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Zia Haider Rahman

British novelist

Zia Haider Rahman is a British writer of Bangladeshi origin. His debut novel In the Light Of What We Know in 2014 was published to critical acclaim.

QuotesEdit

  • We face threats to freedom of expression if we are unable or unwilling to rise to the challenge of freedom of expression, when that freedom is exercised. We are all of us—especially those who gather at a book fair—quick to announce to the world that we’re champions of freedom of expression. But when we regard someone’s expression as offensive, why do we seek to silence them? Why is it not enough simply to condemn what they say as offensive and leave untouched their right to say it?
    • "Ashok Kumar Sarkar Memorial Lecture 2015" Jan 29, 2015 [1]. Retrieved on 2015-02-12.
  • I oscillate between loathing Vladimir Nabokov ’s novels (when I think he’s showing off or insisting on making his presence felt) and loving them. This morning, I can’t stand a word of his fiction. But Nabokov’s “Letters to Vera” is not fiction. The showing off, such as there is, is that of a man to his lover, whose absence is felt. The fact that these are the words—such beautiful words—of a writer to his beloved of more than 46 years readies you for the spirit of sincerity in which they were written. Besides, I’m a sucker for a love story.
  • I wrote the Light of What We Know here ..(at Yaddo), over several long stays. I'm not sure where I would have written it otherwise. I've been homeless since 2007, all my few possessions put into storage before I set off to travel across Europe and Asia. My journey was interrupted because of the deaths of loved ones and it was within the interruption that I began and finished writing the novel. Yaddo, I was told, might be a good place to write. ... Yaddo turned out to suit me perfectly. A stately home—not English privilege but a Scooby Doo mansion—with woodlands, three lakes and magical charm, this charitable foundation has for a hundred years been host to giants such as James Baldwin, Saul Bellow, Philip Roth, Sylvia Plath and Truman Capote. I'm still homeless and have yet to resume my broken travels, but wherever I go, I know that Yaddo and its 400-acre stretch of God's own country was always a kind of home to me and helped to nurture In the Light of What We Know.
  • "...there is a virtue attached to intelligence, but lets suppose that we are all intelligent enough to know that intelligence is not a virtue; that the people who made the atom bomb were very intelligent, and that really virtue resides in how we conduct ourselves..."
    • "Zia Haider Rahman's In The Light of What We Know" Books& Arts in ABC June 3, 2015. Retrieved on 2015-06-03.

In The Light of what We Know (2014)Edit

  • Life can only be understood backward; the trouble is, it has to be lived forward.
  • "We shore up our prejudices with selected facts..."
  • 'An exile is a refugee with a library!'
  • I think of the whole of the city, the people who inhabit its halls, who sleep now and breathe its recycled air and whose activities by day animate this strip of land on the rim of the desert, and I remember — because this thought is always a memory — that they will all one day be gone, that everyone of them will be taken outside and pushed into the sand, that in a hundred years, or two hundred years, to be certain, every human being here, every lover and loser, every captain of industry and every hotel cleaner, every mother and father and every child will be no more and that these buildings will stand, not all of them, but enough will persevere without them. Its a thought that stills me, that brings a moment of calm. And I walk and walk, and amid the concrete, steel and glass, under lights burning brighter than the noonday sun, it is the knot of anxiety, always tightening and turning, for which, above all else, I resent her".
  • Spread along the platform was a mass of bobbing black hair like a long wave of silk. Suddenly I felt the first stirrings of what I would later come to recognize as kinship, a feeling that alarmed me, a sense that I was of a piece with a group of people for the most basic reasons, simple to the senses and irrational. They all looked like me.
  • When we encounter a face, we view it as a whole, by a process of integration of the parts, which takes place, as some scientists and physicians understand it, in the optic nerves long before any transmission reaches the brain. The otherwise dizzying abundance of information that hits the retina is distilled in this tract of fibers behind the eye into a sign that our intelligence can absorb. 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.
  • Perhaps the elites run to a different beat of time.
  • "...And tell me what could be more humbling than to be lying in bed at two in the afternoon, without a shower in twelve days; to look across the room you live in and see in the corner a pile of pizza boxes; to be afraid of undrawing the curtains and opening the window, so removed from people so as not to even wonder who would care if you did or if you didn't do this or that; and to find that the day's only scintilla of hope flickers in the moment you reach for the television remote control".

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