- Hardcover: 240 pages
- Publisher: Penguin Random House India Pvt. Ltd. (7 March 2017)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0670089885
- ISBN-13: 978-0670089888
- Product Dimensions: 29 x 20 x 3 cm
- Average Customer Review: 68 customer reviews
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- #2460 in Contemporary Fiction (Books)
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Exit West Hardcover – 7 Mar 2017
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Writing in spare, crystalline prose, Hamid conveys the experience of living in a city under siege with sharp, stabbing immediacy
(Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times)
As with the very best literature, its crystalline readability fast eclipses its topicality (Mail on Sunday)
Publisher's description. In an unnamed city swollen by refugees but not yet at war, two young people meet and fall in love. They pretend not to hear the sound of bombs getting closer every night. But one day soon they will have to escape this place, running for their lives, searching for their place in the world. (Penguin)
Impressive... Exit West confirms Hamid's reputation as a brilliant ventriloquist who is deeply engaged with the most pressing issues of our time (Andrew Motion (Book of the Week) Guardian)
Powerful... Hamid unfolds the disintegration of civic life and the couple's poignant intimacy with vivid, economical strokes. Hamid is the master of the illuminating metaphor (Sunday Times)
Wry and intelligent... Part pared-down romance, part 21st-century fable for a world of porous borders, Exit West is a thought experiment that pivots on the crucial figure of this century: the migrant (Financial Times)
A subtle and moving examination of how human relationships endure and falter under unimaginable pressures. Exit West is an instant classic (GQ)
Breathlessly relevant... Hamid's book could hardly be more timely; it's addictively readable and brilliantly written to boot (Mail on Sunday)
Astonishing (Zadie Smith)
Exit West packs such an emotional wallop you will be thinking about it for days afterwards. For Hamid is not only telling a story, he is asking what sort of a world we want to live in. (Editor's Choice, the Bookseller)
A love story as spare, haunting and spiritually powerful as a haiku. All my life I will remember Nadia and Saeed, their humanity against a surreal, broken landscape. Exit West is Hamid's finest book. (Kiran Desai)
It's a terrific, beautifully constructed, important novel of our time. This is what we expect fiction to do: to examine our age but also to cast an eye on the past and - very brilliantly in this case - on the future too. I love it. (Mirza Waheed)
Exit West is a masterpiece. It stretches the boundaries of the real just enough to make a point about the state of immigrants and refugees in the contemporary world. But it's very much grounded in reality. It's a beautiful book. (Michael Chabon)
Mohsin Hamid is one of the most talented and formally audacious writers of his generation (Telegraph)
A man born to write (Dave Eggers)
The voice of a changing continent. A writer at the top of his game (Metro)
About the Author
Mohsin Hamid is the author of The Reluctant Fundamentalist (shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize), Moth Smoke and How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia, as well as the collection of essays Discontents and Its Civilizations. He writes regularly for the New York Times, the Guardian and the New York Review of Books. Born and mostly raised in Pakistan, he has since lived between Lahore, London and New York.
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68 customer reviews
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Go for it, there is no book more timely than this one.
And yet Hamid tells his story in a world where politics, civilization itself, rides on nationalism -- vigilantism --fundamentalism. There are no givens anymore, nor freedoms, nor choices. But as Hamid ends his story, the deserts in Chile may still revel in the stars.
Coetzee had begun the refugee/immigrant story in the boyhood of Jesus. These stories have only begun.
Truly extraordinary book from Mohsin Hamid.
As Saeed and Nadia move through Mykonos, London and California, it becomes increasingly evident that the cities they live in now are not too disparate from the city they left behind as nativist paranoia makes survival a daily challenge. As the hostility in the environment grows, they are pushed towards the peripheries of existence, bartering clothes for food and food for medicines, in what seems like an endless cycle of exploitation and depravity.
Thus, it does not seem surprising when we see that even the most basic and simple things take a grotesque shape for people living under such vile conditions; for instance, it’s the death of Nadia’s cousin that cements her relationship with Saeed. In fact, it is violence that brings them close together and stability that tears them apart eventually.
Hamid ends the novel on a sanguine note, as the protagonists meet years later in the country they had to exit suddenly, a glimmer of hope revived and reclaimed regarding the future. In an interview with The Guardian, Hamid had insisted on the importance of a hopeful ending, expressing that “putting forth an optimistic vision like that makes that vision, in some small way, more likely to come true.” //
What makes this love story so intriguing is its exploration of the varied ways in which individuals cope with the challenges of refugee life. The male lead, Saeed, is close to his parents, who are professionals, at the beginning of the story. He’s been raised in a middle-class devout but moderate Muslim household. Saeed seeks out his own people and takes solace not only in Islam, but in the culture of his countrymen more generally. His girlfriend, Nadia, is on the outs with her family because she moved out on her own and she was too modern and progressive for the tastes of her traditional family. She’s a non-believer, and the religion and culture with which she was raised are objects she is more than willing to put in her rear-view mirror. (To make it interesting, Nadia wears the burka, not because she is devout, but because it’s somewhat successful at keeping the guys from pawing her. This makes her appear devout, when she is anything but.) Nadia tries to assimilate into whatever community she finds herself. What begins as a comfortable “opposites attract” set of differences becomes an ever-widening chasm as the two are exposed to the stresses of refugee life.
This book is written in a sparse style. It does a lot of telling versus showing. However, that seems to work because some of what it does show the reader is so visceral that some straight-forward exposition of the character’s feelings forms a palate cleanser. The story is specifically vague about how the characters move from place to place. This is clearly on purpose to capture the nature of refugee travel, which is so different from the looking out windows and snapping photos that ordinary travelers do. It also allows the author to portray the refugee routes as portals that open and close on different locales as authorities on either end shut them down. They aren’t the firmly established transportation corridors ordinary travelers move through, but rather ephemeral windows of opportunity.
There are little vignettes about individuals apparently unrelated to the story in each chapter. Through them, I think the author just wishes to convey the global nature of this phenomenon. I didn’t find these bits added much, but the also didn’t take up much space or time, and so didn’t detract from the story.
I enjoyed this story. It reads clearly and quickly, and has a nice tight theme and story arc. I’d recommend it for fiction reads, particularly those interested in a story about being a refugee in the modern world.