EXIT WEST -BOOK REVIEW -AUTHOR-MOHSIN HAMID

Exit  West – Book Review -Author Mohsin Hamid

In  our last blog we talked about Ishiguro’s “The Buried Giant ”  where it  was a fabled world, set in a different era  with a very contemporary story  Today, I would like to share with you  another  much reviewed best seller EXIT WEST   by Author Mohsin Hamid  where the story begins at an undisclosed geographical location possibly Middle East ,considering the names of protagonists and the setting .Their  “Geography is destiny” and their life is sad , harsh and transient  .But magical realism  gives the characters   imaginative escapes or exits to a peaceful, picturesque  western world .

Author really needs no introduction as he  writes regularly for the New York Times , the Guardian and the New York Review of Books . He is of Pakistani descent and has lived in New York and   London . I have read his previous two best sellers , The Reluctant Fundamentalist [Short listed for the Man Booker Prize] and Moth Smoke .

“Moth Smoke” was his first work of fiction ,where author analyses the ugly paradoxes of the developing world in which our protagonist begins the process of  self  annihilation ,like a moth to the flame .

In his second novel  “The Reluctant Fundamentalist “ protagonist Changez takes an inward  journey of metamorphosis and reaffirms his decision of relocation to his Native land of Pakistan from the mirage of  abundance and glitz and glamor of America

In his third novel , Exit West , author transitions by exiting to West .

The story “Exit West “ , begins in an unnamed   city    “Teetering at the edge of abyss ” . Impending taking over of the city  by militants is the back drop . Though the residents of the city  are trying to maintain a facade of normalcy but gradually they are being stripped off their rights of being a   human .  Nadia and Saeed , our protagonists , two young people fall in love, in such times .

Nadia though always dresses traditionally “from the tips of her toes to the bottom of her jugular notch, her lifestyle  does not concur with the practices of  her  society .She lives alone ,rides a motorcycle, supports herself and does not pray .Saeed , on the other hand is educated with a” nostalgic temperament” an employed adult, who chose to live with his parents, as is customary in some parts of the world  .  They are like any two regular people who enjoy the digital world , try psychedelic mushrooms and  explore each other

Tragedy struck when Saeed’s mother is killed by a bomb and Nadia and Saeed has no choice but to leave the city with the usual doubts lurking in back that they would be “at the mercy of strangers ,subsistent on hand outs ,caged in prison like vermins ”  .Saeed’s father supports their decision but he himself decides to stay back in the doomed city  with the memories of his wife .

Nadia and Saeed are transported though the magical doors to first a Greek island and then to the streets of London and eventually to San Francisco where they are met by thousands of others like themselves , where they are  never really  allowed to assimilate and each time are thrown away from the mainstream like scum

The ratio of doors opening get  inversely proportional to the tensions mounting in the “Nativists” who reaffirm that refuge seekers were the root cause of all their problems

‘”where the division that mattered now were between those who sought the right of passage and those who would deny them”

Physical survival could not  maintain  Nadia and Saeed’s relationship and Nadia seeks  solace by releasing Saeed and Saeed in prayers .

 

It is a fast paced , tightly edited novel all of two hundred some pages where the climatic pull is enough but  in certain parts of the book when author zooms in and out of some incidents happening in other parts of the world  , readers could feel confounded .

We might call the theme cliché but yet again author surfs through the book in his unique style that the readers have a lot to interact in the psychic space .The scatter from the main story line some  time though disengaging,  never completely disconnects the  readers .

Author is  empathetic and it finds its resonance in its readers .This part of the world has always been that prodigal child,  that rest  of the world does not know how to embrace , that is an  out of bound location, that is so fraught with danger that one would not be able to touch and heal ,that cause where more would always be less .

Author gives a voice to the women of the society by stating that Nadia’s black robes which she did not need to wear even in her own city but she chose to wear till the end is something that  when one wants to send a certain signal , could be any body’s choice trying to defy the universal objectification of female form  and not always an imposition

Patriotism comes forth  when Saeed’s dad refuses to leave the city and wonders if he did go wrong by choosing to be a teacher ,a researcher a fighter  and not head west ward  towards financial security .

We know in our hearts of hearts that humanity is slaughtered in this part of the world  every day but we are happy to be    blinded and fiercely protective of  our  ensconced selves .We prefer to harbor  the idea of sharing and caring  only in theology and never in practice .This pervasiveness of  senseless self preservation just reminds us of the sad times we are in .

Mohsin Ahmad’s books are always a critique’s delight and are extensively taught in writing courses and writing workshops .

Its definitely a reader’s delight and worth reading .

Have a great weekend .

Talk to you all  soon .

 

 

 

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The Buried Giant – Book review- Kazuo Ishiguro

 

I  just finished another of Ishiguro’s  novel  , “The Buried Giant ” and I again get this compelling feeling to share it with you all .

This book was written during the times of King Arthur when author found out that there were historical voids  so that  author could  fill   those voids with his brush of  imagination .

This book is a toil of ten years  and was published in 2015.

I have shared with you his previous bestsellers on my blog and author  Ishiguro needs no introductions . He is a British author of Japanese descent and is the Nobel Prize winner in Literature in 2017

As in his past  books, we embark on another fabled journey but this time   to the ancient world of  post King Arthur’s rule where Britons and Saxons are at a  never ending war. It’s a world of Kings , knights Ogres ,demons  .People still  live and die by swords .

In these times ,our protagonists, Axl and Beatrice , poor farmers, who live in a community and are not being treated very fairly by the other cohabitants of the community,  decide to embark on a journey to meet their son who is a couple of days away from them .

But a bizarre  amnesia has seemed to  engulf the whole area  and they have all forgotten their recent and remote pasts .This amnesia is to such an extent that Axl and Beatrice  do not even remember their son’s face .

So as we  travel through the country side ,the valleys ,through the forests and meet many interesting characters we cannot  help but compare our present day world to the author’s world in the novel.

The Saxon village where Axl and Beatrice reach to counsel  with the lady healer, they find out about the lad Edwin ,who had been rescued by a visiting  Saxon warrior from the Ogres .He has a bite mark which the villagers think is  from an Ogre and that would turn him against his own people .Superstitions, self centeredness takes over the villagers  and they want to kill that  small boy .

The warrior, Wistan, is on a secret mission, who has been chosen by his Saxon King to kill the She Dragon Querig  ,who’s breath is causing the amnesic mist in the area. Sir Gawain , who is the nephew of King Arthur and is a Knight , has been the protector of the She Dragon .As per King’s wishes ,he wanted the mist to prevail so that foes could live as friends and the senseless war could be stopped .

Axl and Beatrice are an old couple in love with each other and profess their love for each other in every possible manner and would not be out of sight from each other even for a second but when they regain their memory after the She Dragon is  killed and mist of amnesia is cleared Axl, remembers that theirs  was  not a perfect marriage and there were clinks in the armor which he needs to overlook to make his marriage going

As with Ishiguro’s novels there is always more than it meets the eyes and we  cannot help but wonder that though we are reading a novel set in the past but we could very much be in a present .We still let illiteracy , superstition ,selfishness  drive us

We  know ,there is no such thing as infinite justice and we all need this mist of “Forget and Forgiveness for a peaceful coexistence    but as in the novel, the strong warrior, Wistan not only kills Gawain but also sows the seeds of hatred ,disharmony ,violence for the next generation through the lad Edwin  so that peace never gets a chance and  War perpetuates.

Author again draws our attention that we need to keep the bigger picture in mind and let our love be the winner and not hate .

It is a full length  novel some times it gets a little repetitive specially the interactions between the old couple and the story looses its emotional pull and pace  at some points but all in all there still  remains lots of questions unanswered during the read , so one would like to finish the book .

The setting of the story also does not change and we again get to  revisit the United Kingdom

Master story teller as Ishiguro is , the  language has its distinct flavor and though we are reading simple English we know we are at a different historical  era.

Mankind is in the era of scientific boom but we have not changed our basic characteristics  and the   themes of  our stories are  ageless ,timeless and generation less . Unless we are ready to Bury the Giant , peace and prosperity would always elude us  .Even when Sir Gawain tried to protect the mist of forgiveness we are still pretty much at the mercy of likes of Wistan who see their emancipation only by vengeance, violence and war and unfortunately they  are still winning