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4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5 stars
Exit West
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Price:₹ 314.00

on 10 January 2018
Exit West
Exit West written by Mohsin Hamid created ripples in literature circles and was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 2017. This short, lyrical book tells us the story of Saeed and Nadia, two young lovers from an unknown city from an unnamed country. We know that the time period is contemporary because of the presence of mobile phones and internet and surveillance tools like cameras and drones.
At the onset, as Saeed and Nadia struggle to live in their city, we realise how violence and fear of violence changes everyday life. people keep away from windows, procuring a joint becomes mighty difficult, everyone hordes food, visiting a lover becomes sporadic, funerals are quick and hushed and everyone dreams of door. As things get worse in the city that they live in, fundamentalism and violence rising hand in hand, people desperately hope for things to get better until this hope gives in to despair and then the desperate need to flee. This is a tale of desperation, of hope, and love and what violence does to people. Saeed’s family hopes for things to get better, but instead they get worse. His mother dies, literally blown to pieces. Saeed and Nadia seek a way out, they have heard that magical doors take people to faraway lands, lands which are safe. Saeed’s father refuses to accompany them, preferring to stay put and wait for his end. Saeed is left with no option but to leave him behind; but his father’s death takes a toll on him.
The only element of magic in this book is the magical ‘doors’ which transport people to different places. Through these doors Saeed and Nadia exit their country and go to Mykonos, a Greek island, then to London and ultimately San Francisco. Though at one level, ‘door’ is an interesting metaphor, it does injustice to the entire refugee experience. Being a refugee, an illegal migrant means facing innumerable physical hardships, and risk, even risking life to live across borders. This aspect goes unmentioned, but Hamid does a great job of exploring the psychology of exile – confused experiences of adapting to new surroundings, language, new xenophobias mixed with the pain of losing one’s home and loved ones. These magical doors also point to the inadequacy of local governments in controlling immigration.
The book in a painful-beautiful way show how two individuals grow in a different way, reacting differently to the turmoil that they are in. they are helpless in the sense that they have no control of the larger forces that form their circumstances, and yet in each action they exercise their agency choosing to be who they want to be. Saeed and Nadia are both young secular people, who are hardly religious. Nadia wears a black robe to protect herself from unwanted advances, smokes joints and does psychedelic mushrooms in the beginning, continues to be fiercely independent, but for some unknown reason perhaps even unknown to her continues to do even when she is not required to, and continues to be secular, more adaptive and enthused by her changed circumstances. Saeed on the other hand finds it more difficult to adapt, feeling guilty for his father’ death, carrying a sense of unbelonging. He prays, and he prays more. He becomes religious, for it is only prayer that brings him momentary peace.
Life of course continues to be difficult for them. There is perhaps a surety of living, but ‘she wondered whether she and Saeed had done anything by moving, whether the faces and buildings had changed but the basic reality of their predicament had not’.
The book between Saeed and Nadia weakens over time. Their refugee status takes a toll on them and they go from being lovers, to friends to nothing. They drift away, only to meet briefly half a century later in the city that they came from, where there is relative peace since they time that they left.
Saeed and Nadia are the only two persons named in the book. Their full names are not given. Although the plot focuses on Saeed and Nadia it is intercepted by many other smaller stories. The author tries to bring in simultaneity, how multiple incidences happen at the same time. This bring lends temporality and spatial dimension to the book. The book is beautiful as it manages to give us a microscopic view of Saeed and Nadia’s life and simultaneously giving us a bird’s eye view of the larger picture. Other people and their lives feature regularly. The book captures the present refugee crisis very well. In a globalized world, people are always connected to others through the internet and other means, and yet there is a feeling of unbelonging. ‘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’. Is this not an accurate description of our globalized times?
It is interesting that the country and Saeed and Nadia remain unnamed. It could be anywhere. This renders a quality of universality of experience. How is the experience of Rohingya refugees any different from those fleeing Afganistan or Syria or any other war torn country? And this university of experience, of sorrow and suffering, but also strong ties of love, makes this book and its people human.
‘A feeling that we are all children who lose our parents, all of us, every man and woman and boy and girl, and we too will all be lost by those who come after us and love us, and this loss unites humanity, unites every human being, the temporary nature of our being-ness, and our shared sorrow, the heartache we each carry and yet too often refuse to acknowledge in one another.’
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on 16 January 2018

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid is the story of Saeed and Nadia, two people who meet in a city on the verge of a civil war. There lives and jobs are mostly normal until the shots from guns and the flames from bombs start crossing the boundary and into their lives, taking away what they hold precious. Amidst all the chaos, they find solace in each other's company. But to live in constant fear is no living, so they try to escape in search of a better life through one of the many mystical doors that have appeared all over the city and can take them to an unknown destination. Exit West is Saeed and Nadia's journey as they find themselves in strange lands surrounded by strangers and struggle to come to terms with their own changed selves and relationships.

Love and War:

In the well-written prose filled with beautiful metaphors, Hamid has successfully traced the stages of Saeed's and Nadia's relationship. They are two very different individuals who complement each other. While Saeed is reserved & protective and has always lived a sheltered life with his parents, Nadia is independent, resourceful, and open to experimentation. These differences which attract them to each other during days of order, start chafing when things go haywire. I found their struggle to hold on to each other, even when they barely talked, very real. My heart ached when they would fight and rejoice when they would share a moment of happiness.

Refugee Issue:

This short read goes a long way in highlighting the refugee issue. It is a poignant rendition of fear, want, and desperation, traits that define the life in an inflamed city. The inhabitants prefer the unknown over a life of terror, even one full of rejection and humiliation from those whom they turn to for refuge. Using an unnamed city, Hamid has made the phenomenon global, one which anyone can fall victim to. The following quote leaves no more words necessary.

“But even now the city's freewheeling virtual world stood in stark contrast to the day-to-day lives of most people, to those of young men, and especially of young women, and above all of children who went to sleep unfed but could see on some small screen people in foreign lands preparing and consuming and even conducting food fights with feasts of such opulence that the very fact of their existence boggled the mind."

In despair, there is hope:

Even though sad, this story filled me with hope too. Small things like families coming together in the time of need or people finding love even in despair make your belief in the power of humanity firmer. If there are people who commit violence against the incoming outsiders, there are also others who help, feed, and provide for them. Hamid has added certain snippets throughout the book where people navigate these black doors to find a better life. Saeed's own belief in religion gets stronger in the face of adversity.

The magical black doors:

The only thing that I found misleading about the book was the magical black doors. I understand after reading that they are metaphorical and only represent the movement of refugees but for many readers, they approach the book hoping it would be something of a fantasy and are thus disappointed in that sense.


This is an amazing read and was shortlisted for Man Booker 2017. Need I say more? Get it now.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 24 January 2018
I picked up Exit West (nominated for Booker Prize 2017) by Mohsin Hamid (a Pakistani author of "The Reluctant Fundamentalist" fame) because it seemed as if it had a unique story.

The book is an easy read (I finished it in 4 hours) and the prose is quite simple and the authors style is also a little bit lyrical with large paragraphs full of a dozen commas. (There seems to another novel Solar bones also nominated for Booker 2017 that is just a single sentence long).

The book is about a modern non devout Muslim girl Nadia and a Saeed her lover as they leave their city which has come under the grip of militancy through magical doors. The magical doors transport them as refugees to Greece, London and finally USA (maybe farther and farther down West). In each place, they face a unique set of challenges in society as they struggle to eke out their existence. The story is loosely allegorical as it deals with the problems between the natives of the country and the sudden influx of refugees from all around the world threatening the composition of society. Interspersed within the main story are brief vignettes of other stories revolving around how these doors open up possibilities of other humans to form other relationships without the constraints of space or time.

Through these stories, the author sheds light on the refugee crisis and the greater humanity which binds the world together.

Although, I was not gripped by the book and nor is it a page turner I did gain a greater sensitivity of the migrant experience. As I watch my own city transform in a decade to something else, I myself as the author says feel like a migrant in my own country.
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on 22 May 2017
This is a story of Saeed and Nadia a modern day professionals having nice time of going to music concerts, smoking pot, relishing Chinese food in a reasonably modern unknown city similar to Lahore. The city is taken over by terrorists. Saeed and Nadia flee from this town through 'doors' initially to Greece, then London and finally North Carolina. In their journey to these places they suffer the plight of refugees migrating from East to West. The author has improvised the concept of 'doors' to obviate the hassles of immigration to focus more on the disparities of natives and immigrants. One finds though the world is flat with respect to communication but highly fragmented and discriminating to migrants.
Nadia, though conservative in dressing with nick high black full dress, is modern in outlook, drives motor cycle, smokes pot and is a live-in partner of Saeed. On the other hand Saeed is deeply religious and craves to move with his countrymen and women, he in a sense is conservative. This mismatch between the two results in their separation at the end of their love affair. Additionally, their love, may be a victim of the strenuous time they spend as refugees in various countries.
According to authors everybody in this world is migrating, either physically or with time, as the surroundings change with time making one as migrant into new unfamiliar era, termed as generation gap.
Some 200 years from now we may have a highly fragmented world or a unified society with lot of commonality and acceptance for each other.
This book leaves you with thinking about the future of mankind in this fragmented World.
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on 22 August 2017
When everyday news is filled with plights of immigrants, Exit West by Mohsin Hamid seems like a pragmatic story. The author takes us into the minds of two main characters, Nadia and Saeed, who fall in love with each other when their country erupts in violence. The country in focus is unnamed but as a reader, you will relate to the realism the author has elaborated — constant danger, drone strikes, house arrest and rationing of supplies.
Hamid takes into account all these possibilities and elegantly built up a relationship between Nadia and Saeed. Both of them find ways to meet each other when the situation is not conducive enough, area is under surveillance and network is down. When they hire a coyote, who can help them to leave the country; the story is built on their subsequent relocation and with every new place, they both seem to notice a change in their feelings towards each other.
A praise for Hamid, he has not tried to push emotions through his words. One will get to understand the emotional changes as a matter of fact. In their trial to live at different places, from a deserted mansion to a tent city to the coast of California, they continue to search and understand tangible as well as intangible changes. Set in a war inflicted background I was prepared for an emotional ride, but the story doesn't jostle your mental peace to understand a basic change in emotional needs.
It is not about an eternal love affair or how your emotional attachment to one person changes drastically by destroying your partner. Exit West very subtly makes you see how people drift apart naturally and heart find its room of comfort into different people at different times.
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on 23 May 2017
An author born in the East, now having lived in the West, pens a story of migration - from war to a new life, from east to west and in the process unearths what unites humanity across the world - hope, compassion and love.

I have been a big fan of Mohsin Hamid ever since I read The Reluctant Fundamentalist. His lyrical, often magical style of writing which never gets ponderous or difficult to read and his empathetic and often deeply insightful reading of East-West culture differences and the state of the world today is unmatched.

He applies the same insight into writing a deeply effecting and topical look into what drives people to become immigrants and leave their own land and people and what it means to be human, to love and be loved in times of such crisis and change.

In times such as ours, where the world is actually getting smaller, Exit West acts to remind us that, as history has shown us, in the end humanity always prevails over war, suffering and segregation.

The book of the year
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on 24 December 2017
After "The Reluctant Fundamentalist", this is Hamid's second book, I have read. It's very natural for a reader to expect something more when one reads a second or third book of the same author.
I found Hamid's willful creation of long sentences, which he never used in his first one, interesting on a couple of occasions, but overuse and making it an instrument to zip up a long story into three lines, made me a little unhappy. I don't know if I'd call it lazy writing!
The preacher's daughter name wasn't mentioned; the readers weren't allowed enough time to figure out about her.
Of course, it was a good read, but I expected a better book from Mohsin Hamid
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on 7 May 2017
Exit West is extraordinary in its story telling. Hamid offers you mellowness in a world gone wrong---the world we find ourselves in today, in which neither east nor west offer exits. Saeed and Nadia teach us what post truth does not.
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.
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on 14 June 2017
I found Exit West to be a bit boring to be honest. There are parts that captivated me; and there there were sections where I was kind of rushing through to finish the chapters. Writing style and the language is sublime. You come to expect that from Mohsin Hamid. The storyline and perhaps the treatment didn't work for me.

I am a great fan of Mohsin Hamid and Reluctant Fundamentalist remains at the very top of my "best liked" list. Will wait for his next one - I know the wait is going to be long...sigh
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on 2 April 2017
A wonderful, poignant tale of two people caught in today's too-familiar dangerous circumstances of political upheavals and terrorism, with strangely strong (and at the same time, fragile) ties of love binding them through times of turmoil. The novel is no doubt prescient in today's times of Brexit and Refugee crisis unfolding on the global stage, but what touched me was the narrative of migration, love, familial ties and human condition that news broadcasts and policy wonks seldom have time to ponder.
Go for it, there is no book more timely than this one.
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