In The Light Of What We Know


Zia Haider Rahman

First Sentence:     In the early hours of one September morning in 2008, there appeared on the doorstep of our home in South Kensington a brown-skinned man, haggard and gaunt, the ridges of his cheekbones set above an unkempt beard.

Back of the book:

One September morning in 2008, an investment banker approaching forty, his career in collapse and his marriage unravelling, receives a surprise visitor at his West London home. He struggles to place the dishevelled figure carrying a backpack, until he recognizes a friend from his student days, a brilliant man who disappeared years earlier under mysterious circumstances. The friend has resurfaced to make a confession of unsettling power.

Theirs is the age-old story of the bond between two men and the betrayal of one by the other. As the friends begin to talk, and as their room becomes a world, a journey begins that is by turns exhilarating, shocking, intimate and strange. Set against the breaking of nations and beneath the clouds of economic crisis, and moving between Kabul, New York, Oxford, London and Islamabad, In the Light of What We Know tells the story of people wrestling with unshakeable legacies of class and culture, and pushes at the great questions of love, origins, science, faith and war.

Quotes from the book:

When we see a strip of letters, a billboard slogan, for example, we cannot help but read the word; we do not see each letter separately, but rather, instantly, we grasp the whole word and, moreover, its meaning.

“I came to see that his stories ran together, like the rivers of his boyhood coming from the mountains and forests and the plains, a long way from their sources but ultimately joined together in one song, a harmony of place and time.”

I don’t think I can fault myself for not having seen where his searching might lead to, the fraying and unstitching of a human being – all that was too far away then, in our younger days. Perhaps I couldn’t understand because in our youth we are condemned  to see in others no one but ourselves.

“[…] it takes time to overcome another person’s educated confidence.”

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Last Sentence:     When I look at this picture, I see two people undeterred by time, walking and talking, bumping against each other, as they discuss the things that matter to them and why they matter.