Writers often find themselves in dire situations in war- and crisis-stricken regions, or in oppressive nations. After all, free language is always the first to fall under the wheels of any regime. Writers are persecuted, exiled, imprisoned, and even killed. Literature is one of the key foundations of democracy and freedom, and no one understands this better than the tyrants of the world.
Human rights, democracy — they all go back to literature and philosophy. It was much later that these concepts became politically popular. And this continues to this day, and is so dangerous for tyrants because literature and other arts serve as seismographs of social development.
help authors keep writing
For this reason, the importance of international cultural projects is increasing. Her one such project is the Weiter Schreiben project, founded in 2017 by her author Annika Reich. It brings together writers from war-torn, crisis-stricken or oppressive countries, links them to the German literary scene, and seeks support to continue writing and publishing.
Working with initiatives such as Untold and the University of Bern, Weiter Schreiben has designed an intensive exchange with Afghan women writers. According to Project Her magazine, published in April 2022, the female writer who responded to the crisis in her country in the summer of 2021, this is a literary response to the Taliban’s campaign of terror, now is the time to write. It was especially frightening for women, saying it was time to continue.
“Writing in groups became a kind of narrative therapy for us,” says author Batur, with female writers communicating with the program’s initiators while Taliban fanatics rampaged through the streets once again. “For us, being heard is a matter of as much existential importance as making this safe space available.”
provide a platform for people
Short stories and poems dealing with the situation of women in Afghanistan today, among many other issues, were featured in magazines and later in readings in Germany. , shares a very clear approach to language that is direct, open and fact-oriented. It stands in stark contrast to texts that are constructed without the same guarantee of free publication, and as a result of which the use of metaphor is far more pronounced and dances around the question of language. This is a fairly common practice in Afghanistan and other countries with strict censorship laws.
“People in crisis-hit areas are often talked about in public. Here they can speak for themselves,” says Annika Reich of the Weiter Schleiben Project. Arguably, this is an important aspect in its own right.
censorship in iran
Hussein Mohammadi, a writer and visual artist born in Afghanistan in 1986, also participated in the project. He spent his childhood and adolescence in Iran and repeatedly experienced problems with censorship. However, life is not always easy for Afghan refugees in Iran. There is also deep-rooted anti-Afghan racism in many segments of Iranian society, sometimes instigated by government agencies.
In 2013, Mohammadi fled to Switzerland, where he still lives. It seems he really got there, at least as far as his art is concerned. He appeared as an actor at the Experi Theater in Zurich, exhibited some of his images, and wrote fairy tales for SRF. And now his first of three novels he has written has been translated by Sarah Raufhus and published in German by the Lucerne-based Swiss publisher Edition Bücherlese.
A novel about Afghanistan
Scheherazade Erben (Scheherazade’s heirs) is an impressive novella about Afghanistan before the Taliban’s new seizure of power, is both multifaceted and sensitive, telling the story of the country, its people and its politics. It’s a book. The former two many times as a toy.
The novella begins with two brothers, Eshag and Ahmad, in a car on their way to Kabul from a small village. Ahmad has never been to a big city and it has been a long time for Eshagh. The last time he was there he was a Talib. Probably still is. In any case, he is indeed a fundamentalist, a man who insists on his radical understanding of Islam at all costs.
His son Nabi, like him, is a violent and hot-tempered type who is feared by many, especially the women in the village. This is a man who wants to marry Ahmad’s daughter Masoma. Masoma, however, has little impact on traditional notions of gender roles. Women just hang over the stove forever, put on a burqa and go out into the street. She thanks Ahmad for this. Her father taught her to read and write, provided her with literature, questioned her doctrines, and made her God the embodiment of her good, a god who belittled the violence done in his name. I taught her to see
Ahmad has Eshag to thank for the fact that he’s still around, despite his liberal views.
Escape to Kabul and its consequences
But now Masoma has fled to Kabul with her boyfriend just before marrying Nabi. From there, they hope to travel to Iran. This is more than Eshagh can take. He feels his family’s honor has been disrespected and wants to kill the couple. Naturally, he expects Ahmad to come to the same conclusion and lend a hand.
From this point onwards, Mohammadi devotes each successive chapter to the story of others and their stories at the moment their lives cross paths. However, it has been a long time since he gave up his own ideology. Militants kidnapped him when he was a child and forced him to fight for them. However, when given the task of murdering an unsuspecting family, he threw down his weapons and succeeded in escaping. I am happy in Kabul that I can. Zabih loves his wife and children and takes his job seriously. Even if it’s a pack of cigarettes, he won’t pursue petty crimes if he can get some payment in return.
The characters of Hussein Mohammadi are polar opposites. Readers argue with all of them. One moment the reader may well understand their motives, but the next moment they may be appalled. These characters are real people full of contradictions, far more than simple literary characters between the pages of a book.
Elegance and a light touch
With a touch of breathtaking and lightheartedness, Mohammadi not only draws the reader into the lives of these very different peoples, but also the complex, but always realistic, story of a country repeatedly ravaged by war and most severely divided. I have succeeded in drawing an image. I’m trying to understand recent history, and why things are the way they are: “The belief that they were separated from one another by religious and ethnic affiliation reaches to the deepest depths of their existence, and they and the way the warp and weft threads permeate the work.Of the fabric.The adults then passed this idea on to their children.I can hardly imagine how they would change now.
When Eshag lectures Zabi in a Kabul restaurant about how “Western culture” is destroying everything, Mohammadi doesn’t need to explain what Ahmad might be thinking. Ahmad’s silence is enough. . Because I know what he thinks of his brother and what he believes to be the real problem.
The elegance with which Mohammadi weaves his story, the way he picks up all the threads he touches so easily and brings them together at the end of the novel, the way he draws his characters with lean, clear strokes is simply unparalleled. It must be emphasized again that this is Mohammadi’s first long prose text. Because given how complete this book is in every way, it’s easy to forget that. This is great literature. World literature in the truest sense.
Qantara.de, December 29, 2022. Gerrit Wustmann, born in Cologne in 1982, is a freelance writer and journalist.