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In the Light of What We Know [Kindle Edition]

Zia Haider Rahman
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (76 customer reviews)

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Book Description




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.

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Product Description


The big read with the big answers . . . Here comes a novel capable of taking back the No 1 spot: Zia Haider Rahman's debut In the Light of What We Know. . . At its heart, the book is a story of two friends making their way in the world. Theirs is a dizzying voyage that touches on many of the key issues of our time. (Sunday Times)

Dazzling . . . astonishingly achieved . . . Rahman proves himself a deep and subtle storyteller . . . a novel unashamed by many varieties of knowledge-its characters talk, brilliantly, about mathematics, philosophy, exile and immigration, warfare, Wall Street and financial trading, contemporary geopolitics, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Afghanistan, English and American society, Islamic terrorism, Western paternalism, Oxford and Yale. Isn't this kind of thinking-worldly and personal, abstract and concrete, essayistic and dramatic-exactly what the novel is for? How it justifies itself as a form? Rahman uses his novel to think hard and well, chiefly about connections among class, knowledge, and belonging. In the Light of What We Know is what Salman Rushdie once called an "everything novel." It is wide-armed, hospitable, disputatious, worldly, cerebral. Ideas and provocations abound on every page. (James Wood The New Yorker)

This debut novel by Zia Haider Rahman, a Bangladeshi-born British writer who has worked as both an investment banker and an international human-rights lawyer, has been hailed in America as a "modern classic" and "the first truly great book of the new century". It is certainly an ambitious and extraordinary achievement . . . Pre-eminently a novel of ideas, the book overflows with sparkling essays on free will, the perception of time, the nature of memory, maps, flags, etymology and the axioms of mathematics . . . A novel about the entwining of politics and love and the painful quest for identity. As a meditation on the penalties of exile, the need for roots and the ways in which anger can consume a thoughtful man slighted by prejudice, this is a dazzling debut. (Sunday Times)

Bristling with ideas about mathematics and politics, history and religion, Rahman's novel also wrestles with the intricacies of the 2008 financial crash. It is encyclopedic in its reach and depth, dazzling in its erudition . . . It is, though, in the shattered figure of the novel's protagonist, Zafar, that the book finds its heart . . . In the Light of What We Know is an extraordinary meditation on the limits and uses of human knowledge, a heartbreaking love story and a gripping account of one man's psychological disintegration. This is the novel I'd hoped Jonathan Franzen's Freedom would be (but wasn't) - an exploration of the post-9/11 world that is both personal and political, epic and intensely moving. (Observer)

Brilliant and heartbreaking, In the Light of What We Know is the first truly great book of the new century. (Ceridwen Dovey, author of BLOOD KIN: A NOVEL)

This formidable novel unpacks friendship, betrayal, unknowability - and includes an astute take on Englishness, on class, on mathematical theory, human rights, and whether people can trust their own perception of the world (Observer)

Here it is, the vast and brilliant debut novel of our time for which readers have been waiting. Set against the backdrop of economic crises and the war in Afghanistan, Zia Haider Rahman's novel about a troubled friendship between two men-one born in the United States to well-placed parents from Pakistan, and the other born in Bangladesh-is deeply penetrating and profoundly intimate, as if made by a muralist whose heart belongs to the details. In the Light of What We Know is a novel of startling vision, written in a prose that's as strong and bold as it is impeccable. Who's the true heir to such greats as George Orwell and V.S. Naipaul? It's Zia Haider Rahman. (Richard McCann, author of MOTHER OF SORROWS)

A splendidly enterprising debut (Wall Street Journal)

A strange and brilliant novel . . . I was surprised it didn't explode in my hands (Amitava Kumar New York Times Book Review)

The main reason to get excited over Rahman's emerging presence as a writer are his sentences, ramifying and unraveling to bring in more and more ideas between full-stops in a way that few still alive can command (The Daily Beast)

Book Description

A bold, epic debut novel set during the war and financial crisis that defined the beginning of our century

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 2434 KB
  • Print Length: 511 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; Main Market Ed. edition (22 May 2014)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (76 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #18,416 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a masterpiece or a letdown? 15 April 2015
I need to work through my feelings on finishing this. I rarely write a review, and only when I have either really loved or hated a book.

I absolutely loved this book until shortly before the end. It has made me pause to think more than almost any book I've read. I was fascinated, intrigued and excited about how many ideas it threw up, and really felt that I was learning a lot as well. It was like being able to fly on the wings of someone else's intelligence. I found myself underlining whole sections in the (mistaken) hope that I might remember what was being said, and in some way enrich my mind. It was all so wonderfully articulate.

But then, when `the story' started becoming more important, and drawing to a conclusion, it totally lost me - and I don't know if this is my failing, or the writer's. Having been a master class in coherence ( indeed one of the main topics seemed to be the clarity and precision which Zafar and the narrator sought to bring to their discussions), why did they both suddenly become so coy about expressing themselves and saying what had happened - especially to Emily? Who made her pregnant? (Probably the narrator, but is it enough just to say "I did more than just see her."? What about the presumed rape? And I got totally frustrated trying to follow the machinations leading up to Crane's death and who was working for whom and why.

Does any of this matter? Well, when the book's title begins to seem totally ironic, when the author has shared with the reader what he knows about nearly every subject under the sun for over 500 pages, and the reader has invested so much time and energy in the book too - yes it does.
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58 of 65 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not to be taken lightly 23 May 2014
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I was surprised to see how overwhelmingly positive all the reviews of this novel were so far, and while I don't completely disagree with them, I thought I would offer a different perspective. This novel focuses on a single man: Zafar, born in rural Bangladesh and rising to a position of privilege via an Oxford education to become a derivatives trader and later, to work for the UN in Afghanistan. Zafar's story is narrated by his unnamed friend; still an investment banker, this friend, who met Zafar at Oxford, is surprised to find Zafar on his doorstep years after he had disappeared. Although he shares with Zafar a common experience of racial prejudice in Britain, his background is very different; the grandson of the Pakistani ambassador to the US, he was born in America. Hence, he is unable to connect with Zafar's continuing anger as he remembers his struggle to navigate 'class-ridden' British society, and his sense of being a continual outsider, even as he takes on official positions of great responsibility and prestige.

As an intellectual experiment, this novel is continuously fascinating. James Wood's excellent review in the New Yorker, which has already been referenced by a number of the reviewers here, rightly reflects on its exploration of the uses of knowledge. As Wood notes, Rahman is interested in exploring why a certain kind of knowledge leads to a certain kind of power, and how knowing the right things, even if you know very little else, can take you far in the world. Zafar, it's evident early in the novel, is not only well-educated in formal terms but an obsessive autodidact; he continuously tells his friend titbits of knowledge that never fail to fascinate.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
An engaging read with somewhat confusing narrative. This lengthy and evocative book is fiction yet contains historical references and anecdotes.

Some anecdotes are beautifully interspersed with the narrative but I found issues with some history relating to Pakistan. The protagonist mentions the founder of Pakistan Mr Jinnah as someone who used to enjoy drinking. This is most certainly not true when he undertook the leadership of the Nation as demonstrated by books on Jinnah's spiritual life such as the work in Urdu "The spiritual aspects of Quaid-e-Azam's life".

Secondly there are frequent references to the brutality of Pakistani soldiers in the 1971 war leading up to the creation of Bangladesh. While there is no denying the corruption of the top Pakistani military personnel, there was a significant and underreported aspect of the Indian army and guerrilla warfare that had preceded the war. This is mentioned in the book "Indian Army after Independence" by K C Parval.

Some passages in the book are haunting as the protagonist recalls his experiences. The author's attempt to marry mathematics, religion and history left me unsatisfied and towards the end, the book dragged on for too long.
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29 of 34 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A lot of words..... 4 Jun. 2014
By Amanda Jenkinson TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Kindle Edition
I seem to be out of step with most readers on this one. The novel has garnered an amazing number of very positive and laudatory reviews, which completely puzzled me when I read them after finishing – or rather not finishing – the book. I admit to having skipped large chunks of it, so perhaps it is unfair of me to pass judgement, as I can see that others have spent much time reading and pondering on this very long and complex novel. However, pass judgment on it I do, for it totally failed to engage me. It’s certainly a literary novel par excellence, and a clever novel of ideas, covering an enormous and unwieldy range of subjects. But I found it sprawling and disjointed, with the narrative constantly going off course, and with no clear trajectory. And with far too many footnotes.
The novel focuses on Zafar, born in rural Bangladesh, who rises through his intelligence and hard work, to a position of some prominence. Long-time friends with a wealthy Pakistani investment banker, he turns up on his doorstep one morning, dirty and dishevelled, and in a long narrative relates his adventures, all set against a turbulent backdrop of political upheaval and economic crisis. Ranging from Kabul to London to Islamabad, and all stops in between, exploring themes from love to science to war to knowledge and many others, this is a hugely ambitious, comprehensive and wide-ranging novel, even bringing in Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorem (although it lost me completely at that point) and this sprawling meandering book, full of twists and turns and with epigraphs at the beginning of each chapter, presumably to emphasise the author’s erudition. I just found it so full of…well, talking, endless talking that after a while just wanted Zafar to, basically, shut up.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Best book I read this year
Amazing book. Love it! Spans philosophy, class, international affairs, immigrant life, mathematics and love. With a compelling non-linear plot to boot.
Published 1 day ago by Mark
2.0 out of 5 stars A frustrating read!
Good in parts! I enjoyed reading some parts of this but found it frustrating that the threads of the story never really came together. Read more
Published 7 days ago by SueHS
2.0 out of 5 stars I read this book for my book club and think it a bad choice, because...
I read this book twice, and it fell from three to two stars, because I wonder what the influence of the masterpiece " Gödel, Escher, Bach" was on Rahman's writing this... Read more
Published 13 days ago by Maria de Zwart
2.0 out of 5 stars Very clever but the dialogue is more important than the story.
This book is undoubtedly very clever and the dialogue between the two characters certainly covers an interesting range of topics (mathematics, finance, class, west v east, rape and... Read more
Published 18 days ago by SusyP
2.0 out of 5 stars In the Light of What I Know
Imagine having a quiet drink by yourself at a bar. A man comes up and introduces himself. He seems pleasant enough and you start chatting. Read more
Published 20 days ago by Jack
1.0 out of 5 stars I got bored reading this book
Self indulgent and full of cliches. I got bored reading this book.
Published 24 days ago by Martin Knight
5.0 out of 5 stars I found this book one of the most satisfying I ...
I found this book one of the most satisfying I have read. The story which encapsulates politics, class, immigration, philosophy is demanding to follow but utterly captivating
Published 1 month ago by keenreader
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
A very interesting read
Published 2 months ago by SY
2.0 out of 5 stars boring
One word I'm afraid ...boring
Published 2 months ago by Abby Barrett
2.0 out of 5 stars Great effort ... little reward
I did not enjoy this book, although that may be as much my fault as the fault of the writer. I did reach the end, because after I had got to the halfway point I felt that I... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Rosemary
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