Moth Smoke

Moth Smoke : A Novel is, I think, Mohsin Hamid’s first book. It is a tale of an educated middle-class guy Dara Shikoh1 who goes from a banker to a drug addict and criminal. It is a story about drugs, sex, corruption and betrayal.

Mohsin Hamid writes well and could become a great Pakistani author of fiction in English. However, in Moth Smoke, his characters lack some complexity. They are more one-dimensional than I would like. Mohsin does present parts of the story from the point of view of the different characters, but that doesn’t work as well as it should.

What this novel is not is a documentary of Pakistani urban life. Some reviewers on Amazon think this novel will provide them an insight into Pakistan. No single book, fiction, or non-fiction, can do that. The book certainly does show a side of Pakistan: drugs, sex and corruption among the elite, for example. However, it is a work of fiction and should be taken as such.

Here are a few other reviews:

1 Yes, most of the major characters are named after the Mughals, specifically the sons of Shah Jehan: Dara Shikoh, Aurangzeb, Murad and Shuja. There are also Mumtaz and Khurram.

Categorized as Books

By Zack

Dad, gadget guy, bookworm, political animal, global nomad, cyclist, hiker, tennis player, photographer


  1. I agree with the review of the book, In my opinion Moth Smoke is disturbing, no doubt that the author did a good job but still it misses the touch of real life as the author tried to dipict.

    I would suggest reading “Blasphamy” by Tehmina Durrani”. The book is much more disturbing then Moth Smoke. According to the author the horrifying tale is true.

    If anyone reads it do let me know of ur comments.

  2. blasphemy is no better than moth smoke.. both are average books with little, very little, if any genius in them.. they do well because of the novelty of it all… blasphemy was the first mainstream bok to target the pir fakirs, published by OUP and mothsmoke the first book by a pakistani talking in a storytellers way about drugs.. and so the hype

  3. tazeen: Haven’t read Blasphemy.

    cheesooo: I guess the novelty is there, and Moth Smoke is definitely the first book I have read which writes about the drug habits of the rich in Pakistan in English, but drugs have been a subject of Pakistani fiction before.

  4. i havent read the Moth smoke but i have seen the film “daira” which is based on this novel. To be honest hash and unfaithful wives are growing in pakistan these days in elite class. pakistan hardly has 5% elite class and they are so damn rich that they shoud have ranking in the whole world..this novel was written in 98 but it’s reflecting the society of 2010. May Allah keep us away from bad stuff but our rich class is going on a side which we have seen in mughal empire.

  5. well..havn’t yet read moth smoke..but seen diara….its sure do reflects the reality which most of the elite class of pakistan is facing today…specially the youngsters….i my self is a victim of drug, betrayel and sex…but that does not mean that people become criminal after all of that…still a very brilliant effort by the writer..more people should write about these growing issuses of elite class in pakistna….
    regards !

  6. Moth Smoke is one of the few novels that explore and expose in a sense the less known part of life in Pakistan. This novel may give its readers quite a lot. One of the most important things that it can offer is the different social strata in a society like Pakistan. After reading this kind of novel, which is praised in the West widely it is perhaps time for the Western Mass Media to stop demonstrating countries like Pakistan as a monolithic, Islamic country that is inherently wicked. This novel, which depicts the real life of only one social stratum shows that life is between hope and memories, it is torn between power and inability, individual life is affected by the society in which it finds itself and so on. This book, if read carefully gives us the voice of a Muslim author who is worried about the same issues of humanity at large. Though the locale is Pakistan and the characters are Muslim the issues dealt with in the novel are humanity’s issues at large. We all suffer from our lust for power. We all suffer because we have never learnt moral lessons from history. We all relive history with our imaginations for our enjoyment which is an outgrowth of our emotions and historic romanticism or nostalgia. But, we still fight and kill one another. Perhaps, it is time to stop for a while and think who we are. The tsunami disaster recetly showed us all that we are all unable to prevent natural disaster. We are weak in front of Nature. Why do we still develop nucleus weapons which Moth Smoke talks about as well, because in the summer 1998 India and Pakistan (the big brother and the small brother) tested their bombs ‘by shaking mountains’. We all human beings try to shake mountains and oceans with nucleus weapons, but I wonder why we do not seriously think about how desperate we are all, we human beings. This novel is worth reading, because it is written in a world that is not safe anymore. The author’s courage has been put into it. It is the voice of authors like Hamid M. that show us all way out of this ages old moral dilemma.

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