Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Community Book Review: The Wasted Vigil

The Wasted Vigil By Nadeem Aslam.

For folks whom Kite Runner was not depressing or complex or poetic enough.

Wasted Vigil literally nails its symbolism to the ceiling in the form of a library. The books were put there by a woman driven mad by years of Afghan wars, but the method is crudely effective, the Taliban don't notice them. Other metaphors are similarly fraught, the house also features paintings devoted to the 6 senses covered over by mud, a giant Buddha's head that weeps tears, and a collection of inhabitants who range from Afghanistans' would-be occupiers (British, Russian, American) to its current inhabitants, themselves an Al-Qaeda former Bagram detainee and a female schoolteacher.
All of this weight threatens to overwhelm the storyline which is basically flashbacks, hanging out, and gathering menace.

The poetic language, historic sweep, and admirable dialectic of blame (between colonizers and colonized) more or less sustain things, and we enjoy our time spent with these shattered people. My only complaint is the women are either dead, disappeared, or going back to Russia which serves to make them a moew little two dimensional then the agonizing, suffering, and also dying men.

Reviewed by Jesse Bacon

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