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The Wind Blows Away Our Words and Other…

The Wind Blows Away Our Words and Other Documents Relating to the Afghan… (1987)

by Doris Lessing

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Prisons We Choose To Live Inside by Doris Lessing 1986
These essays are taken from a series of five lectures given by Doris Lessing under the auspices of the Canadian Broadcasting Company in 1985. The overriding themes of of these lectures are that we do not learn from history, we as a civilization keep repeating the same mistakes, despite being better informed and we fail to take notice of the developing sciences of psychology and anthropology. Lessing makes her case persuasively and asks the questions that continue to baffle some people. Why do we continue to go to war, why do we elect leaders that we know or at least suspect are telling us lies.

“ I think it is sentimental to discuss the subject of war or peace, without acknowledging that a great many people enjoy war - not only the idea of it but the fighting itself……… people who have lived through a war know that as it approaches, an at first secret, unacknowledged, elation begins, as if an almost invisible drum is beating……….an awful, illicit, violent excitement is abroad….. everyone is possessed by it.”

“ We have now reached the stage where a political leader not only uses, skilfully, time-honoured rabble rousing tricks - see Shakespeare's Julius Caesar - but employ experts to make it even more effective. But the antidote is that, in an open society, we may also examine these tricks being used on us. If, that is, we choose to examine them”

My favourite of the five short essays (they are all good) is her one on Group Minds: nothing scientific here and nothing particularly new but she gets across her points as to how difficult it is to stand apart from the majority, whether it is a social group, an income level group, or even a protest movement. How easy it is to be carried along by emotions instead of examining the evidence at hand in the light of reason.

The Wind Blows Away our Words by Doris Lessing 1987
This is reportage and stories following Lessing’s trip to Peshawar and Chitral in Pakistan in 1986. She had for some time been involved in the Resistance to the Russian invasion of Afghanistan through the aid organisation Afghan Relief. Peshawar in Northern Pakistan is as near as many people could get to the front line resistance in Afghanistan and was at that time the home to a huge number of refugees. She got to interview some of the leaders of the Muhjahadin, but her primary focus in this extended essay is the plight of the refugees, particularly the women, who having fled the bombing found themselves imprisoned in camps where their freedom was curtailed by the rising power of the Mullahs

She bemoans the fact that the Russian invasion of Afghanistan and the plight of the refugees received little coverage in the Western press; famine in Africa was much higher in the list of priorities, in spite of the fact that there were an estimated five million Afghan refugees and over a million civilians killed by the Russians.

There is no doubt that Lessing had points to make from her own perspective, but I see them as particularly valid. I had stayed in Peshawar and Chitral ten years earlier and had spent a little time in Afghanistan as well staying in the same hotels that Lessing was reporting from and so her descriptions of the towns and villages brought them back vividly to life. I have no reason to doubt that her descriptions of the border regions on the edge of conflict are no less accurate.

Both of these collections of essays are well worth reading, 4 stars. ( )
  baswood | May 11, 2017 |
Read during Summer 2003

Written 7 years into the 10 year Soviet-Afghan war, this set of three essays is based on Lessing's trip to the refuge areas in Pakistan and her discussions with and observations of the reugues and mujahadin fighters. The most chilling part is the predictions of lack of US aid leading to a rise of fundamentalism and the influx of outsiders with other agendas. It all came to pass, just at the Afghanis themselves thought.
  amyem58 | Jul 14, 2014 |
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added by andersocheva | editNew Musical Express, Graham Caveney (May 16, 1987)
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One of each three Afghans is dead, in the exile or living in a field of refugees, and the world stays completely indifferent. From the instant one arrives to Peshawar one is wrapped by Afghanistan, its enormity, the horror and the sadness. Each Afghan that you know, be a refugee or a muyahid, is a tragedy; each one is a request: Help us, help us!, writes Doris Lessing, Nobel Prize of Literature 2007.

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