The Swallows of Kabul by Yasmina Khadra
“Yasmina Khadra” is the pseudonym for an Algerian military officer. He adopted a female name to avoid military censorship, but I wonder if it’s not also because he understands women. The characters of Zunaira and Mussarat lay bare the bleakness and emptiness of the Taliban’s ideology and the focus of his subsequent novel, The Attack, is on understanding a female suicide bomber.
The author said of this book, “The West interprets the world as he likes it. He develops certain theories that fit into its world outlook, but do not always represent the reality. Being a Muslim, I suggest a new perspective on
The Swallows of Kabul follows two couples, one educated and middle class, the other from a lower social scale. Neither has children or obvious extended family and both find their lives narrow and hollow as a result of the rules imposed by the Taliban. Both are isolated, without the interests and values of their former lives. One woman is dying; the other, once a magistrate, is reduced to “being” the burqa she must wear. The deterioration of the two couples is a microcosm of the world under the Taliban:
- "Things in
are going from bad to worse, sliding into ruin, sweeping along men and mores. It’s a chaos within chaos, a disaster enclosed in a disaster, and woe to those who are careless. An isolated person is doomed beyond remedy. The other day, there was a madman in the neighborhood, screaming at the top of his lungs that God had failed. From all indications, this poor soul knew neither where he was nor how he had lost his wits. But the uncompromising Taliban, seeing no extenuating circumstances in his madness, had him blindfolded, gagged, and whipped to death in the public square." [pp. 71-72] Kabul