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Friday, May 12, 2017

The Association of Small Bombs

"A good bombing begins everywhere at once." So writes Karan Mahajan in his novel The Association of Small Bombs, which details the effects of a terrorist bombing in Delhi. The story is told from several angles, including both the victims and the perpetrators.

In a marketplace, a car bomb is set off. Two boys, brothers, are killed. Their friend, a Muslim, is badly wounded and runs off in a daze. The first part of the book deals with the parents of the dead children--their shock and grief. The prose is well done but I couldn't help but feel we've been down this road before. There has been so much said and written about terrorism that nothing seemed new here.

The book then shifts to the bomber, a Kashmir named Shockie, who operates out of Kathmandu in Nepal. He's a pro at what he does, and while there isn't much characterization, it's kind of fascinating to see how he works and thinks.

The longest section of the book follows Mansoor, the Muslim boy. He goes off to America to learn computer programming, but the wounds in his arms, plus Carpal-Tunnel Syndrome, prevent him from being able to type. He returns to India and feels that the persons arrested for his crime didn't do it, and gets involved in their defense. He also befriends someone who will end up becoming a terrorist.

The Association of Small Bombs in an interesting book, with some beautiful writing: "The best way to describe what he felt would be to say that first he was blind, then he could see everything. This
is what it felt like to be a bomb. You were coiled up, majestic with blackness, unaware that the universe outside you existed, and then a wire snapped and ripped open your eyelids all the way around and you had a vision of the world that was 360 degrees, and everything in your purview was doomed by seeing." But I found the novel lacked focus and was too disjointed, and ultimately didn't have anything to say. For a book about such a traumatic event, I didn't feel much about any of the characters.

I will say that Mahajan seems to be obsessed with bombs and bomb makers: "Bomb makers, like most people, are undone not by others but by themselves."

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