Usman Khan was convicted of terrorism-related offences at age 20, and sent to high-security prison. He was released eight years later, and allowed to travel to London for one day, to attend an event marking the fifth anniversary of a prison education programme he participated in. On 29 November 2019, he sat with others at Fishmongers’ Hall, some of whom he knew. Then he went to the bathroom to retrieve the things he had hidden there: a fake bomb vest and two knives, which he taped to his wrists. That day, he killed two people: Saskia Jones and Jack Merritt.
Preti Taneja taught fiction writing in prison for three years. Merritt oversaw her program; Khan was one of her students. ‘It is the immediate aftermath,’ Taneja writes. ‘I am living at the centre of a wound still fresh. The I is not only mine. It belongs to many.’
In this searching lament Taneja interrogates the language of terror, trauma and grief; the fictions we believe and the voices we exclude. Contending with the pain of unspeakable loss set against public tragedy, she draws on history, memory, and powerful poetic predecessors to reckon with the systemic nature of atrocity. Blurring genre and form, Aftermath is a profound attempt to regain trust after violence and to recapture a politics of hope through a determined dream of abolition.