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‘Exit West,’ by Mohsin Hamid

For all the popularity of Henry James’ characterization of the novel as being “a loose baggy monster,” there are also novels that don’t feel the least bit loose or baggy, but are taut and meticulously shaped. While the government fights rebel militants in the city streets, and despite curfews and mobile-network shutdowns, Saeed and Nadia find ways to date, try hallucinogenic mushrooms and fall in love. Saeed’s father walks past a group of young boys playing soccer, and is reminded of his own childhood love of the game. [...] exit visas have become unattainable; trapped as they are, it’s no surprise that Nadia and Saeed begin heeding rumors about “special” doors that can spirit people out of the country. Left as rumors, magic doors would have served as an elegant metaphor for visas, but these portals also happen to be literal. Hamid barely mentions the son’s guilt and anguish, an elision made all the more moving when the couple pauses at a Mykonos beach to watch the waves, “the water stopping just short of their feet and sinking into the sand, leaving lines in the smoothness like those of expired soap bubbles blown by a parent for a child.” In London, Nadia and Saeed land in a bedroom so opulent that, at first, they think they’re “in a hotel, of the sort seen in films and thick, glossy magazines, with pale woods and cream rugs and white walls and the gleam of metal here and there.” Hamid notes that 50 migrant squatters end up fitting into the vast, plush house; the gulf between such different kinds of luck is implied. In Mykonos, London and Marin, the influx of refugees leads to conflicts that, in our post-Brexit, Trump-era present, seem all too credible: nativists advocating for the slaughter of newcomers, riots, attacks.

Article by By R.O. Kwon (c) Entertainment - Read full story here.