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Poetry of the Taliban [Hardcover]

Alex Strick van Linschoten , Felix Kuehn , Faisal Devji
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Book Description

17 May 2012
The Taliban are synonymous with the war in Afghanistan. Doughty, uncompromising fighters, they plant IEDs, deploy suicide bombers and wage guerrilla warfare. While much has been written about their military tactics, media strategy and harsh treatment of women, the cultural and sometimes less overtly political representation of their identity, the Taliban's other face, is often overlooked. Most Taliban fighters are Pashtuns, a people who cherish their vibrant poetic tradition, closely associated with that of song. The poems in this collection are meant to be recited and sung; and this is the manner in which they are enjoyed by the wider Pashtun public today. From audiotapes traded in secret in the bazaars of Kandahar, to mp3s exchanged via bluetooth in Kabul, to video files downloaded in Dubai and London, Taliban poetry has an appeal that transcends the insurgency. For the Taliban today, these poems, or ghazals, have a resonance back to the 1980s war against the Soviets, when similar rhetorical styles, poetic formulae and tricks with metre inspired mujahideen combatants and non-combatants alike. The poetry presented here includes 'classics' of the genre from the 1980s and 1990s as well as a selection from the odes and ghazals of today's conflict . Veering from nationalist paeans to dirges replete with religious symbolism, the poems are organised under four headings -- War, Pastoral, Religious and Love -- and cover many themes and styles. The political is intertwined with the aesthetic, the celebratory cry is never far from the funeral dirge and praise of martyrs lost. Two prefatory essays introduce the cultural and historical context of the poetry. The editors discuss its importance to the Pashtuns and highlight how poetic themes correspond to the past thirty years of war in Afghanistan. Faisal Devji comments on what the poetry reveals of the Taliban's emotional and ethical hinterland.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: C Hurst & Co Publishers Ltd (17 May 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1849041113
  • ISBN-13: 978-1849041119
  • Product Dimensions: 21.8 x 14.5 x 2.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 462,478 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

'Much of the poetry here appeals to the heart rather than the head, engendering sympathy for the speakers' plight. That these poems put us in this uncomfortable place is the most impressive achievement of the anthology.' --Daljit Nagra, The Guardian

'Serves as a martial and social artifact from a broken land. Its poems are variously political and pastoral, one moment enraged and the next heavy with sorrow.' --C. J. Chivers, The New York Times

'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, author of The Last Mughal and the forthcoming The Return of a King: Shah Shuja and the First Battle for Afghanistan, 1839-42

About the Author

Alex Strick van Linschoten and Felix Kuehn are researchers and writers permanently based in Kandahar. They have worked in Afghanistan since 2006, focusing on the Taliban insurgency and the history of southern Afghanistan over the past four decades. Their research extends to other Muslim countries and they are regular commentators on major western news channels. Faisal Devji is Reader in the History of South Asia at St Antony's College, Oxford University.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Really a very good book. Although I feel that the translations are a bit prosaic much of the time, nevertheless when I read out to a class of 17-18 year old students a reasonably lengthy poem on the killing of a bride (and groom (not to mention a broad swathe of the wedding party)) by ISAF, there was quiet and concentration to the extent that one student was able to refer back unprompted to the poem's reference to the inquest ordered by President Karzai, allegedly half-hearted due to back-handers. However, my main purpose in buying this collection was to give the young Muslims with whom I work a reason to feel unambiguous about something beautiful coming out of Afghanistan, and in that I have not been disappointed. The tome includes a helpful glossary-cum-notes section at the back explaining a good many of the literary, historical and geographical allusions. Ah! But if only it had been in parallel text, or perhaps with an accompanying CD or a link to some sound recordings of readings in Persian and Pashto on the publisher's website.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Poetry 17 Jun 2012
By Jurax
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I was surprised by the peoms since they are very beautiful in their language and in their pictures.
I would recommend the book for anyone who is interessted in eastern peotry and culture.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Poetry of the Taliban 6 Dec 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
it is always good to get to know the literary traditions of other nations despite the attempt at censorship by some elements and congratualtions to Amazon for having this book on their list
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Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars An important book 14 May 2014
By Manfred hinz - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The enemy you cannot defeat, you have to understand (Clausewitz). This book gives an important insight into Taleban world-view, difficult to achieve otherwise. The preface is hold in all too general terms and does not always surpass what is already known. Furthermore, we do not get criteria to distingish Taleban from non-Taleban poets. Many of the "Taleban"-poets - whatever this might precisely mean - are in fact responses to poems from governamental poets (linked to somewhat socialist or progressive ideologies). It would have been useful to stage this dialogue in the book.
Otherwise the poems, many of them naively moving, are very well commented upon and put into context.
1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful 2 Mar 2013
By Safoora Majid - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Soulful, utterly beautiful and at the same time sad. Against a background of war it portrays the futility of war and the triumph of love.
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