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The Association of Small Bombs

On a hot May day in 1996 a car bomb detonates in a Delhi marketplace. Just a 'small' bomb, but it is fatal for two Khurana school boys. Their friend Mansoor survives the blast bearing the physical and psychological effects of the bomb. After a failed stint at university in America, Mansoor returns to Delhi, where he becomes entangled with the mysterious and charismatic Ayub, a fearless young activist. Yet Mansoor isn't the only one damaged by the bomb. Mr and Mrs Khurana are trapped in labyrinthine legal battles, desperate for justice to appease their grief. Young bomb maker Shockie, striving for the future independence of his Kashmiri homeland, is also in Delhi that day, and afterwards will be inextricably linked to the blast. Humane and clear-eyed in equal measure, The Association of Small Bombs tackles the most urgent issue of today with astonishing empathy. Karan Mahajan writes about the effects of terrorism on victims and perpetrators alike, proving himself to be one of the most provocative and dynamic novelists of his generation.
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'A gripping, timely, and moving novel by a writer of enormous talent.' Geoff Dyer

About the Author

Karan Mahajan was born in 1984 and grew up in New Delhi, India. His first novel, Family Planning, was a finalist for the Dylan Thomas Prize and published in nine countries. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, NPR's All Things Considered, the New Yorker online, The Believer, the Paris Review Daily, and Bookforum. A graduate of Stanford University and the Michener Center for Writers, he lives in Austin, Texas.


"Wonderful. It is smart, unpredictable and enviably adept in its handling of tragedy and its fallout" * New York Times * "A superb novel... Mahajan inhabits two sides of a divided India" * Financial Times * "Extraordinary... A mind-blowing book on many, many levels" * BBC Radio 4 * "A voracious approach to fiction-making, a daring imaginative promiscuity" * New Yorker * "In Mahajan's riveting, intricate story, the aftershocks of small bombs are as inescapable as their explosions" -- Alex Traub * Vice Magazine * "Engrossing... looks at the after-effects of tragedy from the perspective of the victims, survivors and perpetrators" -- Sarah Gilmartin * Irish Times * "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 * "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 "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 "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 * "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 "Even when handling the darkest material or picking through confounding emotional complexities, Mahajan maintains a light touch and clarity of vision... He is particularly adept at capturing the quicksilver shifts of mood that accompany states of high emotion" * London Review of Books * "Like a Russian novel set in India, Karan Mahajan'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 "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 * Wall Street Journal * "A brilliant examination of aftermath, how life is built of consequences, both imagined and unimagined, the tight web of human life and human sympathy. Karen 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

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