Exit West

Hamid, Mohsin

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Annotated by:
Redel-Traub, Gabriel
  • Date of entry: Oct-02-2018
  • Last revised: Oct-22-2018

Summary

Exit West, a novel by Mohsin Hamid, follows two young lovers as their (unnamed) Middle Eastern city descends into war. The story is an intimate look into how quickly war can warp the quotidian routines of daily life. It begins by introducing us to its protagonists. Nadia is a fiercely independent and thoroughly modern woman; she lives alone, rides her vespa around and listens to jazz records. Saeed is perhaps a bit more traditional—he lives with his parents—but is still a typical university student (he brings a joint to one of his and Nadia’s early dates.) The city is a cosmopolitan one, if not a bit outdated. However, as Nadia and Saeed’s relationship deepens, the initial hints of insurgency become apparent: drones and helicopters buzz constantly overhead, a night curfew is implemented, the window with a nice view becomes a liability as gunfire breaks out. The city descends bit by bit into all out war. As this happens, rumors of magical doors that whisk people away to distant lands begin to circulate. Nadia is keen to find one of these doors; Saeed is hesitant to leave in part because his parents are unwilling to join them. Eventually with growing violence in the city, the couple decides to enter a door and together are transported to Mykonos where they join hundreds of other migrants and refugees from all over world who are living in makeshift homes. The second half of Hamid’s novel follows the couple’s life as refugees, traveling from Greece to England and eventually to the USA. Hamid portrays the psychological cost of exile, loss and dislocation—a cost which slowly drives Nadia and Saeed apart.

Commentary

Exit West is a short novel which packs a heavy punch. Hamid mixes the real and surreal to great effect. He captures the individual loss and psychological toll percolating beneath the daily headlines about today’s refugee crisis. In so doing, he has not only created a timeless love story—Nadia and Saeed are fully realized characters and their relationship’s arc is fully realized—but also a novel that feels essential to today.

Publisher

Riverhead Books

Edition

First Edition edition (March 7, 2017)

Page Count

240 pages