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In the Light of What We Know

In the Light of What We Know (Paperback)

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Synopsis

One September morning in 2008, an investment banker approaching forty, his career in collapse and his marriage unravelling, receives a surprise visitor at his West London home. He struggles to place the dishevelled figure carrying a backpack, until he recognizes a friend from his student days, a brilliant man who disappeared years earlier under mysterious circumstances. The friend has resurfaced to make a confession of unsettling power. Theirs is the age-old story of the bond between two men and the betrayal of one by the other. As the friends begin to talk, and as their room becomes a world, a journey begins that is by turns exhilarating, shocking, intimate and strange. Set against the breaking of nations and beneath the clouds of economic crisis, and moving between Kabul, New York, Oxford, London and Islamabad, In the Light of What We Know tells the story of people wrestling with unshakeable legacies of class and culture, and pushes at the great questions of love, origins, science, faith and war. In an extraordinary feat of imagination, Zia Haider Rahman has woven the seismic upheavals of our young century into a novel of rare compassion, scope, and courage.

Fiction & PoetryModern & contemporary fiction post c 1945 Publisher: Pan Macmillan Publication Date: 01/01/2015 ISBN-13: 9781447231233  Details: Type: Paperback Format: Books
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Born in rural Bangladesh, Zia Haider Rahman was educated at Balliol College, Oxford, and at Cambridge, Munich, and Yale Universities. He has worked as an investment banker on Wall Street and as an international human-rights lawyer. In the Light of What We Know is his first novel.

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Staff Choice

There's nothing quite as exhilarating as a debut novel that throws everything at the page, missing occasionally, but carrying the reader along with such brilliance and bravado it scarcely matters. To my mind, Zadie Smith's White Teeth and Nick Harkaway's The Gone-Away World are recent examples, and so is this. Rahman plunges nervelessly into mathematics, politics, history, religion, literature, psychology and neuroscience; he even has the chutzpah to float an alibi for the financial sector's complicity in the recent global economic crisis.

The long-lost college friend of an unnamed banker reappears and, with a past betrayal overshadowing their reacquaintance, weaves a vast, excursive tale in which his upbringing in poverty in Bangladesh leaves him a perpetual outsider, his race and class an unharmonious blend that leaves him trapped between cultures. This philosophical crucible even inveigles Kurt Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem - which, in mathematics, suggests that there are things that we know to be true but cannot be proved - as a metaphorical perspective on the nature of fiction, complemented by Rahman's delicious layering on of an unreliable listener to an unreliable narrator. The novel fizzes and burns like potassium dropped into water - it's probably as well for Rahman that he managed to get this volatile fictional concoction out of his system and safely preserved on paper.

Jonathan, Web Editor

Charing Cross Rd Bookshop - 07/05/2015

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