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The Swallows of Kabul by Yasmina Khadra
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bookshelves: concierge, culture, literary-fiction, library, religion, social-commentary, tragedy

This short novel follows two couples in a Taliban-run Kabul. Mohsen comes from a family of wealthy shopkeepers; his wife, Zunaira, is a beautiful and brilliant teacher. The Taliban has destroyed their business and home, and Zunaira is no longer allowed to work. In contrast, we see Atiq, a jailer who has adopted the Taliban teachings, and his faithful and loving wife, Musarrat, who is dying of a debilitating illness.

Khadra writes with poetic detail about a city which the residents no longer recognize as their own. Frightened, confused, unsure, despairing, they struggle to make sense of a culture that is at once familiar and foreign:
“…hundreds of little kids … many barely old enough to walk, and all silently braiding the stout rope they’ll use, someday soon, to lynch their country’s last hope of salvation.”
“We had some privileges that we didn’t know how to defend, and so we forfeited them to the apprentice mullahs….It would be marvelous to stand in front of a shop window, leaning against you, or to sit at a table, just the two of us, chatting away or making fantastic plans. But that’s no longer possible.”
”How could he have believed that lovers’ promenades were still possible in a city that looks like a hospice for the moribund, overrun with repellent fanatics whose eyes stare out of the dark backward and abysm of time? How could he have lost sight of the horrors that punctuate daily life in a nation so contemptible its official language is the whip?”
“You’re happy, but you don’t know it. All your life, you’ve only listened to other people – your teachers and your holy men, your leaders and your demons – and they’ve spoken to you of nothing but wrongs and bitterness and war.”

There are some startlingly brutal images contained in this small volume. This is a tragedy, and things will not end well for all these characters. But I feel that I have gained a little understanding of the situation by reading this novel, and for that I’m grateful.
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
November 12, 2014 – Shelved
November 12, 2014 – Shelved as: concierge
November 12, 2014 – Shelved as: culture
November 12, 2014 – Shelved as: literary-fiction
November 12, 2014 – Shelved as: library
November 12, 2014 – Shelved as: religion
November 12, 2014 – Shelved as: social-commentary
November 12, 2014 – Shelved as: tragedy
November 12, 2014 – Finished Reading

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