Provocative, mellifluous ... Hamid’s opening deliberately echoes the language of Kafka and Lewis, teeing up a spellbinding tale that peels back transformations both great and small ... Hamid’s technique is indelible, a buoyancy that belies the gravity of his themes. Most (not all) of his paragraphs are single beautiful sentences that purl and flow over punctuation scattered like pebbles, with repetitions and cadences that tow the reader forward, gently ... The Last White Man may lack the pixie dust of Exit West, but it’s another bracing achievement from a consummate master, its silken prose breathing fresh air into fusty debates about race and identity.
One feels the fierce sting of Hamid’s insight, his ability to articulate the cherished premises of White superiority ... The novel’s existential absurdity quickly gives way to a parable of what might be called racial mourning ... The Last White Man is a discomfiting little book, which I suspect resists what some readers would like it to be. It’s too sincere for dystopian satire, too earnest for cultural parody ... Even the book’s style reflects the agility of its racial reflection. Hamid’s extravagantly extended sentences feel driven by an indefatigable impulse to refine and qualify his thoughts as they surge across the page. To quote a passage from this novel is to do violence to its tightly laced phrases of reconsideration. In an age aflame with strident tweets, Hamid offers swelling remorse and expansive empathy ... The tone of The Last White Man echoes...complicated, shameful grief ... For a novel that explores the functions and presumptions of racism, The Last White Man is a peculiarly hopeful story. Its method may be fantastical speculation, but its faith eventually leads to the inevitability of social enlightenment.
Hamid has a superior ability to weave the politics of race and class into singular, intimate spaces ... References to our racialized world are made with sure elegance: in a powerful moment of reckoning ... It is easy to fall into the trap of assuming that this book is entirely about race. Yet what grips the reader throughout are the relationships that shift and turn, each according to the capacity not to tolerate but to see another human being fully, and to meet them exactly where they are. In the face of our temporary passage through life, described as a bridge of frequently rotten planks upon which we walk, swinging high above a canyon, never knowing how near we are to stepping into nothingness, Hamid highlights that common denominator which obliterates the significance of our petty obsessions with difference. What is miraculous, truly miraculous, Hamid shows us, is that anyone permits love ... it is hard to imagine a more moving account of mental illness, and human fragility, than the one Hamid manages to thread through this book with passages that are breathtaking in their succinctness ... Hamid’s most brilliant achievement is how little he strays from the idea that simmers under the surface of simple language made complex by long Kincaidian sentence structures: we are defined by no more and no less than what we do to care for one another ... It is quite remarkable that, although we are left with the distinct impression that the world of the novel has changed for the better as people put away their weapons and sweep up the broken glass, we mourn deeply the passing of this last white man, a man whose whiteness hews to the idea of spiritual purity we have long ceased to associate with the color.
There’s no mistaking the profound influence of the past few years on the work ... The conceit of race transformation is hardly new ... Fantastical treatments of race have long served to underscore just how absurd it is that this social construct should wield so much power. Hamid’s novel follows in this legacy, challenging readers to consider the ways in which something as superficial as the color of one’s skin holds sway in their lives.
Eloquent and elegant ... The limited scope, as well as inescapable allusions to tumultuous events in recent U.S. history, make the book feel more blunt and reactionary than the almost aspirational panorama of Exit West. The result is an effective allegory on race and racism in America, but one that can come to its conclusions a bit too easily at times, though that certainly doesn't negate them ... The plot develops predictably ... More interesting are the philosophical, less ripped-from-the-headlines discussion ... While the messages can be vital, the medium is monotonous ... After the first 30-some pages, The Last White Man comprises almost exclusively paragraph-long sentences, clause after clause stitched together comma after comma, droning like background noise, so repetitive as to feel like parody ... Insightful.
Hamid is a chronicler of instability ... His surreal narratives are just-the-other-side-of-plausible because they're tethered to once-improbable realities ... Hamid writes with on-the-ground immediacy that draws readers in ... Most of Hamid's novel consists of extended sentences...whose restlessness mimics the flux of his fictional world. There's a downside, however, to being limited to mostly Anders' self-absorbed view: He's not that thoughtful a guy, so he doesn't offer any deeper thoughts about racism ... Hamid, himself, however, does clearly savor the absurdities generated by the construct of race ... A deft, if narrow, Twilight Zone-type fantasy about identity, The Last White Man only seriously strains credulity at its very end. No doubt, it says something about our own anxious times that the happy ending here seems too far-fetched.
The opening sentence of The Last White Man, ...may sound overfamiliar...but who wouldn’t read on? ... By the end, a pulp-magazine premise has metamorphosed into a vision of humanity unvexed by racial animosities ... The Last White Man has an additional agenda: to destabilize not just our toxic imaginings but our conventional notions of fiction itself ... In The Last White Man, his newfound inclination to spare characters any serious trouble rises to an aesthetic principle; the renunciation of the tension that powered his earlier novels seems penitential ... The characters in The Last White Man do plenty of 'gazing,' along with 'wondering' and 'realizing,' but they don’t do much doing, nor does anyone do much to them ... Not to sound crass — once you’ve got the customers into the tent (with a killer first sentence, say), you have to keep them in their seats and send them home satisfied that they’ve been through something. The Last White Man wants only the best for them, and for all of us, but such a happy denouement is hard to imagine.
Inventive ... Hamid’s prose style is much more akin to José Saramago. His often paragraph-long sentences are set to an unbroken rhythm. At times, it reads like a parable ... Hamid’s decision to foreground the themes of loss and mourning allows the novel to speak most incisively to the condition of whiteness itself ... Hamid resists simplistic resolutions. In making strange what we find familiar, he reminds us of our capacity to break beyond our limited visions of each other.
I’d say Hamid’s true mongrel dwells in the imagination, and with each new title he further dilutes the purity of the breed⎯ and this is a good thing. The Last White Man is Hamid’s fifth, and the sequence clearly reveals a tilt toward the bizarre ... The text is all run-ons, though carefully bundled, and on the rare occasions when I spotted a period mid-paragraph, it claimed special justification ... The plunge into such quandaries, and their eventual acceptance, provides the fundamental plot of The Last White Man.
Even if you’re unfamiliar with this tradition of stories about race transformation, you’ll suspect what’s coming ... Tone above all distinguishes Hamid from these precursors. Whereas most of these writers bend race transformation toward satire, offering us topsy-turvy and hysterical tales, Hamid is deeply earnest about his conceit. The novel is that wan 21st-century banality, a 'meditation,' and it meditates on how losing whiteness is going to make white people feel. Mostly sad, as it turns out ... The sex improves; the prose does not ... The novel evinces the worst of Hamid’s style ... As in his earlier novels about social mobility and immigration, romance supplies the plot and casts an aura of 'love' over the politico-speculative gimmick ... This is the novel’s cure for white despair over the loss of whiteness: Keep calm and carry on ... What exactly is being born—or rather, borne? Darkness in The Last White Man is an ordeal. Those who were already dark have little presence and no internal life in the novel ... If Hamid’s novel were a self-aware satire of this ideology of whiteness and its violent effects, it would be pitch-perfect. But The Last White Man’s structure affords us no way to know if this is what Hamid intends: It includes no higher judgment, no specific history, no novelistic frame against which to measure the reliability of the narration, no backdrop across which irony can dance ... The Last White Man feels like a primer for mourning whiteness, not a critique of it ... It’s one thing for a character to be afflicted with blurred vision or the race 'blindness' that grants Oona a 'new kind of sight'; it’s another for the novel to suffer the same confusion of perspective.
Strikingly long sentences that demand attention ... Hamid’s uncanny tale is alert to the notion that race is a construct. His gaze is also trained on the paranoia arguably at the heart of whiteness and white supremacy ... The novel perhaps begins as a kind of thrilling intellectual exercise. It then unfolds as a potent and timely anti-racist parable. Alongside all this, Hamid investigates what happens to relationships in highly pressurised contexts ... The evocation of Oona and Anders’ evolving bond is exquisite ... Hamid quietly and beautifully recounts the stolen nights they spend together when their roiling city is effectively under curfew ... Without mawkishness, in this masterful novel about the fallout from breathtakingly sudden change, Hamid asserts the adaptability and endurance of love.
The allegory probes timely issues around race and identity without being heavy-handed, as Hamid’s wry humour leavens the weighty subject matter ... Where the book is most affecting is in its deft depiction of the personal: Oona’s and Anders’s deepening intimacy, the shifting dynamics with their parents and its poignant portrayal of loss ... While it may not seem an obvious beach read, at a slim 180 pages of text, The Last White Man can be savoured in a single, thought-provoking sitting.
Audacious ... What should be a riveting, incendiary tale fails to spark much tension save in a few scenes ... My summary makes this sound more gripping than it is. Despite its provocative premise, the novel is oddly flat. In his attempt to lend universality to his fable, Hamid has avoided particulars ... The telling is too bland, and the stakes don’t feel high enough. Yes, he touches on some intriguing questions, including whether an all-dark world might mitigate racial divides. But he doesn’t explore them deeply enough. Hamid is a gifted writer who has earned our attention, but this book feels like a missed opportunity.
Hamid’s talent to tell a story efficiently shines in The Last White Man. With most of the paragraphs built of only one sentence, the novel tells the story in phrases, each one containing a full story of its own. One cannot blink when reading this novel; otherwise, one may miss an important detail of the backstory or an intimation of what is to come ... breathless in its pace and leaves the reader satisfied when finished ... continues Hamid’s tradition of using imagination to create new spaces for humanity to grapple with such issues as extremism, migration, and now, overtly, race.
Hamid offers an important insight into how racism can anesthetize people to the essential humanity in themselves and others, leading to an alienation that damages individuals and society ... One of the more interesting aspects in this novel is how Hamid’s dialectics operate ... Hamid’s book—despite providing a compelling illustration of the damages wrought by confusing biology with ideology—will likely not be read by those who urgently need its message. Hamid’s premise presupposes readers who are good-hearted but unable to register the corruption of basic human senses.
Concise, powerful ... Though the spare prose effectively conveys an underlying sense of doom and violence on the periphery for most of the novel, the story ultimately surprises. Hamid imaginatively takes on timely, universal topics, including identity, grief, community, family, race, and what it means to live through sudden and often violent change.
Another imaginative pivot for the formally adventurous author ... The narrative proves to be both markedly intelligent and surprisingly empathetic ... Hamid bespeaks compassion rather than anger or malignant consequence, eschewing grand worldbuilding for a deeply intimate and remarkably gentle tale. A certain slightness to the text keeps it from reaching the brilliant heights of Exit West, but Hamid maximizes his spartan framework emotionally and discursively, delivering a novel that lingers and expands long after its final, delicate pages ... A provocative and welcomingly unpredictable work, taking readers to deeply humane places and through moving considerations that similar works rarely visit.
Hamid doesn’t confine his attention to The Last White Man’s theme of racial identity. This is also a novel about families, and specifically about the complex relationships between adult children and their parents ... Hamid adds a worthy voice to the conversation and reminds us yet again that fiction sometimes provides the most direct path to truth.
Despite its Kafkaesque beginning, the novel, due to its depiction of town-wide transformations and subsequent social breakdown, bears a closer resemblance to Blindness, José Saramago's masterwork about a similar development ... The result is a frighteningly timely allegory about welcome forms of progress and the fears of people unable or unwilling to grow.
Underwhelming ... Hamid spins a timely if unsatisfying racial allegory ... The lack of social context is also puzzling, with the story set in an unspecified time and place largely stripped of historical and cultural detail. Hamid employs a cool, spare prose style with little dialogue, leaving the reader to feel like the action of the novel is taking place behind a wall of soundproof glass ... For the most part...this remains stubbornly inert.
Brilliantly realized ... Hamid’s story is poignant and pointed, speaking to a more equitable future in which widespread change, though confusing and dislocating in the moment, can serve to erase the divisions of old as they fade away with the passing years ... A provocative tale that raises questions of racial and social justice at every turn.