THE ASSOCIATION OF SMALL BOMBS
From the publisher:
The Association of Small Bombs is an expansive and deeply humane novel that is at once groundbreaking in its empathy, dazzling in its acuity, and ambitious in scope
When brothers Tushar and Nakul Khurana, two Delhi schoolboys, pick up their family’s television set at a repair shop with their friend Mansoor Ahmed one day in 1996, disaster strikes without warning. A bomb—one of the many “small” bombs that go off seemingly unheralded across the world—detonates in the Delhi marketplace, instantly claiming the lives of the Khurana boys, to the devastation of their parents. Mansoor survives, bearing the physical and psychological effects of the bomb. After a brief stint at university in America, Mansoor returns to Delhi, where his life becomes entangled with the mysterious and charismatic Ayub, a fearless young activist whose own allegiances and beliefs are more malleable than Mansoor could imagine. Woven among the story of the Khuranas and the Ahmeds is the gripping tale of Shockie, a Kashmiri bomb maker who has forsaken his own life for the independence of his homeland.
Karan Mahajan writes brilliantly about the effects of terrorism on victims and perpetrators, proving himself to be one of the most provocative and dynamic novelists of his generation.
Published in 2016 in the US, India, and the UK.
Order: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Powell’s, Books-a-Million, IndieBound, and iBooks
One of the New York Times Book Review's "10 Best Books of 2016"
One of Granta's "Best of Young American Novelists"
American Academy of Arts and Letters Rosenthal Family Foundation Award
Muse India Young Writer Award
Raymond Crossword Book Award (India)
Tata Literature Live "Book of the Year" Prize (India)
DSC Prize for South Asian Literature
Jesse H. Jones Award for Best Work of Fiction in Texas
Writers' League of Texas Book Awards
PEN Center USA Prize for Literature
An Esquire, New York Magazine, Good Magazine, Buzzfeed, Huffington Post, Electric Literature, Book Riot, The Fader, Vogue (India), Business Standard (India), Straits Times (Singapore) and The National (UAE) Best Book of 2016
A Washington Post Notable Book of 2016
One of Flavorwire's 50 Signs of Hope for Culture in 2016
One of Open Magazine's 50 "Open Minds" of 2016
A "Book of the Month" Club Pick
"Wonderful...smart, devastating, unpredictable and enviably adept in its handling of tragedy and its fallout. If you enjoy novels that happily disrupt traditional narratives — about grief, death, violence, politics — I suggest you go out and buy this one. Post haste....thrilling, tender and tragic...generous without prejudice, which feels at once subversive and refreshing."
—Fiona Maazel, The New York Times Book Review
"Brilliant, troubling...superbly suspenseful...Mr. Mahajan’s writing is acrid and bracing, tightly packed with dissonant imagery...The sharpest passages examine the terrorist mind-set and the demented rationales for mass murder with such acid-etched clarity that it’s possible to feel the deadly magnetism of the arguments...The finest [novel] I’ve read at capturing the seduction and force of the murderous, annihilating illogic that increasingly consumes the globe."
—Sam Sacks, The Wall Street Journal
"A voracious approach to fiction-making, a daring imaginative promiscuity...he renders the spectacle of the bombing with a languid, balletic beauty, pitting the unhurried composure of his prose against the violence of the events it describes...Mahajan hasn’t lost his sharp comic impulses...[Mahajan's] facility for gorgeous turns of phrase produces many passages of vivid, startling power."
—Alexandra Schwartz, The New Yorker
“A singularly intelligent novel.”
—Parul Sehgal, The New York Times Book Review
“A mind-blowing book on many, many levels. The characterisation is extraordinary...A very extraordinary book.”
—BBC Radio 4 "Saturday Review"
"Even when handling the darkest material or picking through confounding emotional complexities, Mahajan maintains a light touch and a clarity of vision...He is particularly adept at capturing the quicksilver shifts of mood that accompany states of high emotion...Mahajan shows immense perspicacity in his handling of Deepa, and of the other women in the novel...The scenes among the conspirators are captured with self-assurance."
—Deborah Baker, The London Review of Books
"The Association of Small Bombs...deftly shifts the reader’s sympathy back and forth between the two men who pull off a relatively insignificant small blast, and the people, sometimes dislikeable, who suffer the consequences. But the moral power of his novel comes from his determination to take individual losses — and choices — seriously, rather than assigning a scale whereby the degree of tragedy is calibrated by high or low body-counts."
—Nilanjana Roy, The Financial Times (UK)
"Ambitious and all too painful...beautifully written...profoundly sad."
"Nothing short of a tour de force."
—Katherine Hill, The Philadelphia Inquirer
"[D]eeply moving...destroys the tropes of the subcontinental novel...Mahajan has committed to a radical and extended act of empathy."
—Sharan Shetty, Slate
"A superb novel...In mimicking the bomb’s structure, Mahajan creates its opposite: a careful, discriminate and moral work of art."
—Luke Brown, The Financial Times (UK)
"Masterful...With great empathy and no lack of humor, Mahajan shows the multitudinous sides to the kind of story that we usually read a line or two about in a newspaper, or hear short mention of on television."
"Karan Mahajan, who is 31, maps the nature of terrorist violence--from the stirrings of disaffection to its deadly outburst and embittered aftermath--in a completely original way...His laser beam penetrates larger conflicts of class, creed and region, from the upper middle-class drawing rooms of Delhi to the intense alienation brewing in the small towns of Kashmir and Uttar Pradesh...its careful layering of verisimilitude makes it a bold work of the imagination."
—Sunil Sethi, Business Standard (India)
"[Mahajan] shows a keen sensitivity to political psychology, well aware that oppression is just as likely to make people stupid as saintly...Most of all, Mahajan writes in the knowledge that people can find pleasure and meaning in many things: politics, pornography, programming, prayer...At its best, Mahajan's prose sings with novelty, sensuousness and empathy..."
—Nakul Krishna, The Literary Review (UK)
"Mahajan is an exceptional prose stylist...The novel, as a consequence, is both finely etched and deftly structured (the pace does not flag)...Mahajan’s eye for detail is unerring...A superbly written novel."
"Mahajan takes this global issue and breaks it down expertly into its various local components...The Association of Small Bombs is about the cold facts, the science of bomb-making, medical examinations, and statistics of the dead. At the same time it delves deep into the psyche of each character as they unravel and implode, sometimes with a bang and at others with a whimper, just like the bombs themselves.."
"Mahajan writes with brevity and clarity making this grim exploration of human suffering and psyche immensely readable. His powerful prose is backed by strong research of the subject he takes on."
—The Hindustan Times (India) - August
"Mahajan’s novel startles because it picks apart the anatomy of grief like a surgeon attempting to eviscerate a tumour...it is also a book of the beautiful sentence and the unexpected turn of phrase."
"Mahajan writes with brutal honesty, chasing his characters with an unforgiving relentlessness and laying them bare before us in all their tragic, pathetic reality."
"By using both humor and pathos, he realistically depicts the explosions, the horror of the people as they see their loved ones lying dead and the struggle to adjust with life after the blast. However, what sets this novel apart is its depiction of the lives of the terrorists..."
"Acute and spine-chilling."
—The Hindustan Times (India) - July
"Yet, human lives can be affected by chance events, the most inexplicable of possibilities, and a novel has to ably reflect life’s realities, and in this Mahajan succeeds in many admirable ways...Mahajan’s sentences have that deftness and ease; they convey the complex in a pithy way."
"Engrossing...Mahajan reminds us that the scale of an attack is irrelevant."
"[Mahajan] has a brilliant eye for the self-absorption of upper middle-class Delhi life. It means there’s plenty to enjoy in The Association of Small Bombs, as well as much that will shock, perturb and provoke thought."
—The Observer (UK)
"In a post-9/11 world, this novel should be considered a must-read."
"Darkly incisive...In Mahajan's riveting and intricate story, the aftershocks of small bombs are as inescapable as their explosions."
"A tour de force of psychological probing and empathy."
—The Austin-American Statesman
"[W]riting as brave as you will find it, not only in terms of its subject, but also as a function of style...cumulative, unnerving, and surprising."
"A sweeping, gripping narrative...Mahajan astounds with his devastating study of violence. Not every writer can tap into the mindset of a bomber – Joseph Conrad triumphed in The Secret Agent whereas John Updike failed in Terrorist – but Mahajan pulls it off with chilling results."
—Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Radio One
"This haunting novel will find its way into many hands."
"Mahajan has an unfaltering ability to get at each event he describes from interesting, unexpected angles."
"Rarely have I read a novel more timely and disturbing than Karan Mahajan’s new book, The Association of Small Bombs."
"Mahajan delves into the most pressing urgencies of the human experience and twists the reader’s sympathies with tremendous dexterity. He accomplishes all of this within beautifully sparkling prose—a rare combination that makes The Association of Small Bombs an indubitable standout."
"Mahajan's second novel is a devastating and cleverly crafted look at tragedy, both in the run-up and the fallout, and at the circumstances that may lead a person to contemplate mass murder."
—The Straits Times (Singapore)
"In this fine novel, Karan Mahajan has achieved a brilliant and distinctive success. The sources, and unbearable, unending, consequences of a terrorist atrocity constitute a subject extremely difficult to capture in a work of serious literature. But with his intelligence, humanity, and art, Mahajan has given us a deep portrait of life in a kind of darkness."
—Norman Rush, National Book Award-winning author of Mating and Mortals
"‘I can’t remember the last time I read a book which conjured a world so rich and so convincing."
—Mark Haddon, author of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
“Karan Mahajan is a writer with great command and acute and original insights. He offers what few can: a stereoscopic view of reality in dark, contemporary times.”
—Rachel Kushner, author of National Book Award Finalist The Flamethrowers
“The Association of Small Bombs is a wondrous, devastating novel—packed with small wonders of beauty and heartbreak that are impossible to resist.”
—Dinaw Mengestu, MacArthur “Genius” grantee and author of All Our Names
“Like a Russian novel set in India, Karan Mahahan’s The Association of Small Bombs has the sweep, wisdom and sensibility of the old masters. Here the humor of Bulgakov and the heart of Pasternak deliver an exploded-view of a small bomb that goes off in a minor market in a corner of South Delhi. Like shrapnel, themes of suffering, dislocation and redemption radiate from the blast, and none will be spared Mahajan’s piercing gaze. Urgent and masterful, this novel shows us how bystander, bomber, victim, and survivor will forever share a patch of scorched ground.”
—Adam Johnson, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Orphan Master’s Son
“Packed with insight into the minds of a diverse cast of characters, The Association of Small Bombs is often breathtaking in its wisdom and maturity. With one sharp observation after another, Mahajan renders a picture of religious and political tension in Delhi that is as unforgettable as it is heartbreaking.”
—Adelle Waldman, author of The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P.
“The Association of Small Bombs is a brilliant examination of aftermath, how life is built of consequences, both imagined and unimagined, the tight web of human life and human sympathy. Karan Mahajan knows everyone, on every side of a detonation: the lost, the grieving, the innocent, the guilty, the damaged. It’s hilarious and also devastating. Karan Mahajan is a virtuoso writer, and this is a wonderful book.”
—Elizabeth McCracken, author of Thunderstruck & Other Stories
“A gripping, timely, and moving novel by a writer of enormous talent.”
—Geoff Dyer, author of Out of Sheer Rage
“Karan Mahajan is daring comfortable readers to make an uncomfortable connection: between the bomb that goes off on the first page of his book, and the way the pages that follow seem to scatter, in bright-hot shards of heartbreaking story. The Association of Small Bombs, which tracks the aftermath of a blast in Delhi in 1996, is a work of disabused intelligence, and staggering compassion--for the victims, and even for the terrorists, all of whom are rendered whole, even if they're in pieces. Its political subtlety is laudable for how relentlessly it's paced, and the grace of its prose acts like a balm to its trauma. Mahajan's sense of fiction as the history behind history puts him in league with Joseph Conrad, and like Conrad he succeeds brilliantly at writing past Empire, by relating the newest of news-cycles to the oldest of tale-cycles.”
—Joshua Cohen, author of Book of Numbers
"Karan Mahajan’s thoughtful, touching and perfectly pitched account of two marketplace bombings and the casual havoc they cause in a handful of Delhi families is almost subversive in its even-handedness and its charity. For all its unflinching—and unnerving—fatalism, The Association of Small Bombs is an unusually wise, tender, and generous novel."
—Jim Crace, author of the Booker Prize finalists Harvest and Being Dead
“The Association of Small Bombs is an utterly brilliant book. Rarely does one encounter a work as masterful in the precision of its writing or as penetrating in the insights it provides. Karan Mahajan is a writer to be admired.”
—Kevin Powers, author of the National Book Award Finalist The Yellow Birds
“Gorgeous and devastating, this is a story about how violence spurred by oppression, poverty, and xenophobia goes viral. You cannot read a more timely work of fiction.”
—Julia Glass, National Book Award winning author of Three Junes, "Best Books of 2016"
One of the most anticipated books of the year on Buzzfeed, The Millions, Flavorwire, Goodreads, The Huffington Post, Travel+Leisure, Brooklyn Magazine, The Chicago Tribune, The Week, and Co-operative Travel among others.