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THE LAST WHITE MAN by Mohsin Hamid
Few who read Mohsin Hamid’s excellent Booker-shortlisted novel, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, could have predicted the sharp turn away from straight realism he seems to have taken. Sure, it was a good book with a few sly tricks, but since then he has thrown the rulebook to the wind and gone off on some pretty cool creative frolics. Exit West was about as original and enjoyable a take on asylum and the shifting tides of humanity as I’ve read and now, with The Last White Man, Hamid takes on the racial tensions that have long-underpinned most modern Western democracies.
The idea of comfortably (read: complacently) white people waking up, Kafka-style, to find that their skin has turned dark, is quite brilliant. Hamid focuses on four characters - reduced, I felt to types - each forced to face their own prejudices and senses of identity, as well as navigating their relationships with those around them. External events - mostly conflict - are touched upon but Hamid seems mostly interested in the internal struggles. There are some insightful moments but, for the most part, it all felt unnecessarily stretched out. Sadly, a great premise does not a great novella make.
The Last White Man by Mohsin Hamid
Hamish Hamilton, 2022