Qais Akbar Omar (Fiction, 2015) is interviewed today at The Economist’s Prospero literary blog. From the interview:
WHEN the Taliban were forced out of Kabul in 2001, life began once again for Qais Akbar Omar. He helped rebuild the family carpet business, became an interpreter for the United Nations, worked on a Dari-language production of “Love’s Labour’s Lost” and then co-wrote an account of the experience in the 2012 book “Shakespeare in Kabul”.
Mr Omar’s new book, “A Fort Of Nine Towers”, is a poetic, funny and terrifying memoir of life in Kabul between the Soviet Army’s exit and the Taliban’s retreat. He describes his family’s attempts to flee Afghanistan, their time living among Kuchi nomads and in caves by the Bamiyan Buddha statues (which the Taliban famously destroyed in 2001). His family then returns to a Kabul of rockets, capricious snipers and civil war as armed factions fight for power. Mr Omar has written a book of hellish encounters—he recounts meeting predatory Talibs, and a fighter who grows roses in severed heads—and familial love.
Prospero: The book is so extraordinary, I must ask: is it all true?
Omar: Yes it is, everything. After 9/11 foreigners in Afghanistan wanted to know what it was like during the civil war. When I talked about the past, I felt better because before that I had nightmares. My friends said it worked like therapy, so why not sit and write? Years later I thought I’ll try it, because I still had those dreams. So I sat in my bedroom, started writing, and couldn’t stop for two months.
Omar’s A Fort Of Nine Towers is published by Picador and available in bookstores and online booksellers now.