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It’s easy to forget, amidst the chaos, fear and violence of current events, that Afghanistan is also a country of poets and artists, with a rich history and enormous beauty, and that those fleeing their homeland must leave a great deal behind them. These books, while often set amidst the region’s long history of deadly conflict, nevertheless tell very recognisable stories about people’s lives, loves, hopes and dreams.
· An unlikely decades-long friendship develops between a wealthy young boy and the son of his father’s servant in The Kite Runner, the debut novel set in Kabul by Khaled Hosseini.
· The Antigone myth plays out in Kandahar, as an Afghan woman approaches an American military camp to ask for the return of her brother’s body, in The Watch by Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya.
· Five seemingly unconnected lives from different parts of contemporary Afghanistan form the narrative of Nadeem Aslam’s The Wasted Vigil, demonstrating the complex ties that bind us even amidst violent conflict.
· The politics of Western charity and intervention in war-ravaged Afghanistan is the backdrop for Allure of Deceit by Susan Froetschel, in which suspicions of fraud and murder follow the mysterious disappearance of a group of aid workers.
· The ascendancy of the Taliban makes pleasure a deadly sin and death routine, changing lives and shattering dreams in Swallows of Kabul, by Algerian writer Yasmina Khadra.
· Norwegian journalist Åsne Seierstad entered Afghanistan a fortnight after the 9/11 attacks and lived with a bookseller and his family for three months; The Bookseller of Kabul is a fictionalised account of what she saw of everyday life in a war zone.
· A short story by Rudyard Kipling, The Man Who Would Be King describes two dodgy British adventurers from British India who set themselves up as kings of Kafiristan, a remote part of Afghanistan.
· Set in Kabul in 2007, The Pearl that Broke its Shell by Nadia Hashimi tells the story of Rahima, who adopts the ancient practice of bacha posh – allowing her to dress and be treated as a boy until she reaches the age of marriage – to open up the world to her and her sisters.
· A middle-class Pakistani boy joins the mujahideen to fight against the occupying Soviet forces in neighbouring Afghanistan in Sikander, by M Salahuddin Khan, all the while dreaming of a life in America.