Not long after the fall of the Taliban, the German broadcaster and writer Roger Willemsen accompanied a friend on her return to Afghanistan after decades in exile. On his journey around this ancient country, he saw evidence of the damage done by 25 years of war, but also fragile signs of recovery: children flying kites again after the Taliban had banned all games,a cinema in Kunduz attempting to put on a free show for women, and girls able to go to school again, and even play in a football team. At a time when the situation in Afghanistan has become overshadowed by Iraq in the Western media, this book gives an insight into the lives of Afghans themselves – the cinema owners and women teachers in the cities, the nomads in the countryside, and the returning exiles. The author also speaks to a former prisoner of the Americans at Bagram,where conditions are said to be worse even than Guantanamo Bay, and to a young man who has been fighting in the war against the Taliban in the south of the country.
‘Afghans don’t shake your hand . . .Instead they clasp your hand with both of their hands . . . Then they let it go and put their own right hand on their heart, so that you know that their gesture comes from the heart and wants to reach a heart.’
In this timely account of his Afghan journey, Roger Willemsen reminds us that Afghanistan and its people are far more complex and diverse than easy Western media stereotypes might suggest, and how even after great suffering and deprivation, the people there are struggling to maintain themselves and their culture.
‘Travelling with his friend Nadia Karim, an exiled native Afghan, gives Willemsen a perspective on the country not readily available to the outsider and her story along with those of her close relatives give the book impact and authenticity. It also enables the author to write about the experience of the women of Afghanistan. Beautifully written and very poignant’ The Good Book Guide
Roger Willemsen was an author, foreign correspondent, academic and critic before becoming a German TV personality with his programme Willemsens Woche (‘Willemsen’s Week’). Since then he has also worked as a documentary film-maker and producer. He has written several books, including one based on interviews with former inmates of the US detention camp at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.