At the beginning of The Taliban Shuffle
, the dedication reads: "To the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan, who are still waiting for the punchline."
This sums up the tone of Kim Barker's excellent nonfiction book. Covering her adventures in Pakistan and Afghanistan as a foreign reporter for The Chicago Tribune, The Taliban Shuffle
is a sardonic, satirical piece of long-form journalism, tinged with bitterness. Lacking much by way of an overriding narrative, the book instead follows Barker in a magpie fashion as she tries to make sense of an impossible conflict, and in the process becomes both fascinated and emotionally tied to the country.
The Taliban Shuffle
is entertaining more than analytical and Barker avoids moralizing or being pedantic at all costs. Instead she focuses on all the strange and incomprehensible details...
Beyond the Book
Some of the best parts of The Taliban Shuffle
are Barker's encounters with various Afghan and Pakistani high officials, all of whom are fairly eccentric characters. But, inevitably, it becomes difficult to keep track of their names and positions. Here is a short list of some of the figures met in the book.
Pacha Khan Zadran: A powerful warlord and leader in Southern Afghanistan. Zadran was involved in driving out the Taliban, but soon thereafter turned on US forces because, in Barker's opinion, "No one paid...