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The Swallows of Kabul



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Success Stories

by Yasmina Khadra

swallows_of_kabul_khadra.jpg

ISBN 0 385 51001 2
Doubleday, 2004
195pp, hardback
Retail price $18.95

Open Book

Review by Nancy Golas-Flinn Ludwin

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This small book holds much emotion and despair about a place we catch glimpses of on our nightly news channel. This is a story about Afghanistan and two couples from different social backgrounds living under the Taliban regime yet discovering that under oppression the human condition is the same for everyone.

The younger couple, Mohsen and his beautiful wife named Zunaira (a former brilliant teacher in days before the religious zealots take over), come from a wealthy background but lost everything in the Taliban regime including their pride. The other couple is Ariq, a prison keeper (who has embraced the ideals of the Taliban) married for many years to a chronically ill and depressed wife named Musarrat. He is obligated to his wife for saving his life when he was a young man.

Ariq’s job is to guard the Taliban’s prisoners before they are to be publicly executed for infractions. He is a man who does as he is told and feels that life is cruel for his lot in life with his sickly wife and his passionless mundane existence.

Mohsen is also frustrated and cannot accept the horrible changes in his country that he can do nothing about. His wife must give up her career and can only be seen in public if escorted and veiled. One day in his powerless state, he joins a maddening mob as they publicly stone to death a young woman accused of adultery. He is appalled at his uncharacteristic behavior and is ashamed to tell his wife. This chain of events spirals out of control after that outrageous incident which changes the couple’s world to the point of no return.

This book pulls at the agonizing truths about hypocrisy in a society where human nature is given so little respect. Characters caught in terror and despair in a country once solid and rugged like its terrain is left in rubble much like the place these people now have to live.

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