Nadeem Aslam's The Wasted Vigil offers the opportunity to consider the ways in which notions of civil war in the twenty-first century are complicated both by legacies of colonialisms and by contemporary discourse on extremism. Though the Afghanistan represented in the text is shown to be in a state of civil war stemming from tribal conflict, it is, simultaneously, an occupied space with an inheritance of multiple occupations. This palimpsestic arena serves as a meeting ground for key characters, each of which hails from and so represents a distinct part of Afghanistan's legacy. The novel also offers a meditation on the nature of extremism and its representations in the post-9/11 era. If, as Baudrillard suggests, terrorism like that enacted on 11 September 2001 succeeds because of its symbolic value, Aslam's novel pursues the notion of the symbolic through language as a way of moving beyond the standoff created by current-day (and largely American) rhetoric about extremism. The global civil war' enacted in the pages of The Wasted Vigil thus offers a critique not only of definitions of civil war, but also, and perhaps more significantly, a far more damning critique of the American-centric perspective on globality and media's normalization of the unimaginable image.