The Swallows of Kabul

“In the middle of nowhere, a whirlwind spins like a sorceress flinging out her skirts in a macabre dance;” The Swallows of Kabul begin with these poetic words in this book written by a Muslim about Muslims living in Kabul under the rule of the Taliban after the Russian invasion. I confess, I needed to look up when these events took place. The Russian invasion lasted from 1973 to 1989, so this book is set somewhere in the ‘90s - which can be shocking based on some of the events depicted. Filled with poetic language and an intricate storyline, Swallows gives readers a taste of how the citizens of Afghanistan lived and a glimpse of what they believed during that decade. 

As I read the stories of Atiq and Mohsen and how they intertwined I was enchanted by the prose. It is a beautifully written book. But, I must confess, I wondered the whole time how the book was going to end. How was a book full of tragedy going to end well? The truth? It didn’t. Instead it ended with further tragedy. 

I had a hard time defining the sense I received from Swallows, until I thought about hope. Atiq and Mohsen spend their days searching for hope within the rule of the Taliban. They seek hope in their worship of a silent Allah. They look for it in the other people of Kabul. And, ultimately, in the saddest tragedy of all, hope eludes them. 

I do recommend this book. It expanded my understanding of what it is like to live under a terroristic regime. It reminded me that without the hope I have in Christ, life is arid and suffocating. Read it and let me know what you think.

Christian Cautions (spoilers): There are some graphic descriptions of people who are killed by the Taliban, a few mild swear words, an unbiblical depiction of the roles of women, and a total lack of the hope we have in Christ.