“Our eternally impending ending does not put a stop to our transient beginnings and middles until the instant when it does”
Exit West by Mohsin Hamid has been longlisted for the 2017 Man Booker Prize and very deservingly so.
The story begins in an unnamed muslim city which is on the brink of a civil war. The city is swarming with refugees and it is only a matter of time before the city shall become war-torn.
Amidst this chaos, Saeed and Nadia, get attracted to each other and they share some stolen moments. Completely opposite in their respective dispositions, these young people find solace in each other’s presence. Saeed is a religious and conservative man and Nadia is a woman who cannot be dictated and she is her own person.
Soon the terror makes its presence felt and from then on life becomes perilous. Uncertainty grips the entire city and people start leading a trapped existence. Children lose their parents and parents lose their children. People pass their days in fear as well as in mourning.
Hamid’s evocative writing style captures the nuances of human nature even in the face of danger with such beauty and precision that the reader is left awestruck. The story has the elements of magical realism which makes the story even more impactful.
All around the city, black doors appear which can take the person passing through them to another geographical location. These black doors are often guarded by the militants to prevent the people from escaping but these doors keep appearing at different locations so people are still able to escape the city if they try.
It is heartbreaking how sometimes the cruelty of circumstances is such that a person has to cast aside the sense of belonging that connects one to one’s birthplace and also overlook the doubts that seize one when one relocates to another place. These black doors, although, didn’t guarantee a bright future but they did hold a promise of a safer existence and most importantly acted as portals of escape from hell.
Saeed and Nadia escape through these black doors as well but just like their locations, their persons start changing too or maybe their real personalities start emerging as is wont to happen when one faces trying situations. The dynamics of their relationship start changing and they both find themselves subjected to emotions that give way to the feeling of guilt that gnaw at their hearts.
Very compellingly, this story captures the plight of the immigrants, of people who had to flee their motherland to save their lives. The future might be pleasant or then again, it might not be. Life can be very ruthlessly uncertain sometimes.
This book paints a picture that is sad yet true but that also borders on hope. This book captures the very essence of life in the most poignant and indelible way.
A story that shatters you but at the same time gives you the hope that as long as people have life in them, they cannot let go of their will to live.
My Rating – 4/5 stars
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