Publisher: Hollands Diep
Original title: In the Light of What We Know
Publisher: various formats
An investment banker approaching forty, his career collapsing and his marriage unraveling, receives a surprise visitor at his West London town house. Confronting the disheveled figure of a South Asian male carrying a backpack, the banker recognizes a long-lost college friend, a mathematics prodigy who disappeared many years earlier under mysterious circumstances. The friend has resurfaced with a confession of unsettling power.
This book tells the story of two men. The narrator. An American with Pakistani parents and Zafar born in Bangladesh whom moved to the UK when he was young.
Both men have a thing for mathematics which connects them. Zafar is the smarter one. Due to his intelligence he manages to go to Oxford University on scholarships. The narrators family is rich and after a childhood at Eton he is destined to go to Oxford. The connection between the two men is weird. The narrator admires Zafar's way of fighting for a position, his intelligence and the easy way in which he moves. The idea I got as a reader is that Zafar connects to the narrator to experience what he himself never had. As the story is heavily influenced by the narrator it is never confirmed what really motivated Zafar to befriend the narrator.
And with that the most vulnerable part of the book is mentioned. The story is kind of a mess as the narrator is telling Zafar's story but does not hesitate to intertwine both his own experiences from the past but also from the period when Zafar is telling him his story. It is sometimes difficult to understand which story is being told. The book really needs attention if you want to keep track as a reader.
I did experience an interesting story about two man alike in so many ways but so different. Their experiences are so alive and well told it is easy to get engaged despite the story jumping in time a lot. I loved the differences in social status and how that influenced especially the narrator even though he did not always realize this. The end of the story still leaves a lot of questions though and it is important to read between the lines. Reading the book multiple times will probably give a whole new experience and probably a few answers that were missed the first time.
I went to the International Literature Festival in Utrecht and Zia Haider Rahman was interviewed about this book. It became an interesting conversation about fiction and fact. This book has a few people mentioned that really exist and play a part in the story. This caused some uproar when the book was published. Also it could cause a reader to consider how much of the story was real. Zia Haider Rahman was very clear that although some parts are based on things he has experienced in real life it was not his life described in the book. What I found most fascinating about the whole interview was the fact that Zia Haider Rahman was as easily distracted in his answers, going a complete different direction just to realize eventually that he was not answering the question and returning to actually answering it. This was the exact same way the book was written and eventually it made it easier for me to finish the book. Knowing that eventually the answers would come.