A movie adaptation of Mohsin Hamid’s last novel, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, by director Mira Nair as well as his next book will likely be released next year, the author said on Wednesday.
Addressing an audience of some 200 people, mostly students, at the Forman Christian College, Hamid said that the movie had been shot and was in the editing phase. He said that he had completed the first draft of his next novel and expected it to be released early in 2013.
The author read excerpts from his first novel, Moth Smoke, as well as The Reluctant Fundamentalist and answered a barrage of questions about Pakistani identity, his creative process and other subjects.
The writer called for an inclusive vision of Pakistani identity. “Anyone who says he is a Pakistani, is a Pakistani,” he said. “If that definition is too vague, well, anyone who lives in Pakistan is a Pakistani.”
He said it was difficult to define a collective identity of a people. Identity is “like a cloud,” he said. “From far off it seems like a white fluffy mass. It’s only when you observe closely that you notice the individual water droplets that it’s made of.”
Asked about how he had tackled taboo subjects in Moth Smoke, Hamid noted that Pakistani writers like Manto had dealt with taboo subjects in their work long ago. He said that the stories about drugs and extra-marital affairs in the novel had brought him some criticism. “A relative of my paternal grandmother read it and said, ‘You must have inherited this trait from your mother’s side’,” he said, drawing laughter from the audience.
About self-censorship, Hamid said that it was okay for writers to be scared of writing about certain issues. “What is not okay is that out of that fear, you say something you do not believe in,” he said. “Art should be about expressing what one believes and thinks.”
Discussing the creative process, he said that there was a lengthy process between the first draft of a novel and the final publication. He said that he had written the first draft of Moth Smoke in 1993, but it was another seven years before the book was published. He said that the basic plot had remained the same, but various story ideas had evolved with each draft.
Hamid said that in a novel, unlike in movies, much of the story was left to the imagination of the reader. “When you look at the pages of a novel you see a collection of symbols and characters. Each mind sketches a different story out of it,” he said.
Asked if there would be a sequel to The Reluctant Fundamentalist, published in 2007, he said that he would not be writing one, but that he hoped that readers would think up their own. “You are the sequel,” he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 26th, 2012.