Burnt Shadows A Novel

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  • Edition: Original
  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 4/27/2009
  • Publisher: Picador

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Winner of the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award An Orange Prize Finalist Nagasaki, August 9, 1945. Hiroko Tanaka watches her lover from the veranda as he leaves. Sunlight streams across Urakami Valley, and then the world goes white. In the devastating aftermath of the atomic bomb, Hiroko leaves Japan in search of new beginnings. From Delhi, amid India's cry for independence from British colonial rule, to New York City in the immediate wake of 9/11, to the novel's astonishing climax in Afghanistan, a violent history casts its shadow the entire world over. Sweeping in its scope and mesmerizing in its evocation of time and place, this is a tale of love and war, of three generations, and three world-changing historic events. Burnt Shadows is a story for our time by "a writer of immense ambition and strength. . . . This is an absorbing novel that commands in the reader a powerful emotional and intellectual response" (Salman Rushdie).Kamila Shamsiewas born in 1973 in Karachi. She has studied and taught in the United States. Two of her previous novels,KartographyandBroken Verses, have won awards from Pakistan's Academy of Letters. She writes forThe Guardian(UK) and frequently broadcasts on the BBC. Anisfield-Wolf Book Prize Winner for Fiction Shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction Hiroko Tanaka is twenty-one and in love with the man she is to marry, Konrad Weiss. As she steps onto her veranda, wrapped in a kimono with three black cranes swooping across the back, her world is suddenly and irrevocably altered. In the numbing aftermath of the atomic bomb that obliterates everything she has known, all that remains are the bird-shaped burns on her back, an indelible reminder of the world she has lost. In search of new beginnings, two years later, Hiroko travels to Delhi. It is there that her life will become intertwined with that of Konrad's half sister, Elizabeth, her husband, James Burton, and their employee Sajjad Ashraf, from whom she starts to learn Urdu. With the partition of India, and the creation of Pakistan, Hiroko will find herself displaced once again, in a world where old wars are replaced by new conflicts. But the shadows of history--personal and political--are cast over the interrelated worlds of the Burtons, the Ashrafs, and the Tanakas as they are transported from Pakistan to New York and, in the novel's astonishing climax, to Afghanistan in the immediate wake of 9/11. The ties that have bound these families together over decades and generations are tested by wars and disasters, with unforeseeable consequences."Shamsie stitches together a sweeping saga that begins with a young Japanese woman in wartime Nagasaki and ends, more than half a century later, with a Pakistani prisoner about to be shipped to Guantanamo Bay. The tale unfolds through the lives of two unusually multinational (and multilingual) families: the Weiss-Burtons (German, British and American) and the Ashraf-Tanakas (Indian/Pakistani and Japanese). Not counting minor detours, their triumphs and tragedies span five countries and, without giving too much away, at least three world-changing historical events. On the face of it, collapsing so broad a canvas in a relatively slender novel is a recipe for chaos worthy of a subcontinental urban planner. But in Ms. Shamsie's self-assured hands this does not come to pass. The story line remains taut, the characters vividly etched. Even the implausible romance at the heart of the novel--between Hiroko Tanaka, a survivor of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki, and Sajjad Ashraf, a young aesthete forced to emigrate from Delhi to Karachi in the wake of the 1947 partition of British India--is somehow rendered believable. Ms. Shamsie is . . . as a cartographer of culture. She notes, for instance, that in Indo-Musl

Author Biography

KAMILA SHAMSIE was born in 1973 in Karachi. She has studied and taught in the USA. Two of her previous novels, Kartography and Broken Verses, have won awards from Pakistan's Academey of Letters. She writes for The Guardian (UK) and frequently broadcasts on the BBC.

Table of Contents

Burnt Shadows
The Yet Unknowing World
... a time to recollect every shadow, everything the earth was losing, a time to think of everything the earth and I had lost, of all that I would lose, of all that I was losing.
--AGHA SHAHID ALI, A Nostalgist's Map of America
In past wars only homes burnt, but this time Don't be surprised if even loneliness ignites. In past wars only bodies burnt, but this time Don't be surprised if even shadows ignite.
--SAHIR LUDHIANVI, Parchaiyaan
BURNT SHADOWS © 2009 by Kamila Shamsie.

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