Mad about money

Mad about money
Author: Kevin Kwan.

SINGAPORE - In the deliciously funny Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan, there is a hilarious scene where Singaporean rich girl Astrid Leong is poorly treated at a chic Parisian boutique because she's young, Chinese and ordinarily dressed.

After being snubbed by the racist French shop assistant, she leaves quietly. But outside the shop, she meets her rich, well-connected boyfriend Charlie Wu and tells him what happened.

Outraged, he insists she goes right back in the store and buys 20 dresses, each worth a small fortune.

He says: "The only way to get these ang moh kow sai to respect you is to smack them in the face with your tua l*n zh*** money until they get on their knees."

The italicised Hokkien words are too crude to translate here. But it certainly underlines a bolder, more ostentatious attitude among Asians, as the wealth of the world tilts East.

Although Asia's drive towards post-war prosperity began half a century ago for countries such as Singapore, the more recent rise of giants China and India have added an extra sheen to this side of the world, especially in the wake of the 2008 global financial crash that battered the economies of the West.

On the literary front, Asian novelists are keenly observing the rapid changes in their societies as the potent combination of money and opportunity within their countries are empowering a whole new generation of once-impoverished Asians. The results are now on bookshelves.

Acclaimed Malaysia-born novelist Tash Aw recently released Five Star Billionaire. The novel is about five Malaysian Chinese struggling to get rich or stay rich in booming Shanghai. It has been longlisted for the Man Booker Prize, one of the most prestigious book prizes in the world.

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