The Disappearance of Seth

The Disappearance of Seth tells the interlocking stories of five New Yorkers, stumbling through their lives in the aftermath of the events of September 11 and connected by the paths of two figures—Seth, an alienated young man struggling to come to terms with his own penchant for violence, and Layla, an Iraqi artist who fled the violence of the first Gulf War and made a new home for herself in New York City. Written by a Muslim American, The Disappearance of Seth features characters both Muslim and non-Muslim, American and non-American in an arresting portrait of life in America at the beginning of the millennium.

“On the morning of September 11, 2001, Seth walks away from an apartment and disappears with the falling towers. Like the legacy of his name, his ghost conjures the memory of slain brothers, of chaos and storm. It is as if Kazim Ali has deftly scribbled poetic notes, scattering a meditative narrative, blown in a storm of war across the skies and troubling landscapes from Bagdad to New York, Cairo to Paris.  His messages drift and tremor into our view, unsettling questions: Who will gather the scattered bones of the dead?  What great memorial, physical or spoken, can raise their spirits? What memory can recuperate art and life lost to incineration by falling bombs? What is art to war?  Kazim Ali, writing in the eye of Seth’s storm, quietly, elegantly designs a poetry of fragments into a seamless narrative pattern, crossing and re-crossing paths to knot his characters in spiritual and human circumstance.” 
—Karen Tei Yamashita 

“By turns poetic, elliptical and strikingly cinematic, this exquisitely written novel illuminates the strange tightrope we are all walking in the radically altered landscape of post-9/11. The Disappearance of Seth brilliantly portrays the characters on a high wire between two worlds--between secular life and Islam, between the quotidian and the larger forces of history,   between the comforts of conversation and art and the unease of spiritual disquietude. This is a novel of both deep intimacy and worldly sweep, heartfelt, wise, and studded with a sharp, wicked wit. Kazim Ali is a remarkable writer.”   
—Dan Chaon 

"In this lyric novel, Kazim Ali holds a vast register of human experience in his embrace: fragmentation and connection, braveness and secrecy, the present and the past that lies in ashes. Although recent history is the backdrop, the book's heart lies in the human landscape of his characters, their sorrows and their navigation of each other."
—Courtney Brkic




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