Posted by: Corri van de Stege | September 22, 2013

Moth Smoke: a Pakistani Noir

Moth Smoke was published in 2000 and is written by the author of The Reluctant Fundamentalist, Moshin Hamid.  I rate the latter highly and he has recently published a new book, How to Get Filthy Rich in Asia, which has had excellent reviews.  It’s on my ‘to be read’ list.


Moth Smoke is a kind of Pakistani Noir, it is a book about the low life in Lahore, about a man who sinks deeper and deeper into a drug habit, moving from being a hashish user to becoming a heroin addict.  The story is also about sex and desire for the wrong woman, and in a comical way makes the distinction between the classes in terms of those who have cooling systems and those who cannot afford them.

Lahore City Centre

Lahore City Centre (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Meet Daru Shezad, a young banker who has difficulty being polite to superiors and clients, he considers them fools, and who can only just make ends meet by selling drugs on the side.  Almost inevitably he looses his job when he is considered not reverent enough to a major bank client.  His childhood friend Ozi moves back to Lahore from America where he has acquired an excellent education, a wife and a child.  Daru wants Ozi to be happy, but things start going wrong, first of all because he loses his job and is not able to afford the basic necessities of life (amongst which a running cooling system) and he is constantly confronted with the wealth on display at parties organised by Ozi.  Daru becomes involved with a dicey rickshaw driver who deals and to top it all he falls in love with Ozi’s wife, who is quite lonely and who has her own difficulties with Lahore as a place to live.

The noir aspect of this novel comes in terms of the description of Pakistani society with its insecurity and snobbery, where Ozi is a member of the rich establishment mainly due to a father who is corrupt and who ensures that his son and family have it all.

The question is whether Daru is being tried for the right crime, or whether he has committed a crime at all….

A lovely book, well written, as you would expect of the author of the Reluctant Fundamentalist.

I intend to watch the film The Reluctant Fundamentalist although I am aware that it has had mixed reviews.  Has any of you seen it?


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