Nadeem Aslam: The Wasted Vigil

August 8, 2021

As soon as my eyes traced the first line, the words held my face in its hands, implored me to keep looking it in the eye, made me reread and reread sentences and paragraphs for the sheer texture and the lushness of its polyphony; even when it became too brutal, even when it felt too much, it would not let me look away.

I have not experienced a novel this heartbreakingly breathtaking since Ondaatje and de Bernières — for its beauty, for its pain, for its music, for its truths.

This is a poetic education on the conflict in Afghanistan with an intricately wrought storyline and a web of characters that could only have been written so painstakingly. 

Set in a time when its people were still in a daze, trying to assess who, what, and how much was left or if there was anything left at all, it was that period after the fall of the Twin Towers in New York, and as retribution, the collapse of the Taliban.

But for many days now, I have been waking up to updates of the Taliban’s resurgence in Afghanistan; and here I am reading a book published in 2008 that carries this ominous line: “The Americans should not exult: the war hasn’t ended. The real war is about to begin.”

It chills me to the core and I cannot look away.

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