The author of Maps for Lost Lovers gives us a new novelat once lyrical and blisteringabout war in our time, told through the lives of five people who come together in post-9/11 Afghanistan.
Marcus, an English doctor whose progressive, outspoken Afghani wife was murdered by the Taliban, opens his homeitself an eerily beautiful monument to his lossesto the others: Lara, from St. Petersburg, looking for evidence of her soldier brother who disappeared decades before during the Soviet invasion; David, an American, a former spy who has seen his ideals turned inside out during his twenty-five years in Afghanistan; Casa, a young Afghani whose hatred of the West plunges him into the depths of zealotry; and James, the Special Forces soldier in whom David sees a dangerous revival of the unquestioning notions of right and wrong that he himself once held.
In mesmerizing prose, Nadeem Aslam reveals the complex tiesof love and desperation, pain and salvation, madness and claritythat bind the characters. And through their stories he creates a timely and achingly intimate portrait of the continuation of wars that shapes our world.
In its radiant language, its depth of feeling, and its unflinching drama, The Wasted Vigil is a luminous work of fiction.
The Great Buddha
Her mind is a haunted house.
The woman named Lara looks up at an imagined noise. Folding away the letter she has been rereading, she moves towards the window with its high view of the garden. Out there the dawn sky is filling up with light though a few of last nights stars are still visible.
She turns after a while and crosses over to the circular mirror leaning against the far wall. Bringing it to the centre of the room she places it face up on the floor, gently, soundlessly, a kindness towards her host who is asleep in an adjoining room. In the mirror she ignores her own image, examining the reflection of the ceiling instead, lit by the pale early light.
The mirror is largeif it was water she could dive and disappear into it without touching the sides. On the wide ceiling are hundreds of books, each held in place by an iron nail hammered through it. A spike driven through the pages of history, a spike through the pages of love, a spike through...
Aslam explores a variety of themes and historical moments as he strives to illustrate 'the continuation of wars' and the connections between these unlikely friends. The notion that fighting, whether internal or external, between friends or amongst nations, can ever be resolved is adroitly examined as Aslam walks with these characters through their pain and searching. His beautiful language, precise imagery, and nuanced characterization add to the rich experience of reading this book. As with Aslam's other work, the plot is subtle and the action spurred largely by character development, but this is a beautiful, powerful book, one that should make us think about the ways we perceive other people.
(Reviewed by Sarah Sacha Dollacker).
Full Review (943 words).
Afghanistan 1979 - 1994
At the beginning of the novel, Lara, a character reminiscent, in her painful past and gracefulness, of Lara in Dr. Zhivago, arrives on Marcus's doorstep to uncover the fate of her brother Benedikt, who came to Afghanistan with the 1979 Soviet invasion...
The Soviets invaded Afghanistan at the request of the largely unpopular, pro-Soviet Afghan government, who sought military assistance against the Mujahideen* (various Afghan opposition groups who eventually formed one aligned political bloc). The Mujahideen were partially funded by the CIA during the Carter and Reagan administrations, and by a number of other countries. In 1979, the Soviet Union ...
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