Book of the week: The Association Of Small Bombs by Karan Mahajan
A masterful probe of terrorism and loss
CliffsNotes: In 1996 Delhi, a small bomb goes off in the city’s bustling Lajpat Nagar market and has a lasting impact on two neighbouring families. The Khuranas lose both children in the blast; the Ahmeds’ son Mansoor suffers injuries but survives. As an adult, carrying the physical and psychological burden of the blast, Mansoor is drawn to a Muslim activist with shifting ideologies. Meanwhile, Mahajan also builds the interior of Shockie, a Kashmiri bomb maker who sets off the blast. One of the most anticipated releases of the year, Mahajan’s second novel is winning fast approval for its brilliantly insightful and original narrative on terrorism and the after-effects of loss.
Get a taste: Mahajan’s Chapter Zero opens with an explosion:
The bombing, for which Mr. and Mrs. Khurana were not present, was a flat, percussive event that began under the bonnet of a parked white Maruti 800, though of course that detail, that detail about the car, could only be confirmed later. A good bombing begins everywhere at once.
A crowded market also begins everywhere at once, and Lajpat Nagar exemplified this type of tumult. A formless swamp of shacks, it bubbled here and there with faces and rolling carts and sloping beggars. It probably held four seasons at once in its gigantic span, all of them hot. When you got from one end of the market to the other, the wooden carts with their shiny aluminum wheels had so rearranged themselves that the market you were in was technically no longer the market you had entered: a Heisenbergian nightmare of motion and ambiguity. So the truth of the matter is that no one really saw the parked car till it came apart in a dizzying flock of shards.
Author 101: The Delhi native and Stanford grad’s first novel, Family Planning (2008), was shortlisted for the Dylan Thomas Prize. The former urban planner now lives in Austin, Texas, and has written for publications like The New Yorker, The New York Times and The Paris Review Daily. Read more about the author here.
Fun fact: Mahajan is represented by Salman Rushdie’s agent Andrew Wylie.
Similar reads: Terrorist by John Updike, Falling Man by Don Delillo, The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid
The Association Of Small Bombs (HarperCollins India) is out this month
You may also want to read: Name to know: Karan Mahajan