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  • The Afghan Experience Reflected in Modern Afghan Fiction (1900–1992)
  • Mir Hekmatullah Sadat (bio)

Despite the growing body of research on the sociopolitical realities of Afghanistan, little attention has been devoted to the study of the implications and reflections of these developments through Afghan literature. While there exist some descriptive studies, the development and role of Afghan literary fiction in the context of the Afghan experience have yet to be critically analyzed. This survey affirms the vital link between Afghan literature and the Afghan experience. The writings of Afghans are a vital part of a heterogeneous group's struggle for cultural continuity. Selected Afghan fiction writers' contributions written in the novel, novelette, and short story genres between the years 1900 and 1992 are surveyed. Domestic Afghan fiction has paralleled Afghan political history: political awakening (1900–19), patriotic sentiment (1919–29), sentimental socialism (1929–52), realism (1953–63), socialist realism (1963–78), revolutionary activism (1978–89), and reconciliation and domestic resistance (1989–92). Their literary works express the consciousness and ordeals of Afghan writers and the Afghan experience in general by providing valuable and otherwise unavailable insights. The writers also represent a unique reaction to and exploration of the tumultuous time that has molded them. As cultural proxies of the Afghan experience, Afghan writers address societal realities and human conditions common to most Afghans, as the writers themselves sometimes become characters in the stories they retell or conjure up. Through their literary contributions, Afghan writers symbolically serve as the eyes, ears, tongue, and conscience of the societal realities and conditions of the entire Afghan experience. The selected writers in this study have written about complex problems affecting their compatriots and their homeland. Their significant voices underscore the important role of fiction writers in society. Therefore, this study broadens the existing focus on immigrants by adopting global and comparative perspectives in an immigrant group's literary and cultural history.

Afghan Classical Literature

Historically, Afghan writers have been the avant-garde for sociopolitical progress and modernization in Afghan society. Afghan literature is filled with tanz (satire) and sokhan neeshdar (sarcasm), reflective of its poetic literature. Afghan writers have always taken a significant role in campaigning for societal progress, either in conjunction with the government's democratization efforts or in resistance to government repression. Hence, satire and sarcasm in Afghan literature developed as a result of codifying themes to avoid persecution from state authorities. This tradition dates back to the time when classical Dari literature flourished in the region when it was known as Khurasan (Land of the Rising Sun).1 [End Page 291]

Some scholars believe that the word Dari as the name of the language was derived from the word darbar (royal court), signifying it as the language of the royal courts. Dari was the language not only spoken by most monarchs but also used in the royal court, laws, and poetry and by historians. Others believe Dari has been adopted from the word darra (valley), perhaps because the language developed in the valleys and mountains of the region, located in the northeastern area of Afghanistan known as Badakhshan.2 In the eleventh century, the famous poet Hakim Abdul Qasim Ferdowsi wrote in the Shahnamah (Book of Kings), “Befarmud tah Parsi-e Dari, Nebeshtand wah kohtah shud dawari” (In a swift decision, they instructed that in Parsi-e Dari be written).3 Most Afghan scholars believe it is from this Parsi-e Dari that Dari originally evolved.

Classical literature in Afghanistan exists in forms of prose collections and classical stories of fables, fairy tales, or legends. For centuries, the most famous tragic epic, Shahnamah was transmitted orally from generation to generation along with other legends, such as those of Abu Muslim Khurasani.4 Khurasani announced a revolt against the Arab Umayyad caliph in 746, and by 750 his forces had attacked the Umayyad capital, Kufa; killed the last Umayyad caliph; and declared the first Abbasid ruler as the rightful caliph because of the clan's blood lineage to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). The second Abbasid caliph would eventually kill Khurasani.

Usually heroes or villains in these classical epics possess supernatural strengths and abilities. In addition, these stories contain themes of...


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