EN,  Fiction

Khâkestar-o-khâk by Atiq Rahimi

My mission to read through all the countries in the world starts with A and a challenge: finding contemporary Afghan literature. There’s Khaled Hosseini, whom I have put on my general to-read-list but who has been living in the U.S. since 1980 and writes in English, so I decided to continue looking for more options. I did some research on Afghan literature: according to my findings, there were some promising Afghan authors in the 1970s but Afghan literature was not much noticed (or translated) anywhere in the world – except the Soviet Union (for a while), but they didn’t think the Afghans were revolutionary enough, so interest there also waned quickly.

I also found out that only about 40% of Afghans can read, but that book stores and the publishing industry in Kabul are thriving (here’s an article from the New York Times). I tried to find some publishing houses online to see whether they had info on contemporary Afghan authors, but this also proved to be rather difficult. I did find out that Azam, one of the biggest publishing houses, sells a translated version of “The Little Prince”.

Because my efforts of finding Afghan literature from Afghanistan were rather fruitless, I settled on reading a book by an Afghan in exile: Atiq Rahimi has been living in France since 1984. Khâkestar-o-khâk, written in his native Dari, was published in 2001; I read the German translation, but there is also an English one. The book tells the story of a man traveling with his grandson to see his son and inform him that everyone else in their family died during a bomb attack by the Russian army. The book is very short (my edition was about 90 pages in quite big print), as depressing as expected, but extremely impactful in telling about the horrors of war on a personal level. There is not much discussion about political aspects of war, the book focuses on living as a survivor when everyone you’ve known is dead and the difficulties of facing this truth. 

Title of English translation: Earth and Ashes

Title of German translation: Erde und Asche

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