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Discontent and its Civilizations: Dispatches from Lahore, New York, and London

3.83  ·  Rating details ·  1,646 ratings  ·  234 reviews
From the bestselling author of The Reluctant Fundamentalist and How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia, “a near-perfect essay collection, filled with insight, compassion, and intellect." (NPR)

In both his internationally bestselling fiction and his wide-ranging journalism, Mohsin Hamid has earned a reputation as a "master critic of the modern global condition" (Foreig
Paperback, 256 pages
Published February 2nd 2016 by Riverhead Books (first published November 27th 2014)
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Average rating 3.83  · 
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Start your review of Discontent and its Civilizations: Dispatches from Lahore, New York, and London
This slim book of essays by Mohsin Hamid is one of the most interesting and important books per square inch of space that I have read in a very long time. I have had difficulty reading lately, with lots of distractions and changes in my own life. Hamid’s small book of nonfiction essays promised to be short, relevant, engaging, and international, like his fiction.

These essays were much more than that. Hamid surprised and delighted me with his political section at the end in which he shares with
Jan 27, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: essays
[4+] Like Hamid's novels, these essays are short, accessible and sometimes profound. Hamid eloquently chips away at the bias many of us bring to conversations about Pakistan and Islam. As a resident of New York, London and now Lahore, his perspective is refreshing and eye-opening and not easily categorized.
Faizan Ali
Nov 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Absolutely fantastic read. Although a very brief book, likely to be finished by most readers in a day or two, it is profound in the diverse topics that it covers and has personally left me with a lot to think about. It is a collection of articles written by Mohsin Hamid for various publications over a 15 year period and is divided into three sections Life, Art and Politics. My personal favourites were: "In Concert, No Touching", "On Fatherhood", "Don't Angry Me", "Pereira Transforms" and "Why Th ...more
Jan 25, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Having been born in Pakistan and having spent the greater part of his life in the US and the UK, Mohsin Hamid is able to bridge the cultural divide. His perspective is rare and valuable. He understands the US point of view and explains how it is heard and realized in Pakistan.

The essays are divided into topics of life, art and politics. In the first you learn about Hamid, his "water lily life" and how he chose to return to Pakistan. Having read this novels the essays on art were of interest. He
Jan 26, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A heartfelt series of essays which have appeared before in various publications. These articles span more than a decade and encompass the years he studied and worked in New York, London and Lahore. I have read all of Hamid's fictional works before, 'Moth Smoke' and 'How To Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia' being my favourites.

Here he covers a wide range of subjects in his quiet, thoughtful style, including how he approached his writing and what he aimed to achieve. An added bonus was I learnt a fa
Samra Muslim
Jan 01, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I cannot believe that I actually enjoyed reading this book - or rather collection of Hamid's previously published articles based on his life, emotions and experiences!! (I am not a fan of Mohsin Hamid's work!!)

Oddly speaking, the articles narrated in the book are a good relatable read ... Atleast for me!! It's like a lot of times what Hamid is writing or feeling is exactly what I felt in that moment in my life (aka Pakistan's colourful history) !!

Nov 29, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: BBC Radio Listeners
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
I'm quite happy to have had the opportunity to read that, but out of eight essays I found best/ useful and was ready to scan, six were easily available online. Frustrating.
Mohsin Hamid is culturally,a hybrid,having lived parts of his life in the US,Pakistan and the UK,and still continues to shuttle back and forth.This is a collection of his writing on diverse subjects.Some of the pieces collected here are very interesting,others less so. The theme of displacement recurs in his work.In some of these despatches,he tries to explain Pakistan to an international audience.The more engaging part of the book for me has to do with his own multicultural experiences,his life ...more
Globalization is a brutal phenomenon. It brings us mass displacement, wars, terrorism, unchecked financial capitalism, inequality, xenophobia, climate change. p2

But in the end, it is not possible to champion national greatness and human equality at the same time. p141

The message is clear. Speaking out against the problem means you become the problem, so you had better be quiet. p145

I am glad that MH refuses to be quiet and look forward to his next effort.
Daniel Casey
Mar 10, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Full Review:

After reading The Reluctant Fundamentalist, a novel that gripped me in the same way Albert Camus had (Hamid’s novel is written in a similar 2nd-person style as Camus’s The Fall), I became an admirer of Mohsin Hamid’s fiction. However, I was never fortunate enough to encounter any of his nonfiction writing. Finding Discontent and Its Civilization (a pun on a canonical work by Sigmund Freud that’s still inflicted on first-year college students t
I haven't read any of Hamid's fiction, although I plan to try "The Reluctant Fundamentalist", but the premise of this book interested me. In the end, though, I was disappointed. The section dealing with his life was mildly interesting, but superficial. He identifies with Pakistan as home, but is that mostly because his family lives there? I was hoping for more cross-cultural insights. What makes one country home, even if its language is not your first language? The section on art I found dull.

Nov 28, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Bettie
From BBC Radio 4 - Book of the Week:
Collected essays that encompass memoir, art and politics.
Apr 30, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: pakistan, lahore, politics
This is a collection of Mohsin Hmaid's articles, written in 2000s, reflective of his life in Lahore, New York and London, focusing mainly on art, politics and culture. This felt like a mini-biography, as it reminisced the past with a very personal touch. I totally felt that when he said:

GLOBALIZATION IS A brutal phenomenon. It brings us mass displacement, wars, terrorism, unchecked financial capitalism, inequality, xenophobia, climate change. But if globalization is capable of holding out any f
Tawseef Khan
I have to admit to being disappointed by the collection. Its quite interesting how the way we respond to pieces of work is dependent on the format they appear in. Many of these articles and 'dispatches', I would be quite content to read and consume in a newspaper or literary magazine, but when they appear in this book, with a not insignificant preface, I expect something meatier, more substantial. As it stands, with many of the pieces standing at 5-7 pages long, or even less, they feel insubstan ...more
Sara Naveed
This is the first non-fiction book I've read.
I've read Mohsin Hamid's debut fiction novel 'Moth Smoke' previously.
Honestly speaking, I couldn't really get into the story back then. There were only a few elements that I enjoyed.
'Discontent and its Civilizations' explains Hamid's real life encounters. He has described how his life has changed while travelling from Lahore to NY, London and then back to Lahore. During this journey, Hamid has seen immense changes in his own perspective and persona
Apr 15, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I picked this book up accidentally while meandering through an unfamiliar section of Barnes and Nobles. I'm really glad I did. Reading the introductory essay persuaded me to buy the book and every essay impressed me in some manner.

Hamid writes with a fluid, dynamic tone; his writing is full of humanity and character and his stories and opinions kept me engaged despite my novice understanding of political relationships in the East. I happen to wholeheartedly agree with the sentiments voiced in h
Mar 27, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is a must read for anyone who is a fan of Hamid or his books. Ever since I read Moth Smoke (his first book), I felt some sort of connection with the author and his characters.

The book is a collection of articles and writings of Hamid which have been published over the period of late 90's to the 00's, and when read together act like a biography of the author and his observations about religion, geo-politics, fatherhood, and everything else under the sun. The individual chapters are sho
May 05, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
This was a serendipitous buy at my favorite local bookstore (Three Lives & Co). It's unusually interactive and endearing. I spent the first portion wishing I could mark it up with a red pen and send it back to Mr. Hamid with my edits. But oh, the starbursts of exquisite writing. The insights, the empathy. I began to feel like I knew Mohsin and was engaged in a long conversation with him. Then... the chapter on politics. I think he knew exactly what he was doing by first plying my heart open and ...more
Apr 03, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, essays
"At this point in our technological evolution, to read a novel is to engage in probably the second-largest single act of pleasure-based data transfer that can take place between two human beings, exceeded only by sex. Novels are characterized by their intimacy, which is extreme, by their scale, which is vast, and by their form, which is linguistic and synesthetic. The novel is a kinky beast."
DNF at 60%. im just not really feeling this right now.
Sadie-jane (Say-dee-Jane) Nunis
Ok definitely need a lighter read after today's two books... lol

2019 reading challenge - A book written by an author from Asia, Africa, or South America
Obviously not as good as some of his fictional stuff but this was interesting in places and some of the essays were close to the heart in that mine and Mohsin’s backgrounds are quite similar. Both Muslim, similar (ish age), Mohsin was a management consultant, I still am, both born in Lahore, and lived in London. I like his style of writing and this is a short book which serves as a collection of some of his essays he has written on various subjects. Here are a few of the interesting points he ma ...more
Biblio Files (takingadayoff)
Mohsin Hamid is a novelist, and he also writes a lot of nonfiction in the form of essays and articles for a wide range of publications such as The New York Times, the Guardian, literary journals, and Pakistani magazines. The essays in Discontent and its Civilizations (a clever play on the title of a classic by Freud) are from the years 2000-2014 and cover Hamid's time as a resident of New York, London, and Lahore, Pakistan.

It's a compact volume of pieces, only about 200 pages, and the essays the
Privy Trifles
Mar 18, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned, review
Having read the first two works of the author he is one on my can-be-grabbed-without-reading-the-blurb category! But the moment I saw this one I knew I wanted to read this for it had dispatches from Lahore, New York and London three cities I have always been fascinated with for the distinct lives they hold within their realms.

I began reading this book without any pre-conceived notions or ideas as I wanted to just bask in his words and ideologies. I didn’t want my own thoughts to overlap his and
May 29, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Nice quick read. Felt like conversing with a friend. This book has a few sections, split between his lived experiences, art and how it has affected his life, and then the political views he expresses at the end.

“The United States needs to address this contradiction. It seeks to stand for national greatness and human equality. Yet its greatness is in part built upon the denial of the equality of others outside its borders” (141).

Learned a bit from another perspective and how small things stick wi
Apr 27, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Globalization is a brutal phenomenon. It brings us mass displacement, wars, terrorism, unchecked financial capitalism, inequality, xenophobia, climate change. But if globalization is capable of holding out any fundamental promise to us, any temptation to go along with its havoc, then surely that promise ought to be this: we will be more free to invent ourselves
Simon Sweetman
Nov 13, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Some great writing here - nice, breif essays, good range of topics (broad). Some good talking/thinking points. Recommended.
Christian Quaresma
In his collection of essays, Discontent and Its Civilizations, Mohsin Hamid presents himself primarily as a moralist. The book is carefully curated by the author to invite you into his life, his practice, and his pluralistic and humane worldview.

Hamid is focused on his native Pakistan, looking at the young country and its relation to the world from New York, London and Lahore, having called all three places home in the fifteen years that span this collection. He begins with an anecdote about a
Mar 30, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 4-stars, 2015, non-fiction
Read more reviews Reviewing Shelf.

To tell the truth, the only reason I picked up this book in the first place was because the author was famous for having written The Reluctant Fundamentalist which went on to become a major motion picture. Otherwise, a book with a title like that would have been easily glossed over.

The book has been divided by essays into three parts - Life, Art and Politics. It's difficult to choose which part I liked the most. But yes, I found the first two parts more easy to

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Mohsin Hamid is the author of four novels, Moth Smoke , The Reluctant Fundamentalist , How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia , and Exit West , and a book of essays, Discontent and Its Civilizations .

His writing has been featured on bestseller lists, adapted for the cinema, shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, selected as winner or finalist of twenty awards, and translated into thir

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