27 October, 2013

A Fort of Nine Towers: An Afghan Family Story by Qais Akbar Omar [Anita, Blockhouse Bay Library]

syndetics-lcThis is the sort of book that will stay in your head for a quite a while. It is a gripping account of life in Afghanistan starting when the author, Qais (rhymes with rice), was a seven year old boy. He lived with his large extended family in his Grandfathers sprawling house in Kabul, set in five acres of land surrounded by a wall. He was aware of the Russians but they had no real impact on his life until they left and food became very expensive. When the Mujahedin arrived, there were high expectations and for a while things improved, but before long the factions started fighting and chaos spread over the whole of Afghanistan. Qais's family was robbed and they were prisoners inside their house because of the many snipers around who would shoot anyone they saw, they were smack in the middle of two factions territories. They fled during a cease-fire and travelled through the war zone and over the hill where life seemed peaceful and arrived at the Fort of nine towers, (only one tower remained), to live on the charity of a friend. The family tried to escape the conflict a few times, but in their travels they encounter many dangerous situations. 

It is astounding the many brutal and disturbing things that he experienced and witnessed while still a boy, he witnessed mankind at his worst, but this is balanced by the times when they were helped by the generosity of complete strangers, and welcomed by distant family members and totally accepted into their lives. They camped in the caves behind the giant Buddha statues in Bamyan, took refuge with nomad cousins , and Qais met a deaf-mute Turkman carpet weaver in Mazar who showed him the beautiful art of carpet making which became his life's purpose.

This is an extraordinary book ,everyone I know who has read it has loved it, do not miss out!

Title:  A fort of nine towers
Author: Qais Akbar Omar
ISBN: 9780374157647 (hbk.)
Published: 2013
Publisher: New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

 - Anita, Blockhouse Bay Library

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