In the Light of What We Know (Rahman) - Book Reviews

Book Reviews
Zafar of Rahman's strange and brilliant novel is at ease drawing sharp lessons from subjects as varied as derivatives trading and the role of metaphor in determining the fate of pigeons…Zafar can often find distance from his pain when, with uncommon precision and lucidity, he discusses theorems and analogies. And so one might conclude that his intelligence is what gives this book its edge. But that would be a mistake. The demonstration of his intelligence is only a ruse, a cover, hiding the anger in Zafar's heart. The book is long, but that length is justified by the effort expended to conceal his rage, to deflect the guilt Zafar feels at the violence of his emotion. I was surprised it didn't explode in my hands.
Amitava Kumar - 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 - Guardian (UK)


[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


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 - New Yorker


[A] narrative with an unclear trajectory and stakes that are shadowy and ill-defined for much of the book. Only late does the novel's purpose become clear and Zafar's narrative gain resonance.... Rahman has written a simple human story... though this story is often lost amid Rahman's intellectual pyrotechnics.
Publishers Weekly


(Starred review.) The author's fascination with mathematics and the universe of ideas is contagious, and enriches the complex narrative about how we know the reality around us. Verdict: Despite some obvious plot devices, this ambitious debut novel has considerable depth and scope.... [J]am-packed with insights and observations. —Gwen Vredevoogd, Marymount Univ. Libs., Arlington, VA
Library Journal


(Starred review.) Rahman's narrative quickly takes flight, literally, moving from London and New York to Islamabad and Kabul and points beyond.... Rahman capably mixes a story that threatens to erupt into le Carré–like intrigue with intellectual disquisitions of uncommon breadth.... Rahman's is a quiet, philosophical novel of ideas, a meditation on memory, friendship and trust... Beautifully written.
Kirkus Reviews




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