Mohsin Hamid: Writers need to create ‘optimistic visions’ of the future

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Mohsin Hamid

Pakistani author Mohsin Hamid believes it’s important for writers to help society imagine radical, optimistic new futures. He spoke with DW about his latest book, “Exit West,” a story about migration and basic humanity.

DW: “Exit West” is a parable of a world where doors stand open, with migration as the central theme. Do you believe the freedom to migrate should be a basic human right?

Mohsin Hamid: I think it should. We are at a state now where we have embraced partial equality. We think that if you are a man or a woman, you should be equal. If you’re black or white, you should be equal. If you are religious or atheist, gay or straight, you should be equal.

And yet, we seem unprepared to say that if you are born in Mogadishu or in Hamburg, in New York or in Lahore, you should be equal. We recoil from the idea of equality, regardless of the place of birth. I don’t think that’s sustainable. Eventually, it will be accepted that regardless of where someone was born they have an equal right to live where they choose. This might be 100 years from now, or it might be 500 years from now.

And I think it will be liberating for us. Slavery was not abolished only because slavery demeaned the humanity of people who were slaves; slavery demeans the humanity of people who are masters. And in this sense, trying to live in countries which claim to champion equality while fundamentally denying it to people born in other places demeans people as well. So we all have to gain. But it’s a multigenerational process.

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