The Wasted Vigil
Five disparate lives intersect through decades of invasion, occupation, and violence. There’s Marcus, an English expat who was married to an outspoken Afghani doctor–she was murdered by the Taliban–who opens his home to the others, the house itself a strange and beautiful monument to the inconceivable losses his family suffered . . . David, an American, formerly a spy, who has seen the Afghanis through the invasion of the Russians, the domination of the Taliban, and, now, the incursion of the Americans, and who has seen his own ideas of purpose and reason turned inside out . . . Lara, from St. Petersburg, looking for evidence of her brother, a Russian soldier who disappeared years before . . . Casa, a young Afghani whose hatred of the Americans has plunged him into the blinding depths of zealotry . . . and James, an American soldier in the Special Forces in whom David sees a dangerous revival of the unquestioning notions of right and wrong that he himself once held.
In mesmerizing, expressive prose, Aslam reveals the intertwining paths that these characters have travelled, and the complex ties–of love and desperation, pain and salvation, madness and clarity–that bind them. Through their stories emerges a portrait both timely and timeless, panoramic and achingly intimate, of the “continuation of wars” that has shaped, and continues to shape, our world. In its combination of radiant language, hypnotic imagery, and unflinching drama, The Wasted Vigil is a luminous work of fiction.
From the Hardcover edition.
READ AN EXCERPT
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 night’s stars...
1. Nadeem Aslam has been widely praised for his richly poetic prose style. What passages in the book seem especially beautifully written? What makes these passages so powerful?
2. Early in the novel, readers learn that Marcus has lost his hand. Why does Aslam withhold the story of precisely how he lost that...
— Los Angeles Times Book Review
“A tour de force.”
— San Francisco Chronicle
“Poetic, sensuous, precisely descriptive and lavishly allusive…. Important and memorable…deeply satisfying.”
— The Washington Times
“An extraordinary work… entirely, and unmistakably, the product of a wholly original mind.”
— The Herald (London)
“A superb achievement, a book in which every detail is nuanced, every piece of drama carefully choreographed, even minor characters carefully drawn.”
— Colm Toibin, author of Mothers and Sons
“Aslam reveals — artfully and heartbreakingly — a psychology at war with itself … His prose is richly atmospheric, his tone engagingly introspective.”
— The New York Times Book Review
“A work of great courage…. A filigree of quests for loves that never were, of passions cut short and of romances that are about to be. I was heartbroken when the dense, dark tapestry was finished.”
— The Independent (UK)
“Enthralling… Like Michael Ondaatje in The English Patient, Aslam knows how to handle the rich material in front of him, because he is not merely a novelist; he is an artist and a poet.”
— New Statesman
“Beautifully written and tragic, Aslam is a major writer.”
— A.S. Byatt
“A harrowing yet beautiful depiction of an Afghanistan mutilated by war and oppression… With astonishing lyricism and compassion Aslam creates unforgettable characters while telling a story that is as gripping as it is affecting.”
— Boston Globe
“A haunting tale…. Aslam leavens The Wasted Vigil with uniquely lyrical prose…. Inventive yet remarkably fluid.”
— The Globe and Mail
From the Hardcover edition.