Exit West


Mohsin Hamid

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on Exit West can help.

Exit West: Chapter 12 Summary & Analysis

Nadia goes back to her home city for the first time in the “half a century” after she last saw Saeed. “The fires she had witnessed in her youth” have now “burned themselves out,” and she finds herself able to explore the city, which is simultaneously “familiar but also unfamiliar.” As she wends her way through the streets, she’s “informed of the proximity of Saeed, and after standing motionless for a considerable moment she communicate[s] with him, and they [agree] to meet” at a nearby café. As they sit together and talk about their lives, they carefully “highlight and exclude” portions of their respective stories. Fortunately, they’re able to reestablish a “rhythm” with one another, in part because they parted all those years ago on good terms, all things considered.
Hamid doesn’t explain what he means by the fact that Nadia is “informed of the proximity of Saeed,” but the implication is that her phone is somehow capable of signaling to her when he’s nearby. As such, Hamid provides one final form of connection, building upon the idea that technology—with its vast networks and infinite capacity for surveillance—unites humanity. After all these years, Nadia and Saeed once again find themselves communicating in their home city using phones, bringing their story full-circle and harkening back to their initial text-message flirtations.
Love and Connection Theme Icon
“Imagine how different life would be if I had agreed to marry you,” Nadia says. “Imagine how different it would be if I had agreed to have sex with you,” responds Saeed, to which Nadia says, “We were having sex.” After a moment, Saeed smiles and concedes, saying, “Yes I suppose we were.” As they finish their coffees, Nadia asks Saeed if he ever wound up visiting the Chilean deserts to see the dazzling stars. Nodding, he tells her that if she ever has a free evening, he would love to take her because the sight is astoundingly beautiful. Closing her eyes, Nadia says she’d love to do this, and they both stand, hug, and go their separate ways, not knowing whether or not “that evening [will] ever come.” 
The novel's ending ingeniously ties up many of its themes. Nadia's comment about how different things might have been if they got married captures the way that, while the novel focused on Nadia and Saeed's time together, they didn't end up together or the center of each other's lives. The connection they shared was in many ways just like the connections they share with others. The novel's focus on their particular connection showed how important that connection was, but the fact that the novel also shows the connection ends implies that all of their connections were also important, or could have been similarly important, had they made different choices. Meanwhile, the odd moment when Saeed comments that they weren't having sex, and then admits rather easily that they were, is important. Saeed seems to have built for himself a narrative in which he and Nadia followed strict religious rules, and avoided sex before marriage. This narrative fits with Saeed's growing religiousness through the story: it is the narrative he needed in order to be the person he needed himself to be. But now back in his home country where the religious strife has backed down, he can suddenly admit to himself and to Nadia that in fact they were having sex. Now, in this different context, no longer a refugee, Saeed can be a slightly different, less rigid and even less religious version of himself. Finally, when Saeed offers to take Nadia to the Chilean deserts if she ever has a “free evening,” it becomes clear that travel has become so ubiquitous throughout the world that people are able to take casual trips to far-flung destinations, essentially obliterating the idea that migration across borders is something that must be controlled. And when Hamid asserts that neither Saeed nor Nadia know if their trip to the desert together will ever transpire, he once more relates uncertainty and migration, though this time the combination is imbued with a sense of possibility, not fear. At the same time, that these two people, who have had to travel under duress as refugees throughout the novel, can now talk about traveling for leisure, it makes clear that the state of being a refugee is something that comes to an end. While the rest of the world often treats refugees as nothing other than refugees, the novel insists that refugees are, in fact, humans who just happen to have been forced to flee their home.
Love and Connection Theme Icon
Borders, Division, and Fear Theme Icon
Religion Theme Icon
Escape Theme Icon