One of the rare memoirs of Afghanistan to have been written by an Afghan, A Fort of Nine Towers reveals the richness and suffering of life in a country whose history has become deeply entwined with our own.
For the young Qais Akbar Omar, Kabul was a city of gardens where he flew kites from his grandfather's roof with his cousin Wakeel while their parents, uncles, and aunts drank tea around a cloth spread in the grass. It was a time of telling stories, reciting poetry, selling carpets, and arranging marriages.Then civil war exploded. Their neighborhood found itself on the front line of a conflict that grew more savage by the day.
With rockets falling around them, Omar's family fled, leaving behind everything they owned to take shelter in an old fort-only a few miles distant and yet a world away from the gunfire. As the violence escalated, Omar's father decided he must take his children out of the country to safety. On their perilous journey, they camped in caves behind the colossal Buddha statues in Bamyan, and took refuge with nomad cousins, herding their camels and sheep. While his father desperately sought smugglers to take them over the border, Omar grew up on the road, and met a deaf-mute carpet weaver who would show him his life's purpose.
Later, as the Mujahedin war devolved into Taliban madness, Omar learned about quiet resistance. He survived a brutal and arbitrary imprisonment, and, at eighteen, opened a secret carpet factory to provide work for neighborhood girls, who were forbidden to go to school or even to leave their homes. As they tied knots at their looms, Omar's parents taught them literature and science.
In this stunning coming-of-age memoir, Omar recounts terrifyingly narrow escapes and absurdist adventures, as well as moments of intense joy and beauty. In?ected with folktales, steeped in poetry, A Fort of Nine Towers is a life-affirming triumph.
A Washington Post Notable Nonfiction Book of 2013
A Kirkus Reviews Best Nonfiction Book of 2013
In this painstaking memoir, Kabul carpet seller and Brandeis M.B.A. student Omar recreates an idyllic childhood gradually wrecked by years of civil war and Taliban oppression. One of some 25 cousins who had the run of the family compound constructed on the Kot-e-Sangi mountainside of Kabul by his grandfather, a Pashtun banker who was also a carpet seller, Omar enjoyed an insular early upbringing, surrounded by doting aunts and uncles, luxuriant gardens, kite flying, copious meals, and a stringent education at school and from his own father, a physics teacher and former boxer who ran a gym near the house. As the factious mujahideen ( holy warriors ) began to fight among each other, living in the compound became untenable, and the extended family took refuge on the other side of the mountain in the mansion owned by his father s carpet-business partner, a former royal residence now semiruined, called the Qala-e-Noborja, or Fort of the Nine Towers. Over subsequent years of turmoil, Omar and his family managed to survive the violence and instability besieging Afghanistan, and whenever they ventured out for example, when Omar accompanied his grandfather to survey the damage at the old house the results were horrifying. On one of his fantastic nomadic treks north, he even managed to learn carpet-making from a deaf Turkmen girl with exquisite intuitive technique. Omar s tale strains credulity, but his prose is deliciously forthright, extravagant, somewhat mischievous, and very Afghan in its sense of long-suffering endurance and also reconciliation.
Customer ReviewsSee All
Heart wrenching, and so authentic. Every American should read this book. It might change how you feel about Afghanistan and its people.
This is a simply written story of a young boy coming of age in war torn Afghanistan. Written uniquely from the authors vantage point, this memoir offers the reader a first hand glimpse of life in Afghanistan under the Russians, Mujahadin and the Taliban. For those familiar with these times the lack of a broader socio-politically context is marked. The story, From my perspective, would/could be greatly enhanced with end notes clarifying some of the larger issues faced by the country. Ideal book for young adult readers to understand what it means to live in conflict situations.
Best novel I have read to date! The author did such an amazing job with detail. As I was reading it felt as if I were there witnessing everything going on. After finishing the book I have gained such high respect for the people of Afghanistan. This book was an eye opener for me and an inspiration.