In this novel about peace in a time of war, debut author Jamaluddin Aram masterfully breathes life into the colourful characters of the town of Wazirabad, in early 1990s Kabul, Afghanistan.
It is the early 1990s, in Kabul, Afghanistan. The Russian occupation has ended, and civil war has broken out, but life roars on in full force in the working-class town of Wazirabad.
A rash of burglaries has stolen people’s sleep. Fifteen-year-old Aziz awakens from a dark dream that prompts him to plant shards of glass along the wall surrounding his house to protect his family against theft. Aziz’s sister, Seema, decorates kites with her calligraphy and sells fresh scorpions to spare her mother from servicing the local soldiers. Along the main street, three militiamen wait for the fighting to resume, while the Baker, the Watchmaker, the Tailor, and the Vegetable Seller make their modest living and the Bonesetter reads poetry to his cat. And every day at noon, a flaming red rooster walks three blocks to visit his favourite hens.
But tensions rise among the town’s people. The burglaries have put everyone on edge. The militiamen are on the hunt for the thief who stole their dog—and their ammunition. And a widow, who is the target of men’s lust and women’s scorn, soon finds herself on the periphery of a terrible violence. While the armed conflict rages on in the background, rumours swirl with a feverish frenzy, culminating in the collective chorus of the town’s living, breathing dreams.
In this brilliantly kaleidoscopic, darkly funny, and wholly captivating novel about peace in a time of war, Jamaluddin Aram breathes life into the families and friends, lovers and loners, neighbours and sworn enemies who wander the winding alleys of Wazirabad.