I think there are two things people think of when asked what they know about Afghanistan: war(s) and Khaled Hosseini’s books. I have just finished reading Hosseini’s third book, And the Mountains Echoed. It’s a story about pain and hope, grief and new beginnings, letting go and moving on. The book revolves around a brother and his sister, their families, and the choices they made during different time periods from the 1950s to the 21st century.
And the Mountains Echoed is written as nine short stories, but they are all about the same family. I have read his two previous books, and to be honest, I liked them more than this one. Quite frankly I would have prefered the book to be written as a traditional novel. It is however still a good book, with intriguing topics. I like the flow in Hosseini’s writings. It is somehow pure and simply, yet so deep.
The one thing that stayed with me was “the Sophie’s choice”, and also making unpleasant choices in life in general. Looking through Western goggles and how we perceive children, is in many ways different from the Afghan way. Girls are of course not that important. The first born son seems to be the important one, no matter which culture we are looking at. Hosseini has lived in the U.S. for quite a few years, which can also be seen from his writing. I like the way he gives girls and women a big impact in his books, and I wonder what his view about girls and women would be like if he’d never left Afghanistan.
Wars and more
I also wanted a female point of view about life in Afghanistan, and I got it from a book called Afghanistan, Where God Only Comes to Weep. It’s written by an Iranian author, Siba Shakib. It’s a true story about a strong woman called Shirin-Gol, who dreamt of being a doctor, and had to marry a man due to her brother’s gambling debt. As in Hosseini’s books, Taliban also has a presence in this book. This book is also about a lot more than war, moving from place to place, violence towards women, and poverty. It is about strong female characters, and the bond between these women, and female resistance.
“Like all Afghans, I was against the Russians, I was against President Taraki, I was against his government because he collaborated with the Communists. I was against the Pakistanis who supported them. I was against the Americans who supported them, and I’m against the Taleban. But war? That is no solution.” – Afghanistan, Where Good Only Comes to Weep
These books about Afghanistan are international bestsellers, and easy to get ahold of. I highly recommend these books. They give a good overview of life in a war-torn Afghanistan, about foreign intruders, and what power fear has over people. It’s also interesting to see how Iran seems to be a dream for Afghans, or at least used to be.
There are quite a few books about these same topics, which is a good thing, because what happened and what still happens in Afghanistan should be known to the world. Next I want to read a book about Afghanistan before the wars.