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Mohsin Hamid on The Last White Man

A discussion about race and the meanings we give it, and an exploration of the power of fiction to permit our imaginations to create new futures to play with

‘I believe fiction has a strange power, a profound weirdness, that enables it to destabilise the collective imaginings we inherit and reproduce’ – Mohsin Hamid

Mohsin Hamid is the internationally bestselling author of the novels The Reluctant Fundamentalist and Exit West. In September he came to Intelligence Squared to talk about his acclaimed new novel The Last White Man, an allegory of racial transformation. 

One morning Anders wakes to find that his skin has turned dark, his reflection a stranger to him. At first he tells only Oona, an old friend, newly a lover. Soon reports of similar occurrences surface across the land. Some see in the transformations the long-dreaded overturning of an established order, to be resisted to the bitter end. In many, like Anders’s father and Oona’s mother, a sense of profound loss wars with profound love. 

In conversation with BBC broadcaster Razia Iqbal, Mohsin explained how the roots of the novel can be traced back to September 11 2001, when everything changed for him. He became the object of fear and suspicion, eventually realising that what he had lost was his whiteness – or the benefits of being ‘white enough’, which he had previously enjoyed as an affluent, educated inhabitant of cosmopolitan cities. 

Praise for The Last White Man

The electric premise, borrowed from Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, looks set to update a classic to make it urgently relevant‘ – The Evening Standard

With this big-hearted novel of ideas, Mohsin Hamid confronts challenging truths with insight, wisdom, and – above all else -– limitless compassion’ – Tayari Jones, author of An American Marriage




Mohsin Hamid

Award-winning Pakistani author whose latest novel is The Last White Man

Award-winning author of the Booker Prize short-listed The Reluctant Fundamentalist, Exit West, Moth Smoke, How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia and Discontent and its Civilizations. His work has been translated into forty languages, featured on bestseller lists and adapted for the cinema. He writes regularly for The New York Times, The Guardian and The New York Review of Books. Born and mostly raised in Lahore, he has since lived between Lahore, London and New York.  

Razia Iqbal

BBC journalist and broadcaster

One of the main presenters of Newshour, the flagship international news and current affairs programme on BBC World Service radio. She also regularly presents The World Tonight on Radio 4.