The Swallows of Kabul

Set in Kabul under Taliban rule, The Swallows of Kabul follows Atiq, an apathetic jail guard who watches his charges executed for their sins; his ailing wife, Musarrat; Mohsen, a young man broken by the harsh strictures of his city; and beautiful, intelligent Zunaira, who bridles at hiding her face and silencing her voice.  

As the story unfolds, these unrelated characters converge, facing humanity's great capacity for both selfless sacrifice and unrelenting cruelty.

"When the rhythm of his breathing slows to normal, he sits up and puts his drinking gourd to his lips.  Now that he's conquered the mountain, there's nothing to stop him from taking on the horizon.  He feels capable of walking to the ends of the earth.   Proud of his exploit, unthinkable for a man of his age, he shakes his fist in the air and casts his vengeful eyes over Kabul, the old sorceress, lying there at his feet in the grip of her torments, twisted, disheveled, flat on her stomach, her jawbones cracked from eating dirt."  

Yasmina Khadra is the pen name of Mohammed Moulessehoul, who adopted a pseudonym to avoid censorship while working as an officer in the Algerian military.  His works include The Swallows of Kabul, The Attack, and Wolf Dreams.

Published:  2002
Length:  190 pages
Set in:  Kabul, Afghanistan
Translated by:  John Cullen