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The Swallows of Kabul by Yasmina Khadra
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The Swallows of Kabul (original 2002; edition 2005)

by Yasmina Khadra, John Cullen (Translator)

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1,015618,391 (3.63)67
Member:Rosareads
Title:The Swallows of Kabul
Authors:Yasmina Khadra
Other authors:John Cullen (Translator)
Info:Anchor (2005), Paperback, 195 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:Kabul, Taliban, Despair

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The Swallows of Kabul by Yasmina Khadra (2002)

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» See also 67 mentions

English (52)  French (3)  Norwegian (2)  Danish (2)  Spanish (2)  All languages (61)
Showing 1-5 of 52 (next | show all)
Bleak! ( )
  jackandvera | May 31, 2016 |
There's a lot of emotion and horror packed into this short novel. A heartbreaker for sure. ( )
  sparemethecensor | Feb 15, 2016 |
This is a story about two Afghani couples from different social backgrounds living under the Taliban regime. The younger couple, named Mohsen and his beautiful wife named Zunaira, a former brilliant teacher in days before the Taliban take over, come from a wealthy background but lost everything in the Taliban regime including their pride. The other couple is Atiq, a prison keeper, who has embraced the ideals of the Taliban, has been married for many years to a chronically ill and depressed woman named Musarrat. He is obligated to his wife for saving his life when he was a young man.

Atiq'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.

Taliban thugs roam the streets with whips and the penalty for truth is death. Even veterans must pretend that the corpses of God's warriors are bathed in a musky perfume and never decompose. The Swallows of Kabul is a scathing indictment of a society where the worship of a fundamentalist God makes life uninhabitable. Wherever you live today, be grateful you don't live the type of miserable existence described in this book. ( )
  Olivermagnus | Jan 17, 2016 |
Terrifying... That's the only word I have in mind when I think about this book. Excellent style and plot, but the truth of Kabul is just terrifying. Poor characters carried by an horrible fate. ( )
  CathCD | Jan 16, 2016 |
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.
( )
  BookConcierge | Jan 13, 2016 |
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Allá por el quinto infierno, un tornado abre los volantes de su vestido en la estrambótica danza de una bruja en trance; tanta histeria ni siquiera consigue sacudirle el polvo a las dos palmeras calcificadas que se alzan hacia el cielo como los brazos de un martirizado.
In the middle of nowhere, a whirlwind spins like a sorceress flinging out her skirts in a macabre dance; yet not even this hysteria serves to blow the dust off the calcified palm trees thrust against the sky like beseeching arms.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0099466023, Paperback)

Moshen and his wife, Zunaira, met at the university and once looked forward to a happy and prosperous life together. But Moshem's dream of becoming a diplomat, halted by the war with Russia, dies with the ascendancy of the Taliban. Zunaira, formerly a lawyer who worked for women's rights, can no longer even appear on the streets of Kabul without a veil over her face. It is only in their own home that they can be themselves. One day, unable to resist Moshen's pleas, Zunaira dons her burqa and goes to market with him. The outing turns into a nightmare. Atiq, a veteran of the Russian war, is now a part-time jailer who watches over those condemned to death. The darkness of the prison and the wretchedness of his job have seeped into his soul. His home offers little respite from his rage and misery; his wife Musarrat, is suffering from an illness no doctor can cure and even the most furvent prayers cannot alleviate. As Atiq begins to lose all faith in his own ability to survive the arbitary demands and extreme cruelties of the Taliban, he is drawn to Zanaira, now in prison awaiting public execution. In a final act of defiance, Musarrat conceives a plan that will allow her husband to live and hope again...Already a best seller in France, "The Swallows of Kabul" brilliantly exposes the differences between religiosity and dangerous religious extremism. Written in spare, exquisite prose, it is an unforgettable portrait of life under a fascist theocracy.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:01:27 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Set in Kabul under the rule of the Taliban, this novel takes readers into the lives of two couples: Mohsen, who comes from a family of wealthy shopkeepers whom the Taliban has destroyed; Zunaira, his wife, exceedingly beautiful, who was once a brilliant teacher and is now no longer allowed to leave her home without an escort or covering her face. Intersecting their world is Atiq, a prison keeper, a man who has sincerely adopted the Taliban ideology and struggles to keep his faith, and his wife, Musarrat, who once rescued Atiq and is now dying.… (more)

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