Atiq Rahimi — Earth & Ashes (2000)

Setting: The Soviet-Afghan war.

What’s it about? An old man waits by the roadside with his grandson. Slowly his situation is revealed: his family have been killed by Soviet bombing, his grandson is deaf: “Why did the Russians take away everyone’s voices?”, he asks. The man agonises over how he will tell his son that his wife and mother are dead. A short novella but a tragically poignant vignette of a country wracked by conflict.

You know, father, sorrow can turn to water and spill from your eyes, or it can sharpen your tongue into a sword, or it can become a bomb that one day will explode and destroy you. ”

Why you should read it: Its a subtle but beautiful microcosm of the sorrows of war that can be applied to any point of Afghan history from the last forty years.

A scene from the 2005 movie

The best book from Afghanistan? Its got nothing about kites, but see instead Gulwali Passarlay’s autobiographical tale of the life of an Afghan refugee.

My rating: **

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