by Mohsin Hamid
I don’t know what to say about this. It wasn’t my kind of book. It went from horrifying to sad.
Addendum: I was coming down with Headache the night I wrote this and gave it short shrift. I could at least illustrate my commentary with representative quotes.
It started as horrifying: Saeed and Nadia are living in an unnamed nation being taken over by “militants.” Regarding how life can seem to go on in a normal, mundane way even when your nation is collapsing: “[O]ur eternally impending ending does not put a stop to our transient beginnings & middles until the instant when it does.”
[This was particularly depressing to me in light of a piece I read a few weeks ago arguing that we are already living in a failed nation. Lots of aspects of life may seem to be going on as normal, but that’s normal even in a failed nation. The piece was allegedly written by someone from Sri Lanka, where they had a civil war.]
And after the two of them escape, we go from the horror to the sad, as we get to read about the decline of their relationship: “…not unlike a couple that was long and unhappily married, a couple that made out of opportunities for joy, misery.” Ugh.
And: “[O]nce begun such cycles are difficult to break, in fact the opposite, as if each makes the threshold for irritation next time a bit lower, as is the case with certain allergies.” Ugh.
And finally, “…tension ebbing & flowing, & 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.”