Comments from the judges
Exit West, Mohsin Hamid’s haunting fourth novel, is a deeply humane account of civil war mayhem in an unnamed Eastern city, of ubiquitous migration, ‘We are all migrants through time’ and nativist backlashes. A largely realistic depiction of apocalyptic things to come, skilfully interwoven with the moving story of Nadia’s and Saeed’s love, resilience and ultimate estrangement, it also employs, to stunning effect, techniques of magic realism. Secret doors are portals for Nadia’s and Saeed’s exit to the West, first to Mykonos, then to London and finally to California, enabling the author to concentrate on departure and arrival rather than on the physical routes taken. Hamid’s powerful language ‘We murder from our minds those we leave behind’ and his profound empathy with the predicament of refugees the world over combine to create a highly personalised but universally applicable drama of deracination.
About the book
Nadia and Saeed are two ordinary young people, attempting to do an extraordinary thing – to fall in love – in a world turned upside down. Theirs will be a love story but also a story about how we live now and how we might live tomorrow, of a world in crisis and two human beings travelling through it.
Civil war has come to the city which Nadia and Saeed call home. Before long they will need to leave their motherland behind – when the streets are no longer useable and the unknown is safer than the known. They will join the great outpouring of people fleeing a collapsing city, hoping against hope, looking for their place in the world . . .
About the author
Mohsin Hamid writes regularly for The New York Times, the Guardian and the New York Review of Books, and is the author of The Reluctant Fundamentalist, Moth Smoke, How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia and Discontent and its Civilisations. Born and mostly raised in Lahore, he has since lived between Lahore, London and New York.
In a country teetering on the brink of civil ward, two young people, Nadia and Saeed meet. They embark on a secret love affair amidst the swirling unrest of their city. As the violence escalates, they decide they have no choice but to emigrate. Hiring a smuggler, they find a door and step through leaving their old lives and all that is familiar to them. Exit West follows these characters as they emerge into an alien and uncertain future. It takes a look at the refugee experience: the rationale for people fleeing their countries of origin and how they can be overwhelmed by the circumstances they encounter. This is a love story woven around a very current and emotional subject matter.
A unique blending of genres and styles that leaves the reader breathlessly enthralled in the arc of the story. Readers are challenged to absorb the complexities of migrants’ lives as they desperately seek to establish their lives in foreign soil. Hamid’s fantastic writing style is evident throughout. High circulation among patrons, critical acclaim, and a library staff favourite.
In Exit West, Mohsin Hamid has written an urgent and necessary work that brilliantly accomplishes what fiction aims to do: catapult its readers into the hearts and minds of fellow human beings caught up in events and experiences that may be far from their own. In powerful language that contains elements of realism and of fable, Hamid conveys the enormity of the confusion and loss experienced by those caught on either side of his metaphorical portal to the West.
Hamid writes about the convulsive changes overtaking the world, as tradition and modernity clash headlong, and as refugees –fleeing war or poverty or hopelessness-try to make their way to safer ground. He is less interested in the physical hardships faced by refugees in their crossings that in the psychology of exile and the haunting cost of loss and dislocation. And his vision is ultimately more hopeful that not.
In an unnamed city plagued by increasingly violent military attacks, Exit West immerses the reader into the spontaneous, volatile world of Nadia and Saeed – love torn millennials who bond together to survive the terror of a cultural war and its familiar reality that we cannot ignore. With bursts of Magic Realism, and thanks to Hamid’s ingenious and picturesque writing style, this novel propels us into multifaceted, precarious settings that are familiar, sometimes frightening, at times hopeful, and always thrilling. This page turner encourages us to think about world affairs tantalized by the hopeful young love of Nadia and Saeed.
A story of two lovers which also shines a very timely light upon the refugee crisis that has impacted so many countries.
Two young adults, Saeed and Nadia, live in an unnamed country in the east, where political repression turns to executions. The two young lovers have heard of a mysterious door to freedom, and they take the dangerous leap. They first land on a Greek island with other refugees, then go through other doors to the west. They are free from terror, but not free from feeling displaced – from their home country and culture, and from their beloved families and friends.
This is a beautifully crafted story about love: love of home, love of family, and an unsentimental romantic love story as well. Its magic lies in the visceral description of the pain associated with immigration while carrying us along inside a fable.
Two young students, Nassim and Saeed fall in love in an unnamed city under siege. Desperate to escape, they leave behind their families and slip through a magical ‘door’ to another country. They are certain that as refugees, they have left all strife behind them but begin to realize how much they have brought with them. A profound observation on the refugee experience.