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Exit West
     

Exit West

by Mohsin Hamid
 

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From the internationally bestselling author of The Reluctant Fundamentalist, an astonishingly timely love story that brilliantly imagines the forces that transform ordinary people into refugees — and the impossible choices that follow — as they’re driven from their homes to the uncertain embrace of new lands.

Named one of the most

Overview

From the internationally bestselling author of The Reluctant Fundamentalist, an astonishingly timely love story that brilliantly imagines the forces that transform ordinary people into refugees — and the impossible choices that follow — as they’re driven from their homes to the uncertain embrace of new lands.

Named one of the most anticipated books of 2017 by Time Magazine, the New York Times, Washington Post, The Boston Globe and The Huffington Post

In a country teetering on the brink of civil war, two young people meet—sensual, fiercely independent Nadia and gentle, restrained Saeed. They embark on a furtive love affair, and are soon cloistered in a premature intimacy by the unrest roiling their city. When it explodes, turning familiar streets into a patchwork of checkpoints and bomb blasts, they begin to hear whispers about doors—doors that can whisk people far away, if perilously and for a price. As the violence escalates, Nadia and Saeed decide that they no longer have a choice. Leaving their homeland and their old lives behind, they find a door and step through. . . .

Exit West follows these remarkable characters as they emerge into an alien and uncertain future, struggling to hold on to each other, to their past, to the very sense of who they are. Profoundly intimate and powerfully inventive, it tells an unforgettable story of love, loyalty, and courage that is both completely of our time and for all time.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
01/02/2017
Hamid’s (The Reluctant Fundamentalist, How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia) trim yet poignant fourth novel addresses similar themes as his previous work and presents a unique perspective on the global refugee crisis. In an unidentified country, young Saeed and burqa-wearing Nadia flee their home after Saeed’s mother is killed by a stray bullet and their city turns increasingly dangerous due to worsening violent clashes between the government and guerillas. The couple joins other migrants traveling to safer havens via carefully guarded doors. Through one door, they wind up in a crowded camp on the Greek Island of Mykonos. Through another, they secure a private room in an abandoned London mansion populated mostly by displaced Nigerians. A third door takes them to California’s Marin County. In each location, their relationship is by turns strengthened and tested by their struggle to find food, adequate shelter, and a sense of belonging among emigrant communities. Hamid’s storytelling is stripped down, and the book’s sweeping allegory is timely and resonant. Of particular importance is the contrast between the migrants’ tenuous daily reality and that of the privileged second- or third-generation native population who’d prefer their new alien neighbors to simply disappear. Agent: Jay Mandel, WME Entertainment. (Mar.)
From the Publisher
“It was as if Hamid knew what was going to happen to America and the world, and gave us a road map to our future… This book blew the top off my head. It’s at once terrifying and, in the end, oddly hopeful.” –Ayelet Waldman, New York Times Book Review

“Eerily prescient.” –Joyce Carol Oates, The New Yorker.com

“The book’s 230 pages pack in romance, survival and an incredible portrait of the human experience.” –amNewYork

“Hamid’s timely and spare new novel confronts the inevitability of mass global immigration, the unbroken cycle of violence and the indomitable human will to connect and love.” —Huffington Post

“You identify with the struggles and sorrows of the migrants; you understand, at least a little bit, the conditions that refugees are trying to escape. Most powerfully, we are encouraged to imagine the characters’ painful choices—why they might subject their families to incredibly risky boat voyages, and why they might leave other family members behind to die...If refugees are murderers, their crimes are generally based on impossible decisions about family, love, and memory—crimes that are very, very different from what Trump would want you to believe.” –BookForum 

"Powerfully evokes the violence and anxiety of lives lived ‘under the drone-crossed sky.’” —Time Magazine

 “Exit West operates on another plane… With its surprisingly poignant use of magic realism, the novel is beautiful and poetic even at its most devastating.” –Book Riot

“Raw, poetic, and frighteningly prescient.” —BBC.com

"Spellbinding." —Booklist (starred) 

“Timely and resonant.” —Publisher's Weekly, Top 10 Most-Anticipated Literary Fiction of 2017

"One of the most bittersweet love stories in modern memory...a book to savor." —Kirkus Reviews

"[H]eartbreakingly relevant." —Library Journal

Praise for How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia:

“Hamid reaffirms his place as one of his generation’s most inventive and gifted writers.” —Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

“This tale of an unscrupulous striver may bring to mind a globalized version of The Great Gatsby. Given the unabashed gimmickry of Hamid’s how-to design, it’s a pleasant surprise to find that his book is nearly that good.” —Alan Cheuse, NPR

Library Journal
★ 02/01/2017
"We are all migrants through time," observes Man Booker Prize short-lister Hamid (The Reluctant Fundamentalist). The impulses driving such a movement, especially when rooted in violent conflict, is at the core of Hamid's exceptional fourth novel. In an unnamed city (not unlike the author's native Lahore, Pakistan), Saeed and Nadia meet, find love, and expect to share a future, but a militant takeover forces them to flee their homeland. Hamid reveals their tenuous journey from a dreamlike distance that perfectly blends reality with fablelike parable. For example, escape happens through "doors" only accessible via the right contact at the right price. While focusing the narrative spotlight on his lovers-on-the-run, Hamid regularly interrupts the couple's peregrinations with snapshot interludes—a potential murder in Tokyo, a woman threatened in Vienna, an aging grandmother in Palo Alto—that serve as reminders that life (and death) continues for everyone else, everywhere else, every which way. Both mellifluous and jarring, this novel is a profound meditation on the unpredictable temporality of human existence and the immeasurable cost of widespread enmity. VERDICT Libraries would do well to acquire this and all of Hamid's extraordinary titles. [See Prepub Alert, 9/12/16.]—Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon, Washington, DC
Kirkus Reviews
★ 2016-12-06
Hamid (Discontent and Its Civilizations, 2014, etc.) crafts a richly imaginative tale of love and loss in the ashes of civil war. The country—well, it doesn't much matter, one of any number that are riven by sectarian violence, by militias and fundamentalists and repressive government troops. It's a place where a ponytailed spice merchant might vanish only to be found headless, decapitated "nape-first with a serrated knife to enhance discomfort." Against this background, Nadia and Saeed don't stand much of a chance; she wears a burka but only "so men don't fuck with me," but otherwise the two young lovers don't do a lot to try to blend in, spending their days ingesting "shrooms" and smoking a little ganga to get away from the explosions and screams, listening to records that the militants have forbidden, trying to be as unnoticeable as possible, Saeed crouching in terror at the "flying robots high above in the darkening sky." Fortunately, there's a way out: some portal, both literal and fantastic, that the militants haven't yet discovered and that, for a price, leads outside the embattled city to the West. "When we migrate," writes Hamid, "we murder from our lives those we leave behind." True, and Saeed and Nadia murder a bit of themselves in fleeing, too, making new homes in London and then San Francisco while shed of their old, innocent selves and now locked in descending unhappiness, sharing a bed without touching, just two among countless nameless and faceless refugees in an uncaring new world. Saeed and Nadia understand what would happen if millions of people suddenly turned up in their country, fleeing a war far away. That doesn't really make things better, though. Unable to protect each other, fearful but resolute, their lives turn in unexpected ways in this new world. One of the most bittersweet love stories in modern memory and a book to savor even while despairing of its truths.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780735212176
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
03/07/2017
Pages:
240
Sales rank:
197,847
Product dimensions:
5.81(w) x 8.56(h) x 0.82(d)

Read an Excerpt

Nadia had long been, and would afterwards continue to be, more comfortable with all varieties of movement in her life than was Saeed, in whom the impulse of nostalgia was stronger, perhaps because his childhood had been more idyllic, or perhaps because this was simply his temperament. Both of them, though, whatever their misgivings, had no doubt that they would leave if given the chance. And so neither expected, when a handwritten note from the agent arrived, pushed under their apartment door one morning and telling them precisely where to be at precisely what time the following afternoon, that Saeed’s father would say, “You two must go, but I will not come.”

Saeed and Nadia said this was impossible, and explained, in case of misunderstanding, that there was no problem, that they had paid the agent for three passages and would all be leaving together, and Saeed’s father heard them out but would not be budged: they, he repeated, had to go, and he had to stay. Saeed threatened to carry his father over his shoulder if he needed to, and he had never spoken to his father in this way, and his father took him aside, for he could see the pain he was causing his son, and when Saeed asked why his father was doing this, what could possibly make him want to stay, Saeed’s father said, “Your mother is here.”

Saeed said, “Mother is gone.”

His father said, “Not for me.”

And this was true in a way, Saeed’s mother was not gone for Saeed’s father to leave the place where he had spent a life with her, difficult not to be able to visit her grave each day, and he did not wish to do this, he preferred to abide, in a sense, in the past, for the past offered more to him.

But Saeed’s father was thinking also of the future, even though he did not say this to Saeed, for he feared that if he said this to his son that his son might not go, and he knew above all else that his son must go, and what he did not say was that he had come to that point in a parent’s life when, if a flood arrives, one knows one must let go of one’s child, contrary to all the instincts one had when one was younger, because holding on can no longer offer the child protection, it can only pull the child down, and threaten them with drowning, for the child is now stronger than the parent, and the circumstances are such that the utmost of strength is required, and the arc of a child’s life only appears for a while to match the arc of a parent’s, in reality one sits atop the other, a hill atop a hill, a curve atop a curve, and Saeed’s father’s arc now needed to curve lower, while his son’s still curved higher, for with an old man hampering them these two young people were simply less likely to survive.

Saeed’s father told his son he loved him and said that Saeed must not disobey him in this, that he had not believed in commanding his son but in this moment was doing so, that only death awaited Saeed and Nadia in this city, and that one day when things were better Saeed would come back to him, and both men knew as this was said that it would not happen, that Saeed would not be able to return while his father still lived, and indeed as it transpired Saeed would not, after this night that was just beginning, spend another night with his father again.

Saeed’s father then summoned Nadia into his room and spoke to her without Saeed and said that he was entrusting her with his son’s life, and she, whom he called daughter, must, like a daughter, not fail him, whom she called father, and she must see Saeed through to safety, and he hoped she would one day marry his son and be called mother by his grandchildren, but this was up to them to decide, and all he asked was that she remain by Saeed’s side until Saeed was out of danger, and he asked her to promise this to him, and she said she would promise only if Saeed’s father came with them, and he said again that he could not, but that they must go, he said it softly, like a prayer, and she sat there with him in silence and the minutes passed, and in the end she promised, and it was an easy promise to make because she had at that time no thoughts of leaving Saeed, but it was also a difficult one because in making it she felt she was abandoning the old man, and even if he did have his siblings and his cousins, and might now go live with them or have them come live with him, they could not protect him as Saeed and Nadia could, and so by making the promise he demanded she make she was in a sense killing him, but that is the way of things, for when we migrate, we murder from our lives those we leave behind.

Meet the Author

Mohsin Hamid is the internationally bestselling author of Moth SmokeThe Reluctant FundamentalistHow to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia, Discontent and its Civilizations, and Exit West, coming in March 2017. His award-winning novels have been adapted for the cinema, shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, and translated into more than thirty languages. His essays and short stories have appeared in The New York TimesThe Washington Post, and The New Yorker, among many other publications. Hamid now resides in Lahore, his birthplace, after living for a number of years in New York and London.

Brief Biography

Hometown:
London, U.K.
Date of Birth:
1971
Place of Birth:
Lahore, Pakistan
Education:
A.B., Princeton University, 1993; J.D., Harvard Law School, 1997
Website:
http://www.mohsinhamid.com