What does it mean to be a nation?

In Exit West Mohsin Hamid explores what it means to be a nation. The traditional way of defining a nation is a large body of people united by common descent, history, culture, or language, inhabiting a particular country or territory. In Exit West, nations seemingly disappear as migration to other parts of the world becomes unstoppable. Landmasses that used to have national identity see that identity rapidly disappear. “Their grandparents had been born on the strip of land that stretched from the mid-northern-Pacific to the mid-northern-atlantic.” Instead of saying America, or the United States, people describe the region in terms of its general geographical location, implying that the United States no longer exists in the form the Nation used to have. Its history, ideas, and culture evaporated as people from the entire world came to occupy the area. Though the existence of personal national identity still exists, as evidenced by Saeed’s longing to join the community in London that comes from his home country, nations within land masses no longer exist.

Bill Murray: Sisyphus, But Better

Groundhog Day, easily one of the greatest movies of all time, stars Bill Murray, also one of the greatest people of all time, in a modern take on the ancient myth of Sisyphus.

In Groundhog day, Bill Murray finds himself in a mystical time loop that has forced him to relive the same day over and over again.

At first, Murray is confused, but upon realizing his situation, he begins living his days as if there was no tomorrow, because there wasn’t. He does all the things most of us would do if we knew our actions didn’t have consequences: punch salesmen, drive trucks into quarries, endanger the lives of others, classic stuff.

Murray, like Sisyphus, probably doesn’t find his magical predicament very enjoyable at first. Murray tries to kill himself a number of times, only to find that he cannot escape the time loop.

But through acceptance of his situation, Murray, like Sisyphus, becomes powerful. “I’m a god”, as Murray puts it.

After acceptance of his situation, Murray finds purpose in the life presented to him, and tries to become a better person in order to help others. According to google, Bill Murray’s character spent about 33 years trapped inside of the time loop, practically an eternity to the average person. If Camus is right about Sisyphus, it might be that an eternity in groundhog day wouldn’t have been that bad.

Apathetic people: the worst humans

The most clear thing throughout part 1 of “The Stranger” is the total apathy that Meursault feels towards just about everything. The author has gone to considerable lengths to make this fact abundantly clear.

The first paragraph of the story is written with the almost explicit purpose of shoving in the readers face that the death of Meursault’s mother “doesn’t mean anything” to him. No emotion. No reflection. Nothing but an itinerary for his next two days.

It isn’t that the narrator chooses not to document his emotions, he feels nothing, and shows nothing. When informing his boss that he would be taking the days off, his boss reacts negatively, and Meursault notes that the boss would regret not offering his condolences “day after tomorrow, when he sees I’m in mourning,” implying that Meursault is not currently mourning the death of his own mother.

When Raymond describes his abuse of his mistress, Meursault makes his feelings obvious “I didn’t think anything but that it was interesting.”

Meursault’s apathy may be rooted in a screw loose somewhere in his mind, or, more likely, comes from a lack of purpose or meaning to his life. Meursault has no goals, no god, nothing he loves or cares for. Meursault lives for nothing, and may as well not be living at all.