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In the Light of What We Know

3.68 based on 2273 ratings & 365 reviews on

2015 Long-listed

The Orwell Prize

2015 Long-listed

The Folio Prize

2014 Short-listed

The Goldsmith's Prize

2014 Winner

James Tait Black Prize for Fiction

2014 Short-listed

National Book Awards New Writer of the Year

2014 Long-listed

Guardian First Book Award


01 January 15


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.

In an extraordinary feat of imagination, Zia Haider Rahman has woven the seismic upheavals of our young century into a novel of rare compassion, scope, and courage.

In the media

Brilliantly articulated with an acerbic irony and bursting literary allusiveness that only at times seem over the top
Times Literary Supplement
Rahman’s magisterial novel, which bulges with humanity and big ideas, was my favourite read of [2016]. As I have already written, "his story of two life-long friends – both students of mathematics, both from immigrant families – who find themselves variously caught up in the world financial crisis and the unravelling of post-9/11 Afghanistan, drills deeply and rewardingly into the grand themes of life: meaning, identity, loyalty, faith and family"
A splendidly enterprising debut
Wall Street Journal