Author Karan Mahajan's 'Association of Small Bombs' Considers Victims, Terrorists

Author Karan Mahajan [Photo by Molly Winters]
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This is one of a series of interviews highlighting the winners of the 2017 Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards. Find more here

People hear about acts of violence in the media happening around the world on a daily basis, but it isn’t necessarily as well known how those events affect those involved in the following days, months and years.

Author Karan Mahajan explores the effects of a deadly bombing in India on the victims’ families, survivors and terrorists in his novel, “The Association of Small Bombs.” Writing from these different perspectives, the fictional story launches from a real-life bombing in 1996.

After the Mumbai terror attacks in 2008 he remembered a 1996, smaller attack in a market near where he grew up in Delhi.

“I use the word small ironically, because no attack is small for someone whose been a victim in it,” he said. “The smaller bombing seemed to be a way in which I could look at terrorism in a microcosm.”

Writing from the view of a terrorist for the novel was difficult for Mahajan.

“For a long time I was writing about them in a mode of contempt and rage, and I think the various drafts I wrote allowed me to subtract away that anger,” he said.

Listen to Karan Mahajan read a selection from The Association of Small Bombs:


The book also shares the perspectives of a family reeling from the loss of their two sons and a teen survivor coming of age after the attack.

“One of the overriding factors that connects victims and terrorists, and also the rest of society, is a kind of sense of victimhood,” he said. “A lot of these actions are carried out from a deep-seated fear. That allowed me to get to the root of the word terror itself, which is meant to induce fear."

Mahajan is a winner of the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for Fiction, which he receives Thursday in Cleveland at the State Theatre in Playhouse Square.

Listen to the entire interview:


ideastream will stream the Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards ceremony Thursday at 6 p.m. live online.

Karan Mahajan gives a reading at the South Euclid/Lyndhurst library at 1 p.m. Friday.

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