“The Face in the Mirror”
by Mohsin Hamid
from the May 16, 2022 issue of The New Yorker
This week we get an excerpt from Mohsin Hamid’s The Last White Man, which will be published in August. This will be Hamid’s fifth novel. I have only read his second, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, which I liked back when it was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 2007. His most recent novel, Exit West, was also shortlisted, and though it got a lost of good reviews from folks I trust I’m afraid I haven’t read it yet.
The forthcoming novel has an interesting premise: people are waking up with different skin color. This story doesn’t hesitate to introduce that immediately. Here is the first paragraph of this story.
One morning Anders, a white man, woke up to find he had turned a deep and undeniable brown. This dawned upon him gradually, and then suddenly, first as a sense as he reached for his phone that the early light was doing something strange to the color of his forearm, subsequently, and with a start, as a momentary conviction that there was somebody else in bed with him, male, darker, but this, terrifying though it was, was surely impossible, and he was reassured that the other moved as he moved, was in fact not a person, not a separate person, but was just him, Anders, which caused a wave of relief, for if the idea that someone else was there was only imagined, then of course the notion that he had changed color was a trick, too, an optical illusion, or a mental artifact, born in the slippery halfway place between dreams and wakefulness, except that by now he had his phone in his hands and he had reversed the camera, and he saw that the face looking back at him was not his at all.
This reminds me that I really want to go back and read Exit West, and I’m definitely interested in The Last White Man. How about you? Please feel free to comment below!
Also, thanks for the well wishes. I’m doing a lot better this week!