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 Post American World – Book Review – Author Fareed Zakaria

This blog should have been one of my first blogs as the source of inspiration is not the book but the author .But the inertia lasted longer than I expected as fictions had caught my attention lately .

I am not left out with many hours in a day  after my job as a physician and CNN is my constant background companion during my chores at home .On one of these days ,by serendipity , I discovered Fareed Zakaria on Global Public square on  CNN   in 2012 and since then I have not missed out on  a single episode intentionally .

I was simply awestruck by his layman version presentation  of the most complex political issues in Global Public square episodes  . Oblivious of the twitter storms or Facebook comments  his episodes  are anything  but candor , conviction and courage about his world views  .The subjects are truly global . contemporary and well researched

Fareed Zakaria was a bright star since his student days in Yale  and Harvard and is considered one of the best analyst of foreign policy, economics and cultural affairs .

“Global public square” is Emmy nominated and he was  ex editor of  “TIME” .Presently he is columnist at Washington Post and best selling author of “The Post American World ” and “The Future of Freedom” . His last publication was “In Defence of a liberal education “. His books as his episodes are lucid , succinct and purposeful.

The  book we are going to touch upon is “The Post American World  which is  a best seller and was initially published in 2008 . I said touch upon as today the book might seem a bit dated but it is an interesting read as you compare notes in retrospect about the last decade ,its prophecies ,its successes and its failures .The book has many historical anecdotes and reference points which gives an insight about present day affairs .The chapters on India and China  are  an indepth depiction of its then socio political and economic milieu and how these counties are trying to gain back it’s lost glory .

Post American World was published when America was in the midst of a deep economic recession  and the  Unipolar world had  started taking note of the rest of the world including the rising stars , BRICS with China spearheading it .

The Wars in Afghanistan and Iran had left a bad taste in mouth and America still   had an expensive military presence in Middle east  with peace not in sight .Unemployment rate was high in the US and outsourcing was a big woe though it left MNCs with a fair share of profit .Middle and secondary education had gaping holes and higher education was leaving a big dent in the financial future of Americans  .Middle America was the worst hit with  no easy solution in sight .

As per author ,Great Britain was the only historical reference of the past centuries for the US of twentieth century, as far as  economic success story and political supremacy goes .The US with its sheer size ,its strong technological base ,stress on meritocracy and unusual strength in turning abstract theory into practical products [Fareed Zakaria] was always way ahead than its counterparts and had emerged as the uncontested Super power, staunch believer of democratic values with stress on free speech . US was the peacekeeper and moderator who the nations of the world  could rely on .

The book ended on a positive note  in which author was optimistic about this Great nation. As per author, though  US is a worrier and this was the fourth wave of concern since 1945, Zakaria was sure this would pass as American system is flexible , resourceful and resilient and it can correct its course on its way if needed .

And America did emerge from this longest lasting recession .

Author did not touch upon President Obama’s presidency and its after math and we are expectant that there would be another best seller on President Obama and after.

President Obama was elected  during this longest lasting recession and for the next eight years right economic policies were implemented and country did buoy out

But the expectations  of the American people were not met .

And the America that emerged Post Obama  was  almost surreal , unimaginable . Everything that was deplored in the past was becoming the new normal

This was the Post Obama America

America felt that the world has not been fair to it .Alliances, trade deals ,Defence deals  did not mean much to it anymore  .It pulled out of NAFTA .Universal health Care which was so painstakingly put together is being dismantled .Iran deal was unilaterally broken with no rational reasons and allies left in a lurch . Land of immigrants were now hating the immigrants and building a wall to stop them from coming . Fair speech is  now unfair and there is  a new kind of fact called “alternative fact “.People are suffering the “Gun Law” and greed is overpowering the need

America was hit so hard by the recession of 2007 that every thing wrong in the past is right in this post traumatic America  .Moral  bankruptcy is at its peak and  an adversary  country is allowed to  interfere in it’s  elections and may have  funded it’s  elections . Simply unimaginable

Economic recession of the US  is fading away but no one knows what to do with this political and moral  recession !  One does get amnesic when times are good but the next decade would bear the brunt of today’s policies

In his book  ” In Defense of a liberal Education ” he debates the virtues of liberal arts which I was not very convinced to begin with . No doubt technology and skill based education leads to better prospects and quicker results  in life but as we trudge along the trajectory of life ,as mentioned by Zakaria ,we try to find “meaning , fulfillment and happiness “, when  futility of the  transient world looms large on the horizon

World of literature always enticed me from afar but the pull was not strong enough to think about long term goals . I do not know the transition to another career will ever happen or not and I am  till now , pretty much fence sitting, but even the journey this far has been joyous and we know unpredictability is the new norm

Would talk to you all soon