Exist West: An Immigrants Traveler’s Guide

Exist West is a tale featuring two people who are trying to survive in a world outside of their own. In the beginning, their city is under control by a corrupt government and war is about to commence. Tensions is spread throughout the city as people begin to move out due to fear that they might die. This is the time when we’re introduced to Saeed and Nadia, our two main characters of the book. When Saeed and Nadia meet for the first time, Saeed asks Nadia if she wants to go on a date with him. She eventually says yes after declining him a couple times. They both loved it and Nadia began to grow a liking to Saeed. After her date, Saeed and Nadia formed into a relationship and that’s when the story begins to take off and grow more intense.

From their time dating in the city we begin to see some character development, get a taste what kind of person Saeed and Nadia were. Saeed was a man led by faith and religious morals. Not to mention that he was very caring and worried for the protection of Nadia who, at the time, was living by herself. Nadia was seen to be very cautious with men around her and preferred to live on her own. She even said that she wore her “all-concealing black robe” so “men don’t f*** with [her]” (16-17).

After Saeed’s mother’s death, Saeed and Nadia decide to leave their country. This was because of the continuous deaths that went on and the new harsh rules that were enacted. Saeed’s father forced them to leave while he stayed. After failing on multiple attempts to bring the father with them, Saeed and Nadia left him behind and went through a magical door that transported them to the country of Greece. That’s where their new life began.

Ornos
By Jerry Artis

One could say that this book serves as a immigrant travel guide and the process and hardships that immigrants have to face when entering a new country. When Nadia and Saeed entered through the door, it was like they were leaving their old lives behind and receiving new ones, symbolizing that in some scenarios you have to forget who you are and become reborn to get where you want to get in life. We not only see this in immigrants but also in people native to the land. Celebrities have sometimes had to do not so good things to get become famous. Political leaders have had to make bad choices that they knew would hurt just to keep themselves in power. Based on certain situations a person can be split into two. One that’s naturally them and the other, their fake persona.

Saeed and Nadia obtain new lives, living among others just like them. When time was longing and resources were depleting, both of them went into town seeking aid. Nadia was able to get help along with being able to find a way to escape their current location, Mykonos. Saeed and Nadia then agree to leave their new home and travel through the new doorway. Leaving their new lives behind again, the two arrive in London in hopes for a better life compared to the previous two.

They’re journey to a better life give us a type of representation of what it’s like in the shoes of an immigrant. The continuous journey of traveling, encountering officers, potential burglars, and other dangerous people along the way. The book is telling and showing us how hard an immigrants life is when they just want to be happy and live a good life.

Nadia and Saeed, the Answer to Existentialism

Starting this novel, I believed Exit West would connect to the theme of existentialism in the same way that The Stranger or the movie Trust did. However, this novel proved to do the exact opposite; by providing a way to cope with and get through a difficult situation that completely defies the cornerstones of existentialism. At first, their relationship is simply a distraction from their everyday lives, the author makes a point of stating that this is before the violence, danger, and peril that they would soon flee becomes prevalent. While describing Saeed and Nadia’s first introduction, the author foreshadows this terror that would soon make their relationship much more than just a fun, playful, distraction, “Saeed spoke to Nadia for the first time. Their city had yet to experience any major fighting, just some shootings and the odd car bombing…” He goes on to list more detailed and graphic examples of the lack of stability that would soon become commonplace in Nadia and Saeed’s worlds.

Contrasting this with the actions of Meursault in The Stranger, it is clear that Meursault does not have the same desire for human connection that Nadia and Saeed do. Saeed and Meursault both find themselves attracted to women, however Saeed is interested in more than just the physical beauty of the opposite sex, but Nadia’s interests, intellect, and overall character, in a way that Meursault is not. While working, Saeed is unable to stop thinking about Nadia, this is something that is almost laughable to picture Meursault relying on another person for happiness, or even using someone else as an outlet during a moment of struggle. Throughout Exit West, the relationship between Nadia and Saeed gets more serious, while the condition of their home does the same. The bond between Nadia and Saeed is as close as family, as Nadia is comfortable referring to Saeed’s dad as “father”, and they connect through prayer, another outlet to calm their mental state through the great trauma they have experienced.

While I have not yet finished the novel, the relationship between Nadia and Saeed has been everything but negative. They rely on each other for support, love, and sex, which is not only passionate but another outlet for them to forget the danger around them. Comparing this to The Stranger, Meursault was going through struggles that were far less serious or life threatening, however Meursault ends up struggling far more. He has nothing in his life that he finds fulfilling or is passionate about. While he is not unable of having connections with others, he does not find much value in them, and does not allow his deepest emotions to be shared with anyone. Exit West represents how an emotional connection with someone that understands your situation can be uplifting, and a source of purpose in a dark and sometimes unfulfilling world. The necessity of human connection through times of struggle is echoed in Trust, as the two main characters, the girl struggling with an unwanted pregnancy, and Matthew, the Existentialist who cannot find something to fulfill him and resorts to violence and alcohol, come together and find each other as a way to cope with the outside world.

The vexing and perplexing writing style of Exit West.

I remember a week or so ago we were discussing the first chapter of the book. while discussing the chapter one of my fellow classmates said that he was dissapointed on how it wasn’t “Richly written”. I am reminded of this by pages 109 to 111 in the book in witch to entire pages worth of text is comprised of a sentence. A sentence. One. A sentence that should be at absolute most, two lines. The only logical conclusion I can extraplilate from this is that the student in question wished that the book would become more “Richly written” on a monkey’s paw.

Now you may say that their is nothing wrong with sentences of that length. However, for me at least, I have extreme difficulty reading and engaging with a book like that. Not only that, it makes it hard for me to care about the book. This makes it hard for me and a suspect other students to submerge ourselves in this world. The book won’t let its details be fondled.

This alone would make the book frustrating to read, but their is something that makes it worse. Its plot is flimsy at best and mediocer at worst. It just about the typical two love birds setup along with one of the most hamfisted and lazy atemps at magical realism for the refugee crisis. Not only that but their are glimpses of more interesting stories sprinkled throughout the book, from the old man in San Diego to the Women in Australia. Originally this brought me hope that we would revisit them at some point. But alas, that idea would prove too intresting for this book.

Exit West: A Deep Dive

Exit West is a very intriguing book because of everything from its plot, to the magical doors, to the unique writing style, to the message that it is conveying. Today, I wanted to take the time to analyze one specific line from the novel to do a deeper analysis.

My favorite line that we have read so far is, “The dead neighbor bled through a crack in the floor, his blood appearing as a stain in the high corner of Saeed’s sitting room, and Saeed and Nadia, who had heard the family’s screams, went up to collect and bury him, as soon as they dared, but his body was gone, presumably taken by his executioners, and the blood was already fairly dry, a patch like a painted puddle in his apartment, an uneven trail on the stairs,” (85).

First, I want to analyze the syntax of this passage. This whole passage is just one sentence, which is something that is quite prevalent throughout the novel, but its use here is especially interesting. Most of the time, when Hamid uses these types of long sentences, he is referring to the experiences of the main characters to make them even more real. However, he uses this technique here to describe the aftermath of a tragedy that happened to the upstairs neighbor. I believe that he uses this tactic to not only force the reader to feel the emotions with the characters, but to breathe reality into this situation. The long sentence conveys a sense of hopelessness. Not only that, but it also conveys the urgency of this world because as soon as they witness it, the main characters are not only forced to accept it but also forget about it very quickly. Within the span of one sentence.

Another significant aspect of this sentence is its foreshadowing. Not long after this sentence, Nadia and Saeed get the opportunity to go through one of the famous doors that so many immigrants were forced to go through as their last option. I believe that the imagery of blood in this passage conveys something more. The wet blood seems to represent their current, terrible situation in this city that is overtaken by militants. The dry blood seems that it might be what they have to leave behind, and their past once they leave. When Saeed and Nadia leave, they’re forced to leave Saeed’s father behind, like the trail of blood. They lead a better life but have to leave things behind. The dried blood might represent the past, in that it is over now, but still lingers.