Tag: Afghanistan

Books of the Decade – Rebecca Carter

Rebecca CarterRebecca Carter is an editor of fiction and non-fiction at the Random House imprint Harvill Secker, a list that aims to continue the tradition, once announced in an advertisement for Secker, of publishing “international quality literature with a wayward streak”. She has a particular love of unusual narrative history, and novels that explore hidden corners of the past (or present). Of her ‘books of the decade’ only Némirovsky’s Suite Française is published by her.

Other books she has edited include Dai Sijie’s Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress, Atiq Rahimi’s Earth and Ashes, Gerard Woodward’s August trilogy, Ma Jian’s Beijing Coma, Javier Marías’s Your Face Tomorrow, Diana Evans’s 26a, Tom Reiss’s The Orientalist, Faïza Guène’s Just Like Tomorrow, Tim Butcher’s Blood River and Xiaolu Guo’s A Concise Chinese–English Dictionary for Lovers.

Saira Shah – The Storyteller’s Daughter: one woman’s return to her lost homeland (2003)

Saira Shah Storyteller's DaughterEarly on in the decade, post 9/11, there was a scramble among publishers to find books that would illuminate for readers the situation in Afghanistan. One of the first, and a book that taught me so much I didn’t know but should have done, was journalist Saira Shah’s intelligent and moving memoir, which intertwined the story of her own adventures in Afghanistan (familial, personal and journalistic) with a heart-felt history of the region.

Irène Némirovsky – Suite Française (2006)

Nemirovsky Suite FrancaiseWhen the French publisher of this remarkable, previously undiscovered novel about occupied France sent me a copy, I had no idea that I was about to embark on an extraordinary journey of discovery into the life and work of Irène Némirovsky. Through reading her novels, most of them published in France during the thirties and early forties, I have come to understand so much more about the Russian pogroms of the late nineteenth century and early twentieth, and what it was like to sink or swim in the high capitalist society of early twentieth-century Europe. Many lessons for our own era. And such wonderful storytelling too.

Kamila Shamsie – Burnt Shadows (2009)

Shamsie Burnt ShadowsTowards the end of the decade, Kamila Shamsie’s supremely accomplished and gripping fifth novel reveals what a different place the Afghan/Pakistan border is post 9/11 to that crossed by Saira Shah in the eighties and nineties. Through Shamsie’s clever, interlocking narratives, which follow characters from India, just pre-partition, to Nagasaki in 1945 and contemporary New York, she shows how the past is always embroiled in the present.

Le Monde diplomatique podcast – “civilizations from different galaxies”

“After Iraq the ideas of the Bush administration – for example, the idea that you can remake the world in America’s image, that we can alter the condition of the whole Islamic world in order to protect ourselves – had become deeply unfashionable.

“But I think there is a danger of embracing the opposite idea – a kind of Orientalism, the notion of a primordial and timeless enemy.”

My guest on this month’s podcast for Le Monde diplomatique is Dr Patrick Porter of the Defence Studies Department at King’s College London.

Porter: Military OrientalismPatrick has recently published a book on military orientalism, and he pursues that theme in his article in this month’s issue of LMD with particular reference to the Taliban. To view them as medieval or even extraterrestrials as many in the West have done is to see no further than their rhetoric and overlook the extent to which their culture is constantly changing and adapting to circumstances.

To listen to the podcast, click here.

Auster and Aslam

Nadeem Aslam coverPaul Auster Man in the DarkThe latest podcast I’ve produced for Faber has just gone up on their site. In it I talk to novelists Paul Auster and Nadeem Aslam about the books they published this autumn. You can find the podcast here.

In Auster’s book, Man in the Dark, an ageing literary critic, August Brill, spends a night imagining a dystopian future in which America is embroiled in a civil war as a way of distracting him from the ghosts that trouble his sleep, not least of which is the death of his granddaughter’s boyfriend in Iraq. Read More