Every once in a while, an novel comes along that is so timely, so visionary, so essential to the moment it is published in that it is almost as if the author who wrote it could foresee the future. Right now, that book is Moshin Hamid's Exit West, and its author has enough words of wisdom to inspire us all to keep speaking up, keep resisting, and keep going, no matter what the current administration throws at us. If you want to know what I mean, these quotes from Mohsin Hamid will help you survive the next Trump tactic. If anyone has the road map to our future, it's this inspirational and prophetic writer.
The Pakistani author of three other novels and a book of essays, Mohsin Hamid is a truly gifted writer with the uncanny ability to use fiction to not mere entertain and educate readers, but reach into their souls and touch the most tender parts of their humanity. His latest novel, Exit West, is a timely and crucial work of impeccable fiction that perfectly captures the moment it was published in: raw, terrifying, and yet strangely optimistic.
A powerful novel that speaks directly to the realities of the current global refugee crisis, it follows the magical and captivating love story of Naida and Saeed, two young people caught up in the middle of impending civil war who will do whatever it takes to find a place to call home. Relevant and illuminating, Exit West will help you not only understand and empathize with the realities of what we see played out on the news every night, but inspire you to take action.
From breathtaking book passages to insightful interviews, here are nine Mohsin Hamid quotes that will inspire you to keep resisting:
“I hope as I get older my ability to master fear will increase, but even the mastery is transient. Mastering fear is not something you figure out once and then you’re good for. It’s something that happens on an ongoing basis. So, writing and coming up with these stories is the attempt in the moment, and hopefully along the way one does learn, and is able to be comfortable and less frightened.”
“Fiction can allow us to have an emotional read of the situation in a way that we find difficult when we’re discussing things logically. We talk about our feelings about migrants and we’re talking about the tribal, political affiliation. And fiction can get around that in an emotional sense, but perhaps even more significantly, in this moment, it’s very important for us to imagine new futures. We are surrounded by nostalgic political visions— ‘Make America Great Again’ and ‘Go back to the Caliphate of the Eighth Century.’ Brexit in the EU… And we can’t go back. And things perhaps weren’t as good as we thought they were. So, if we’re going to resist this nostalgic political bigotry and xenophobia, we have to start imagining a future that is actually optimistic and exciting to us, and fiction can do that because fiction is not constrained by what is and what was. It imagines what could be. And that’s hugely important. We talked about the migrant crisis, but it’s also the migrant opportunity. A new kind of world can come into existence in the next one or two centuries, which might be magnificent. With all kinds of people coming together—new music, new food, new art, new economics. We have to be open to those possibilities and not simply clinging to the past.”
"When he prayed he touched his parents, who could not otherwise be touched, and he touched a feeling that we are all children who lose our parents, all of us, every man and woman and boy and girl, and we too will all be lost by those who came after us and love us, and this loss unites humanity, unites every human being."
— Exit West
4“I understand that people are afraid of migrants. If you’re in a wealthy country, it’s understandable that you might fear the arrival of lots of people from far away. But that fear is like racism: it’s understandable, but it needs to be countered, diminished, resisted. People are going to move in vast numbers in the coming decades and centuries. Sea levels will rise, weather patterns will change, and billions will move. We need to figure out how to build a vision for this coming reality that isn’t a disaster, that is humane and even inspiring. Part of the political paralysis we see from America to Europe stems from a desire to pretend mass movement isn’t coming. But mass movement is the history of our species and it is the likely future of our species.”
“Saeed and Nadia knew what the buildup to conflict felt like, and so the feeling that hung over London was not new to them, and they faced it not with bravery, exactly, and not with panic either, not mostly, but instead with a resignation shot through with moments of tension, with tension ebbing and flowing, and when the tension receded there was calm, the calm that is called the calm before the storm, but is in reality the foundation of a human life, waiting there for us between the steps of our march to our mortality, when we are compelled to pause and not act but be.”
— Exit West
“And so I wanted to say, “What if the migration apocalypse occurs and it isn’t an apocalypse at all?” Maybe we will still find ways to be happy and for our children and grandchildren to thrive and the world to move on. I guess the world in the novel is one that I wanted to put forward, not as the likeliest outcome, but as a way to say, maybe the thing we’re so terrified of isn’t as terrifying as we think.”
7“We think about the saga to get to a place, but often that’s just a tiny part of the story, even though it gets so much of our attention. The bigger part of the story is what happens before you move, and what happens when you get to the place you think you’re going to. The few days or weeks of perilous transit — although it seems like a great story, the stuff of great narratives — actually isn’t really the experience. The real experience starts when you arrive.”
“The reason why we have storytelling is because we don't want to be bound by what was and what is. We have to imagine what could be… I think what storytellers could do is begin to imagine new ways of being and new places we can all go to.”
— Late Night with Seth Meyers