A Nourishing Conversation With Mohsin Hamid on Social Fictions — and Real Losses
In his latest work, “The Last White Man,” the award-winning writer Mohsin Hamid imagines a world that is very like our own, with one major exception: On various days, white people wake up to discover that their skin is no longer white. It’s a heavy premise, but one of Hamid’s unique talents as a novelist is his ability to take on the most difficult of topics — racism, migration, loss — with a remarkably light touch.
“How do you begin to have these conversations in a way that allows everybody a way in?” Hamid asks at one point in our conversation. “How do you talk about these things in a way that’s open to everyone?” What sets Hamid apart is his capacity to do just that — both in his fiction and in our conversation. We discuss:
* How Hamid experienced what it was like to lose his whiteness after 9/11
* What happens to a society when suddenly we can’t sort ourselves by race
* The origins of modern humans’ fear of death — and how to overcome it
* Why Hamid thinks future humans will look back at the idea of borders with moral horror
* Why Hamid believes that pessimistic realism is a “deeply conservative” worldview
* Hamid’s process for imagining optimistic futures
* Why Hamid believes that the very notion of the self is a fiction
* Why we turn to activities like sex, drugs and meditation when we get overwhelmed
* How America’s policies toward immigrants and refugees should challenge our “heroic” sense of national identity
* What Toni Morrison taught Hamid about how to read and write
"The Metamorphosis" by Franz Kafka
Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
Beloved by Toni Morrison
Ficciones by Jorge Luis Borges
The Epic of Gilgamesh, translated by Andrew George
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You can find transcripts (posted midday) and more episodes of “The Ezra Klein Show” at nytimes.com/ezra-klein-podcast, and you can find Ezra on Twitter @ezraklein. Book recommendations from all our guests are listed at https://www.nytimes.com/article/ezra-klein-show-book-recs.
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