Zia Haider Rahman

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Zia Haider Rahman
Native name
জিয়া হায়দার রহমান
BornSylhet Division, Bangladesh
Alma materBalliol College, Oxford

Zia Haider Rahman (/ˈzə ˈhdər ˈrɑːmən/; Bengali: জিয়া হায়দার রহমান) is a British novelist who was born in Bangladesh and raised in the UK. His debut novel, In the Light of What We Know, was published in 2014 to international critical acclaim.[1] In August 2015, Rahman was awarded the prestigious James Tait Black Memorial Prize, Britain’s oldest literary prize.[2] In 2016 he was the recipient of the inaugural International Ranald MacDonald Award.[3]

Rahman has been appointed to a Radcliffe Fellowship for 2017-18 at Harvard University,[4] and to a 2019 Director’s Visitor at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton.[5]

Rahman is also an Eric and Wendy Schmidt Fellow 2017 at New America, Washington DC.[6]

He was awarded the Michael & Nina Sundell and the James Silberman & Selma Shapiro Fellowships at Yaddo in 2017. Rahman is also a Senior Fellow at the Bruno Kreisky Forum, Vienna.[7]

The Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University website [8] states Rahman is working on his second novel, the working title for which is 'Creation'. He is also a regular contributor to BBC Radio 4's 'A Point of View' [9]


Rahman was born in rural Bangladesh in the region of Sylhet and has said that his mother tongue was Sylheti and not Bengali, although he understands some Bengali.[10] His family moved to the UK, when Rahman was small, where they were squatters in a derelict building before being moved to a council estate. His father was a bus conductor and waiter and his mother a seamstress. Rahman attended a comprehensive school. In an interview with Guernica, he remarked that he "grew up in poverty, in some of the worst conditions in a developed economy.[11] Rahman took a first class honours degree from Balliol College, Oxford, with further studies at the Maximilianeum and Munich, Cambridge and Yale universities. He worked as an investment banker for Goldman Sachs in New York before practicing as a corporate lawyer and then as an international human rights lawyer focusing on corruption.[12] He has also worked as an anti-corruption activist for Transparency International.[13]


Rahman's first novel In the Light of What We Know received plaudits internationally, earning high praise from literary critics such as James Wood, Louise Adler, Amitava Kumar, Joyce Carol Oates, and Wendy Lesser. Rahman has stated that most of the book was written in upstate New York at Yaddo.[14]


Rahman in Kolkata, India (Jan 2015)

Zia Haider Rahman was invited by the Kolkata Book Fair in January 2015 to deliver the Ashok Kumar Sarkar Memorial Lecture 2015. He talked about freedom of expression.[15]

He was writer in residence at the University of Amsterdam, Netherlands during Feb-Mar 2016.[16]

Rahman joined Maureen Freely and Antonia Fraser, Vicky Featherstone and Peter Stothard as a judge of the 2016 PEN Pinter Prize which was established in 2009 by English PEN in memory of Nobel Laureate playwright and poet Harold Pinter.[17] They chose veteran writer Margaret Atwood for the prize.[18]

Rahman has been awarded a 2017 fellowship by New America on Sept 15, 2016. The New America Fellows program supports thinkers—journalists, producers, practitioners, and scholars—whose work enhances the public conversation about the most pressing issues of our day.[19]

Zia Haider Rahman's book In the light of What We Know won the first international Ranald MacDonald prize in September 2016.[20] The prize is an annual international award for work of a beginning writer or artist, which is of exceptional quality.

Rahman joined The Low-Residency MFA in Fiction and Non-Fiction at Southern New Hampshire University as a visiting faculty in 2017. [21]

Rahman has been appointed to be a Radcliffe Fellow at Harvard University.[22]


  1. ^ Critical reception of In the Light of What We Know
  2. ^ Alison Flood. "James Tait Black prize goes to Zia Haider Rahman's debut novel". The Guardian. Retrieved 17 August 2015.
  3. ^ "Hollands Dieps congratulates Zia Haider Rahman" 18 September 2016
  4. ^ "Fellows" 14 May 2017
  5. ^ "About" 17 September 2018
  6. ^ "New America Announces Fellows Class of 2017" 15 September 2016
  7. ^ "About" 20 April 2017
  8. ^ "Fellows" 17 October 2017
  9. ^ "The Assault on Reason" 18 December 2017
  10. ^ WNYC The Leonard Lopate Show 1 May 2014
  11. ^ Jonathan Lee (23 October 2014). "How Do You Know?". Guernica.
  12. ^ [1] 12 January 2014 The Guardian.
  13. ^ "Dhaka University", Author's Official Website, 3 December 2014
  14. ^ "Spotlight on Yaddo Artist Colony". NEA. 3 September 2014.
  15. ^ "On Freedom of Expression and a Writer's Predicament" 29 January 2015
  16. ^ "Zia Haider Rahman benoemd tot writer in residence" 10 February 2016
  17. ^ "PEN Pinter Prize extends reach beyond UK" 17 February 2016
  18. ^ "Margaret Atwood wins 2016 PEN Pinter prize" 17 October 2016
  19. ^ "New America Announces Fellows Class of 2017" 15 September 2016
  20. ^ "Hollands Dieps congratulates Zia Haider Rahman" 18 September 2016
  21. ^ [2] 27 March 2017
  22. ^ [3] 18 July 2017

External links[edit]