A review of the novel “Exit West” by Mohsin Hamid

I was impressed by “The Reluctant Fundamentalist”, Hamid’s early novel which was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize for Fiction 2007, and so I was attracted to “Exit West”, another of his novels which was shortlisted for the Man Booker in 2017. It tells the story of two refugees, the Islamic adherent Saeed and the covered but non-practising Nadia, who flee the militant takeover of their unnamed country which could be Syria or Afghanistan or part of Hamid’s Pakistan.

It is an odd work with minimal dialogue and a deceptively plain style and some really long sentences (one covers a page and a half). The use of magical realism enables instant travel through a black door to an unknown destination somewhere else in the world. The couple move from their homeland to the Greek island of Mykonos to the capital city of London to the Marin county of California, while the narrative offers the reader glimpses of half-a-dozen or so different locations around the globe.

Through the prism of migration, Hamid examines the divided world in which we live: “The news in those days was full of war and migrants and nativists, and it was full of fracturing too, of regions pulling away from nations, and cities pulling away from hinterlands, and it seemed that as everyone was coming together everyone was also moving apart”. As he states: “We are all migrants through time”.


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