11 January 2009

Reading - The Middle East

The Carpet Wars by Christopher Kremmer documents a reporter’s experience of the Middle East. Afghanistan is the primary focus but we visit all the surrounding countries too. The author collects Persian Rugs and this recurring motif is woven through the book. In the midst of myriad civil conflicts and Western military intervention in the region, I met the ordinary citizens who compose the bulk of the population. These people have such a tenuous control over their circumstances and exhibit an inverse tenacity to survive.

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Warrior Poets by Benjamin Gilmour is the story of a Sydney paramedic who hung out with the Pashtun in the tribal region between Afghanistan and Pakistan. He filmed a largely unscripted movie without any official approval from the Pakistani authorities. It is called Son of a Lion, but I have not seen it yet. What came through was the legendary hospitality of the Pashtun people. Interstingly, I learnt that the Pashtun have a very strong taboo against audibly breaking wind. (A good reason for me to avoid traveling in the region.) Enjoy the trailer for the movie: all of the performers are untrained locals whose stories I learnt in the book.

It is worth checking out the commentary of the inimitable David and Margaret. And here is a short documentary on the film which includes an interview with Benjamin Gilmour.

I then read The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. I found this to be a compelling and emotional piece of fiction. It had huge commercial success. From Wikipedia: It "...tells the story of Amir, a young boy from the Wazir Akbar Khan district of Kabul, who is haunted by the guilt of betraying his best friend Hassan, the son of his father's Hazara servant. The story is set against a backdrop of tumultuous events, from the fall of the monarchy in Afghanistan through the Soviet invasion, the mass exodus of refugees to Pakistan and the United States, and the rise of the Taliban regime."

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