Daily Archives: October 9, 2019

page 96 of 231 of Exit West

Saeed’s father also wishes to remain rather than become a refugee because “Your mother is here”, which she is in a way, but also in time as in she is there in the past, just as her bones are there in the present, and where he will be in the future regardless of his opportunity to leave. Even facing death many people will not leave their home, it takes something extraordinary to force them to leave.

He creates the image of graves built atop the graves of our parents, “the arc of a child’s life only appears for a while to match the arc of a parent’s, in reality one sits atop the other, a hill atop a hill, a curve atop a curve”. He’s not just speaking about the arcs of life, but of death because an arc has two points, a beginning and an end, but it’s only in arc in relation to another arc or straight line.

page 94 of 231 of Exit West

No wonder the lemon tree died, not even plans are eager to be moved. And when Nadia frets about being a refugee and how she’d be at the mercy of strangers, both of these scenes speak to how most people do not want to leave home and become refugees, people just want to survive. Even in the bombed out apartment with trenches dug for toilets, they hang onto home even though home is in the past and maybe in the future

page 93 of 231 of Exit West

Wonderful shift in POV to the cameras of the security force of Dubai as the one family pops out of a doorway into Dubai. Who knows what will happen, but I can see now how this is a story of refugees and how the “suddenly appear”. The TV screen image of the security footage is good too because we’re talking media images of what we see on the news, but from the state’s POV in wanting to get rid of these “invaders”

page 90 of 231 of Exit West

Couldn’t Saeed and Nadia pretend to be brother and sister? Seems like that would be a lot safer? Also are the robots supposed to be drones?

I like hos they are unsure if they are “making a down payment or being robbed”. It’s probably both, but with an emphasis on being robbed.

“Let us hope,” because that is all that’s left, hope in stories, the way someone who is about to die will turn to the bible.

page 86 of 231 of Exit West

The worse the situation gets, the more willing Saeed is to taking risks. As people are executed for being unmarried and having sex, Saeed and Nadia – who are unmarried – do have sex. And the timing is interesting because he chooses this right after the murder upstairs, while the blood is on their ceiling, like the blood stain after having sex the first time, but somehow this loss of virginity hangs above them.

The “bodies hanging from streetlamps and billboard like a form of festive seasonal decoration” is one of those images that, while it isn’t true because this is a work of fiction, is true because it feels true which makes me assume this has happened somewhere in reality. And has it? At what point does a fiction also become a truth? I think of The Painted Bird, that awful book and its truth / fictions of Eastern Europe

page 85 of 231 of Exit West

The violence is handled so matter-of-fact, it comes at the end of a paragraph without (much) warning: “The neighbors upstairs were not so lucky; the husband was held down while his throat was cut, the wife and daughter were hauled out and away.” And that’s it, this is all we know other than the man’s blood staining the ceiling of Saeed’s home. Even the body disappears when they attempt to bury him.

Her sweet Weight on my Heart a Night

Dolce Far Niente, 19th century, Jozef Israëls
Background Image: Dolce Far Niente, 19th century, Jozef Israëls

I love the idea that even dreams have their own reality in that, as Emily believes, they are sent by God which makes them real, in a way. So perhaps that experience we all have when a dream feels so real that we expect it to still be there when we wake up is an experience worth putting more faith in?

Isn’t “Heart a Night” a strange expression? She doesn’t write ‘heart at night’, rather she uses “a”. What I think she might be doing here is playing with how we would scan this phrase. For example, if it was ‘heart at night’ we would read it where the emphasis of each word descends so that ‘heart’ would be highest, ‘at’ would be in the middle, and ‘night’ would rest at the bottom. However, but using “a”, “Night” jumps back up, in fact it almost rises higher than “Heart”. She introduces a surprise, as if she’s been awoken suddenly, perhaps by the dream she’s experienced in this poem and so “Heart a Night” awakens us too with its oddness and makes us sit upright in bed but we are still a little confused in that sleepish state when we re-acclimate to reality.

In fact, this entire first stanza has a quality of an experience that occurred for a very brief moment but then “slipped away”. The speaker was aware of the presence of this “Bride” as if it was real and now sits, perhaps in their bed in the dark in the middle of the night trying to determine if they had experienced a dream, a vision, or something more “solid”.

Emily pushes this sleepish confusion we feel when we are suddenly awake after a dream when she questions if the “Dream” had been real (“made solid”) or, and this is the most fascinating part of the poem, that the dreamer had been dreaming of the speaker. It’s not an unusual experience to wonder if the reality of the universe we experience is just a dream and we are the only real “solid” person, but do we ever consider that we are someone else’s dream, that we are the unreal made real by someone else? That’s a far more disconcerting experience – it’s uncomfortable to even entertain the idea – yet in this sleepish state she is unsure what is real, if she is real, or if reality is real or not. She’s confused and she’s trying to make sense of it.

And her conclusion is fascinating because rather than assume she’d been dreaming and then either go back to sleep or get on with her day while remaining sad what she felt was just a dream, she turns to God and decides that since he “Gave” all things to each of us, that even dream come from God and so, in a way, even dreams are real, they are “A Fiction superseding Faith”. The logic here is quite wonderful because it remains consistent with how we feel when we are still groggy after suddenly waking up from a dream – she’s not following rational logic, she’s able to capture that weird dream logic we feel in the halfway state between sleeping and waking. It’s a remarkable feat she pulls off because how often have we tried to hang onto a dream when we’ve woken up only for it to slip into some recess of our mind that we can’t recover? Emily is able to capture that sensation here, and while her “Bride” may have slipped away, she’s made the “Bride” real as a poem.