The Swallows of Kabul
Set in Afghanistan's capital city of Kabul, this extraordinary novel "puts a human face on the suffering inflicted by the Taliban" (San Francisco Chronicle), taking readers into the seemingly divergent lives of two couples—and depicting with compassion and exquisite details the mentality of Islamic fundamentalists and the complexities of the Muslim world.
Mohsen comes from a family of wealthy shopkeepers whom the Taliban has destroyed; Zunaira, his wife, exceedingly beautiful, 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.
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.
Khadra is the nom de plume for Algerian army officer Mohamed Moulessehoul (In the Name of God; Wolf Dreams), who illustrates the effects of repression on a pair of Kabul couples in this slim, harrowing novel of life in Afghanistan under Taliban rule. Gloomy prison guard Atiq Shaukat is tired of his grim duties, keeping watch over prisoners slated for public execution. Life at home, where his wife, Musarrat, is slowly dying of a chronic illness, is no better. Mohsen Ramat, meanwhile, clings to the remains of his middle-class life together with his beautiful, progressive wife, Zunaira, after the Taliban strip them of their livelihood and dignity. Khadra's storytelling style recalls that of Naguib Mahfouz in the early chapters, in which the tense dissatisfaction of both couples is revealed. The pivotal event occurs when Ramat discharges his frustrations by participating in the brutal stoning of a female Taliban prisoner. The incident changes the dynamic of his marriage; after an extended argument about the incident, Ramat persuades Zunaira to go for a stroll in downtown Kabul and the couple is harassed and nearly brutalized by Taliban soldiers. Zunaira continues to bridle at her situation, and when their next argument turns physical, Ramat falls and dies after hitting his head on the wall. Shaukat is given the assignment of guarding Zunaira after she is arrested and charged with murder, and his instant infatuation with her sets off a remarkable chain of events. Khadra's simple, elegant prose, finely drawn characters and chilling insights ("Kabul has become the antechamber to the great beyond") prepare the way for the terrible climax. Like Khaled Hosseini's The Kite Runner, this is a superb meditation on the fate of the Afghan people.
Liked the book even tho had to read ot for english class didnt like the ending tho