by Moshin Hamid
In the futuristic, magical novel Exit West by Moshin Hamid, Saeed and Nadia meet in an evening class in an unidentified country that is under siege and about to explode into war. Saeed is contemplative and reserved while Nadia is fiercely independent and confident. As their friendship develops, the fighting becomes more violent and begins to inhabit their neighbourhoods. They both anguish over the future of their country and their own fate. Will they survive? What will be left for them if they do?
Hearing of doors that will take them to other, safer places, Saeed and Nadia make the decision to leave and find a nonviolent home. This step through the door leads them to a refugee camp on the Greek island of Mykonos, where they struggle to belong, to survive, and to get news of the country they have left behind. As they adjust to their new location, they are held together by the effort it takes to find housing, work, and food.
As they move through doors to other countries the reader moves with them and learns that the refugees are everywhere worldwide. These doors allow the world’s citizens to move from one refugee camp/city/country to another – but they come with a price. For Saeed and Nadia, the price is a loss of the closeness they once had to each other, as through them we live the refugee experience, reading how each of them learns to cope in each new situation, each of them seeking something to belong to, and something to tie them to their past.
This novel takes place in the future– or does it? Hamid’s poetic narrative gives the reader an insight into the refugee experience, and provides food for thought on current approaches to refugees.
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