I Am the Beggar of the World: Landays from Contemporary Afghanistan

It is a book that both is and is not to be read in terms of its literary value and impossible to disentangle this book from modern history. While I enjoyed it, it was also difficult for me to fully appreciate because I never fully reconciled the conflicted nature of the collection.

To summarize, these are landays, which are traditional Pashtun couplets, written by women in Afghanistan. They were collected from contemporary women, though some of the landays, apparently, are of centuries old provenance (and others riff on well known landays from earlier days). Though the editor/collector did encounter some unofficial and secretive literary circles, the poets are not, in any American sense, professional (leaving aside thorny questions of what makes one a professional poet, let me just say, you know what I mean, in this case).

Some are funny, some are tragic; many are about love. They have mixed feelings about the Taliban, with some tacitly praising Taliban (or Talib) fighters and many based in criticism, hatred, and fear of America and its soldiers and particularly of its careless drones.

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