One morning, Anders wakes to find that his skin has turned dark, his reflection a stranger to him. At first he tells only Oona, an old friend, newly a lover. Soon, reports of similar occurrences surface across the land. Some see in the transformations the long-dreaded overturning of an established order, to be resisted to a bitter end. In many, like Anders’s father and Oona’s mother, a sense of profound loss wars with profound love. As the bond between Anders and Oona deepens, change takes on a different shading: a chance to see one another, face to face, anew.
Mohsin Hamid writes regularly for The New York Times, the Guardian and the New York Review of Books, and is the author of Exit West, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, Moth Smoke, How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia and Discontent and its Civilizations. Born and mostly raised in Lahore, he has since lived between Lahore, London and New York.
My thoughts: there’s a sense of Kafka about this story of Anders, who wakes up one morning to discover that over night he has changed colour, becoming darker. He’s not alone and soon there are fewer white people than ever before. This, unsurprisingly if you’ve been paying attention to world events over even just the last few years, doesn’t go down well with everyone and there are ugly confrontations. Anders feels forced to leave his home and go to live with his dying father.
His girlfriend Oona is slow to change, and her mother is frightened of the prospect, inhaling the nonsense online – much like anti-vaxxers or covid conspiracy nuts of the last few years. But since becoming darker is inevitable in this reality, she has to come to terms with it. Although there is a suggestion that she never truly accepts it.
I was intrigued by the author’s use of the word “dark” to describe this change. It is only at the end that he says brown. But throughout he doesn’t specify how much darker, or whether it happens gradually in some cases. I don’t really have an explanation but it’s an interesting word choice.
A slight novel this does pack and punch and is very thought provoking. You find yourself wondering how you would feel or what that would be like in the world we live in – especially in a country like America, which is still so segregated.
*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.