Moth Smoke is the debut novel by British Pakistani novelist Mohsin Hamid, published in 2000. The story revolves around Darashikoh Shezad, a banker in Lahore, Pakistan, who loses his job, falls in love with his best friend’s wife, and plunges into a life of drugs and crime.
The novel examines class and privilege, drugs, and sex in 1990s Pakistan. It uses the historical trial of the liberal Mughal prince Darashikoh by his brother Aurangzeb as an allegory for the state of Pakistan at the time of the 1998 nuclear tests.
The main themes of the novel are desire, class division in society, decadence, death, power, jealousy, unemployment, greed, and lust. The characters in the novel are driven by their desires for power, greed, lust, and temptations or pleasure, leading to unfaithfulness to different facets of life.
The novel is like a big jigsaw puzzle with each piece an integral part of the whole. On a deeper level, this novel is neither of realistic motivation nor a photograph of Pakistan’s decadent society. Its central metaphor is borrowed from Urdu poetry, of the moth’s love and desire for the flame which will consume it.
What I Liked
I will read anything Mohsin Hamid puts out. He is one of my (if not my) favorite novelist ever. Read all his books.
What I Did Not Like
Nothing – great read.