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The Wasted Vigil

Nadeem Aslam

From the prize-winning author of Maps for Lost Lovers comes a devastatingly moving and beautiful novel of family secrets, forbidden love and the tragedy and consequences of war.

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‘This land and its killing epochs.’

Nadeem Aslam’s dazzling new novel takes place in modern-day Afghanistan. A Russian woman named Lara arrives at the house of Marcus Caldwell, an Englishman and widower living in an old perfume factory in the shadow of the Tora Bora mountains. It is possible that Marcus’s daughter, Zameen, may have known Lara’s brother, a Soviet soldier who disappeared in the area many years previously. But like Marcus’s wife, Zameen is dead; a victim of the age in which she was born.

In the days that follow, further people will arrive at the house: David Town and James Palantine, two Americans who have spent much of their adult lives in the area, for their respective reasons; Dunia, a young Afghan teacher; and Casa, a radicalised young man intent on his own path.

The stories and histories that unfold – interweaving and overlapping, and spanning nearly a quarter of a century – tell of the terrible afflictions that have plagued Afghanistan. A work of deepest humanity, The Wasted Vigil offers a timely portrait of this region, of love during war and conflict. At once angry, unflinching and memorably beautiful, it marks Nadeem Aslam as a world writer of major importance.

Critic Reviews

Lyrical but not overwritten, the novel creates an unflinchingly clear picture of a country whose strife is still being written.

Publishers Weekly
Critic Reviews

Arguably the best novel available on the current situation in the Middle East. The jihadists, the warlords, the crusading Americans - all are given voice in calm, relentless, shatteringly beautiful prose that reveals the essential wrongness of the current conflict from every angle. There's no whitewash or caricature here, just authentic writing that delivers the world - and a range of extraordinary characters. Highly recommended.

Library Journal
Critic Reviews

Complexity, beauty, violence and tragedy mark the pages of Aslam's affecting story ... An intense, empathetic, magisterial interpretation of clashing beliefs and entwined fates, in a harsh and ruined, yet lovely place.


Nadeem Aslam was born in Pakistan and now lives in England. He is the author of four previous novels, most recently The Blind Man’s Garden. His work has been longlisted for the Booker Prize, shortlisted for the IMPAC Prize and the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature, and won the Kiriyama and Windham Campbell prizes and the Lannan and Encore…

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