Set in Kabul under the rule of the Taliban, this extraordinary 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 of sickness and despair.
Desperate, exhausted Mohsen wanders through Kabul when he is surrounded by a crowd about to stone an adulterous woman. Numbed by the hysterical atmosphere and drawn into their rage, he too throws stones at the face of the condemned woman buried up to her waist. With this gesture the lives of all four protagonists move toward their destinies.
The Swallows of Kabul is a dazzling novel written with compassion and exquisite detail by one of the most lucid writers about the mentality of Islamic fundamentalists and the complexities of the Muslim world. Yasmina Khadra brings readers into the hot, dusty streets of Kabul and offers them an unflinching but compassionate insight into a society that violence and hypocrisy have brought to the edge of despair.
The New York Times - Michiko Kakutani
Yasmina Khadra — whose previous books have chronicled Algeria's savage civil war, pitting Islamic fundamentalists against the armybacked government — is intimately familiar with the consequences that war and religious extremism have on people's daily lives, and in this book he gives the reader a tactile sense of what life under the Taliban might have been like.
The New Yorker
Two men struggle to keep their sanity in a brief, despairing novel written pseudonymously by a former Algerian Army officer.... Khadra's prose is gentle and precise, but the violent climax of the book makes a powerful point about what can happen to a man when the light of his conscience has gone out.
Library Journal - Edward Keane
His jarring new work, ably translated from French, has crisp prose and an ominous--but not heavyhanded--tone as he contrasts the criminally absurd world of the Taliban's theocracy with touching and ultimately heartbreaking relationships of love and sacrifice that humanize the whole tragic society. Recommended for all fiction collections.
Khadra's unflinching portrayal of the scorching, suppurating environment in which these people struggle not to be noticed, is quite effective. And his principal characters' trials are ingeniously echoed in stark glimpses of other stunted, redirected figures. But Mohsen and Atiq declaim incessantly, creating static patches that stand out glaringly in this story's short compass--and are only partially redeemed by a powerful climax...Still, despite such contrivances, Khadra's latest is informed by a fine ironic intelligence, and its message is not an easy one to shake off.
Booklist - Ray Olson
Starred Review. In Kabul under the Taliban, two men walk the city in pain.
Like Khaled Hosseini's The Kite Runner, this is a superb meditation on the fate of the Afghan people.
J. M. Coetzee, winner of the 2003 Nobel Prize for Literature
Yasmina Khadra's Kabul is hell on earth, a place of hunger, tedium, and stifling fear.
Azar Nafisi, author of Reading Lolita in Tehran
I am so grateful that the The Swallows of Kabul has been written, and written with such relentless poetry and passion. The reality of life under a rule such as the Taliban's makes us despair not only of the land that could tolerate such horror, but also of the world that for so long kept silent about it. However, the way that reality is narrated and ultimately redefined by Yasmina Khadra once more proves the power of fiction to turn our despair into hope, to restore our stolen sense of dignity and humanity and to desire life when death seems to be the safest refuge.
Da Chen, author of China's Son: Growing Up in the Cultural Revolution The Swallows of Kabul is reminiscent of Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress. It is a gem in world literature--poetic, intimate, and poignant--painting a beautiful yet sorrowful landscape of a people and their turbulent lives, lived and lamented in a forgotten land. A must read.
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by LexI Best Book Ever The Swallows of Kabul is the best book I have ever read. I would recommend it to anyone who is looking for a heart softening book. Thanks to my social studies class I am glad I read this.
Rated of 5
by Tommy khadra's club With "Swallows of Kabul" I was blown away with Khadra's poetic laments about the devoidness of life in Taliban dominated Afghanistan. I also recently read the second in his trilogy, "Attack," which tells the story of a financially successful... Read More
Rated of 5
Rated of 5
by Shahram A.
I think this book was very interesting.
Rated of 5
This book has touched my soul. It is written with such humanity, it is so poetic that one wants to read the pages over and over again. It is powerful and full of romanticism. I can't wait to read Mr. Khadra's other books.
Rated of 5
I read this book on recomendation of a friend and truly enjoyed it. The author helped me to see the terrible life changes that occured to the people of Kabul under Taliban rule. How women lost their identity and lived a "faceless" life... Read More
Afghanistan's strategic position between
Central Asia and the Indian subcontinent has
made it an area of conflict for millenia.
The Soviet Union intervened in 1979 to prop up a pro-communist
regime, but after they withdraw many years
later the civil war dragged on until the
Taleban took control - initially bringing a
measure of stability after 20 years of
The Taleban government fell in October 2001, after US initiated
attacks (although power lingers in some
In late 2001 Radio
Afghanistan played music on air for the
first time in 5 years, and soon after Kabul
In this spellbinding novel, written in Albania and smuggled into France a few pages at a time in the 1980s, Kadare denounces with rare force the machinery of the dictatorial regime, drawing us back to the ancient roots of Western civilization and tyranny.
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