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In the Light of What We Know: A Novel Hardcover – Apr 22 2014

4.0 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews

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Hardcover, Apr 22 2014
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (April 22 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374175624
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374175627
  • Product Dimensions: 15.7 x 4.2 x 23.5 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 748 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #128,999 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


“Rahman's novel [is] astonishingly achieved for a first book…Rahman proves himself a deep and subtle storyteller, with a very good eye for dramatic detail--the wounding stray comment, the surge of shame, the livid parable... 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

“An ambitious novel by any measure, In the Light of What We Know is particularly striking as a first novel. …[It] is a novel of ideas, a compendium of epiphanies, paradoxes, and riddles clearly designed to be read slowly and meditatively… [A] unique work of fiction bearing witness to much that is unspeakable in human relationships as in international relations, while it is also unknowable.” ―Joyce Carol Oates, New York Review of Books

“[A] strange and brilliant novel . . . I was surprised it didn't explode in my hands.” ―Amitava Kumar, The New York Times Book Review

“[B]ristling 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... 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.” ―Alex Preston, The Guardian

“[A]n 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... 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 (UK)

“[A] sweeping and brilliant tale... Rahman's rich and complex debut novel is like [a] great meal... In the Light of What We Know may be the best meal you eat this year. [Rahman's] insights--whether related to Pakistan-India enmity, Ivy-League attitude or non-governmental organizations' idealism--were right on target, [his] characters' experiences plausible and compelling, and [his] grasp of the widely varied subjects in the novel was breathtaking.” ―Paul Overby, Pittsburg Post-Gazette

“[A] hugely impressive… and profound debut… The book's depth is utterly absorbing, its stories as real in their effect as they are illusory.” ―Alex Clark, The Guardian

“Beautifully written and renewed evidence that some of the most interesting writing in English is coming from the edges of old empires.” ―Kirkus (starred review)

[In The Light of What We Know] is a splendidly enterprising debut.” ―The Wall Street Journal

“[Rahman's] fascination with mathematics and the universe of ideas is contagious, and enriches the complex narrative about how we know the reality around us… [T]his ambitious debut novel has considerable depth and scope.” ―Library Journal (starred review)

“[I]t is immediately apparent that one is dealing with a work of major ambition…[T]he 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.” ―Nicholas Muncusi, The Daily Beast

[In the Light of What We Know is] epic in scale and reach, and pulsing with life.” ―The National

“[A] a sprawling and thrillingly ambitious debut novel…A cross between Herman Melville and David Foster Wallace as refracted through Graham Greene, In the Light of What We Know offers 500 pages of self-described "digressions" and "tangents" involving bracing, sometimes mind-blowing discussions of high math, theoretical physics, cognitive science, Central Asian politics, the English class system, the bloody birth of Bangladesh, Bach, literature, epistemology, collateralized debt obligations and the 2008 collapse of world markets... Rahman drives home that every story is a lie. But stories like this one can teach us great truths about the ways we see--and how much we therefore miss.” ―Mike Fischer, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

“[A] standout debut.” ―Vogue

“This formidable and compelling novel offers the reader pleasures not often found in the same venue. Its boldness in engaging elements of our contemporary crisis is bracing. In presenting his cast of characters, Rahman supplies close readings of class, mores, and manners that are extraordinary. And throughout, he sustains an almost subliminal resonance with the conventions, strengths, and tone of certain classic social novels in the English canon--Conrad's in particular. This is a debut to celebrate.” ―Norman Rush, author of Mating and Subtle Bodies

“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

“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

About the Author

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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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This novel tells a complex and fascinating story of physical, mental, and emotional exile. Its characters are erudite and entertaining. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book was full of beautiful prose, and philosophical insight. However, the anticlimactic ending left me unsatisfied.
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That about sums it up. Beautifully written, interesting characters, the mathematics is fascinating but if you have NO interest in mathematics there will be many longeurs as you read. Overall those parts are overly long. There is always a hint of something more here than is delivered, one is left wanting to know more but maybe that is part of the point.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The narrator, a young Pakistani born British citizen welcomes into his home, his Zarfar, his long lost Bangladeshi friend. Both attended Oxford at the same time and both maintain roots with their home country, and both are making adjustments to life as an immigrant. The writing is terrific however the story is convoluted and often unfocused. It starts with the narrator coping with the downfall of the stock market in 2008. Derivatives were considered a major contribution to its destruction and our narrator was in charge of the derivative’s market at his bank. We learn at the beginning of the novel that he’s supposed to be taking the fall in the courts for his bank’s participation in their sale. Unfortunately, we learn the outcome of this possible litigation. Also at the beginning of the novel, Zafar is telling our narrator about his recent experiences in Kabul where he's been involved in a delicate situation with a non-profit organization and his girlfriend. We must wait for the end of the novel to learn the outcome. That's a lot of pages. In between, Zafar tells of life in Britain and then Bangladesh and then back in Britain. Unfortunately, it’s not always interesting and a lot of reading for some very nice bits of writing. Take this as an example, “relationship counselors advise that time to work hard at a relationship is when the going is good? The time to work on the roof is the summer.” Or, “Indian literature written in English is astonishing because nowhere in history has an literature been produced that is written by one people about the same people but for another people to read.” Some good editing would have turned this from a good book to a great one.
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Format: Hardcover
In the light of what we know is a fascinating book telling a story of desillusion. Zafar, a man born in rural Bangladesh, whose early life did not predestenate him to gain access to the upper spheres of society, finds himself climbing the echelons of the intellectual elite. From his time spent at Oxford, Princeton and Yale, his work for as a lawyer for an NGO in Afghanistan, to a failed relationship with a British woman, Zafar has one feet in each world. He struggles to reconcile them while not belonging fully to any of them. He concludes that whether some seek knowingness where knowing is a matter of social standing, or where others like him may see knowledge as a vector of self-improvement, understanding is in fact "not what this life has given us, that answers can only beget questions, that honesty commands a declaration not of faith but of ignorance, and that the only mission available to us, one laid to our charge, if any hand was in it, is to let unfold the questions, to take to the river knowing not if it runs to the sea, and accept our place as servants of life."
The book is cleverly written in form like in substance. Like his autobiographical character Zafar who rejects certainty, the author's writing is convolutional, making the story even more forceful.
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