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Poetry Of The Taliban – Alex Strick Van Linschoten & Felix Keuhn

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These are poems of love and war and friendship and tell us more about Afghanistan than a million news reports. Anybody claiming to be an Afghan expert should read this book before giving their next opinion.’ – Muhammad Hanif

‘Afghanistan has a rich and ancient tradition of epic poetry celebrating resistance to foreign invasion and occupation. This extraordinary collection is remarkable as a literary project – uncovering a seam of war poetry few will know ever existed, and presenting to us for the first time the black turbaned Wilfred Owens of Wardak. But it is also an important political project: humanising and giving voice to the aspirations, aesthetics, emotions and dreams of the fighters of a much-caricatured and still little-understood resistance movement that is about to defeat yet another foreign occupation.’ – William Dalrymple

 

Overlooked by many as mere propaganda, poetry offers an unfettered insight into the wider worldview of the Afghan Taliban. This collection of over two hundred poems draws upon Afghan tradition and the recent past as much as upon a long history of Persian, Urdu and Pashto verse. The contrast between the severity of their ideology and the Taliban’s long-standing poetic tradition is nothing short of remarkable. Unrequited love, vengeance, the thrill of battle, religion and nationalism — even a yearning for non-violence — are expressed through images of wine, powerful women and pastoral beauty, providing a fascinating insight into the hearts and minds of these redoubtable adversaries. Taliban verse is fervent, and very modern in its criticism of human rights abuses by all parties to the conflict. Whether describing an air strike on a wedding party or lamenting, ‘We did all of this to ourselves’, it is concerned not with politics, but with identity, and a full, textured, deeply conflicted humanity. It is such impassioned descriptions – sorrowfully defeated and enraged, triumphant, bitterly powerless or bitingly satirical – and not the austere arguments of myriad analysts that will ultimately define and endure as a record of the war in Afghanistan.