This book is so different to Maps for Lost Lovers! The Wasted Vigil is Nadeem Aslam’s third book and it covers completely different territory to its IMPAC shortlisted predecessor.
It’s a love story of sorts set in Afghanistan, traversing its fraught history from the time of the Soviet Occupation to the American so-called War on Terror. There’s an eccentric Englishman called Marcus who lives alone in an outpost of bookish civilisation hoping one day to find his missing grandson; a Russian called Lara whose brother went missing in the Soviet era, a CIA operative called David, and a would-be terrorist called Casa seeking refuge from his compatriots because they think he’s defected to the West. Where their stories intertwine is often beautiful, but this is a very confronting book because it doesn’t mince words about Afghan violence and there are some unforgettable scenes one would rather forget. Aslam also doesn’t mince words in his critique of Islamic belief, and not just the fundamentalist version of it.
I found it interesting, but was glad to get to the end of it. With Australian soldiers on the ground in Afghanistan, I didn’t really want to read such a pessimistic view of Afghani culture and attitudes…
Author: Nadeem Aslam
Title: The Wasted Vigil
Publisher: Faber and Faber 2008
Source: Kingston Library