I guess 2017 has been the year where books have been brutally honest against the vices of the world. If not directly, however implicitly through fiction and ambiguity, there have been books that actually make you stop and think.
Exist West by Mohsin Hamid is this story of two lovers stuck in the cross fire of the battlefield between the self righteous and the fanatics of their homeland, and without mentioning the country it leaves no doubt in my mind where he was pointing- the refugee crisis in Syria. Sure he had to mix in desire and lust, fear and loss, for you need something to a story to make it sell. But despite me wanting him to go a little less commercial and more creatively honest, he did a great job.
The story begins when the “unnamed country” is at the edge of chaos and riot, between the government and the rebels, where Nadia and Saeed meet at their local class. They meet some more, have coffee, talk, and finally like peeling off layers of an onion, reveal their flaws and insecurities, and fall in love. However, by then the political and economical circumstances have gone from worse to horrible, as one by one their jobs stop paying, simple groceries like vegetables and canned food is precious than gold, and drones strike occur like rain during monsoon. One by one they lose their loved one, take chances on people when deceit is high and escape through the “hidden doors”.
“… abandoning the city to the predations of warriors on both sides who seemed content to flatten it in order to possess it.”
The doors appear in random places that can lead people to countries where things are better. Though some have restricted entry there are other countries that still allow people to come in. They escape to Mykonos and then to UK. Their entire journey is reflected with the struggles, the anguish, the homelessness, and affinity for one’s past that comes along with migrating by will or by force.
The end was bitter sweet for the entire story wasn’t a fairytale with a happy ending. Mohsin Hamid, throws the horrific details of every trouble and hardship the refugee crisis brought on the people who had no stake in a war that isn’t their’s or ending soon. Nonetheless, at it’s very heart the story is stuck between time before and time after, where the characters wish that the time in between just never happened.
By far one of the most amazing books written by Mohsin Hamid.
So back to the basics:
- Rating: 4.5/5.0
- Favorite quote: ““… but that is the way of things, for when we migrate, we murder from our lives those we leave behind”
- Reader level: medium.
- Should you read: of course you should.
- Would I read it again: Karma is too real to not keep one’s feet on the ground and fly high. This should be read for perspective.
Till next time,