Hamid felt the sting of Islamophobia in New York City. In “International Relations,” one of the many superb pieces in his first collection of essays, Discontent and Its Civilizations, Hamid describes how he was made to squirm every time he went to the Italian consulate in Manhattan to receive official clearance to visit his then-girlfriend in her European homeland. Hamid’s passport “runs suspiciously backward, the right-hand cover its front, and above the curved swords of its Urdu lettering . . . reads, ‘Islamic Republic of Pakistan.’ Words to make a visa officer tremble.”
For Hamid, life in the Big Apple would turn sour fast. As he writes in another essay: “The 9/11 attacks placed great strain on the hyphen bridging that