The Swallows of Kabul, Yasmina Khadra, Nan A Talese, 2004, 195 pp.
The author is an Algerian army officer who wrote in French under a female nom de plume to avoid military censorship. The book was first published in France in 2002, which makes it pre-9/11. It is Afghanistan under the Taliban. Life has already been disrupted by Russian communists and the Taliban is no better, perhaps worse. It is a totalitarian religious reign of terror. The women are back under the burqa, although in this country the veils are blue and yellow instead of black, as they are in Iran. The women are the swallows of Kabul.
By following the lives of various people and causing some of them to cross paths, the author creates a picture of the disintegration of a society. It is very bleak. In the end, you are left in complete mystery about the fate of one of the female characters and you are not given any hope for the rest. Whatever position, possessions or happiness anyone had (especially women), has all been taken away along with freedom.
I can't say I really liked the book, but I am glad I read it. Compared to The Kite Runner, this is a personal book on a deeper level, partly because none of the characters leave the country. It made me appreciate anew the abundant freedom of The United States and reminded me of the importance of protecting and preserving that freedom while refraining from abusing it.
(The Swallows of Kabul is available in hardcover, paperback and eBook by order from Once Upon A Time Bookstore. To find this book at your nearest indie bookstore, click on the cover image above.)