A talented Bangladeshi mathematician’s incredible sad story includes, as in Sebald and Eco, many worlds in Zia Haider Rahman’s In the Light of What We Know.
Albert Einstein, the narrator informs us in the beginning of this novel, used to look forward to his long walks at Princeton with Kurt Godel, the great mathematician, for stimulating conversation. Similarly, the narrator himself used to go for walks with his brilliant mentor, Zafar, through the streets of Oxford. The mathematics of Godel plays an important role in their conversations, as do assorted subjects such as the elegance of Poggendorff’s Illusion; the inferiority of Mercator’s Projection to Peter’s Projection in map-making; Bach’s music and Brahms’s opinion of it, and the reason why flags are flown at half-mast when somebody dies. This small apercu will give you some idea of the soaring scope—and intellectual range—of In the Light of What We Know.