mardi 17 mars 2009

A seemingly endless war

One thing (of the many I’d like to think) that Red Addict and I have in common is our predilection for what others would call rather depressing reading material. Try as I might, I always gravitate towards these books, though I confess that I’ve more than read my share of lite reads. Maybe I’m a sucker for punishment. Be that as it may, I do want my books to be leavened with a little levity and yes, why not, hope. Life is grim enough as it easy. With this in mind, I had no trouble reading Kite Runner (cried buckets with this one) or the Reader ( I found myself thinking about it for days after).
This time I hit the gold mine in depressing material with Nadeem Aslam’s new book “Wasted Vigil”. It’s the story of a Russian woman Lara who arrives in Afghanistan to look for her brother Benedikt, who was sent to fight during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The book’s tone is set when right away mishap befalls her. Fortunately for her she falls into the hands of Marcus, a kind Englishman who has been living in the country for the past 40 years as he was married to an Afghan woman. And Zameen, Marcus’ daughter who was captured by the Soviets might have. also known Benedikt. Thus, we slowly discover that their stories are more closely intertwined than we can imagine.
Aslam certainly takes his time to build his story and characters into place. And he spares the reader not one single grim detail in the travails and horrors that have befallen Afghanistan and its people. If the author’s goal was to provide yet more reasons to fear and loathe the Taliban, he has succeeded admirably. One is left with the impression that there is no redemption for the people who are caught under the Taliban’s yoke. He likewise doesn’t spare the US for their responsibility in creating the monstrous oppression that is now entrenched in Afghanistan. To read this book is to have your breath taken away by the horrors as you can imagine its very heavy going. This is not to say that Aslam has written a bad book. Far from it. He has a beautiful way with words and there is a certain tenderness, lyricism even, in the way he writes some of the scenes. More importantly he is able to present the complexity that is the political history of the country. Still and all, I could’ve borne the book better if there had been some sort of redeeming element in the story. I’d like to think that the Afghan’s story is much more than death and horrors.

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