The Gifts of the State (Paperback)
New Afghan Writing
Dzanc Books, 9781938604553, 161pp.
Publication Date: December 17, 2013
The Gifts of the State and Other Stories: New Writing from Afghanistan radically reshapes our idea of Afghanistan as a place of unquestioning religiosity, brutal sexism, and anti-American and Russian resistance. Rather, employing stark naturalism and surrealistic and genre elements, these writers bravely depict Western-styled women in former Russian apartments and men obsessed with fantasies based on Mickey Spillane novels.
"Though it is set in a place we think we know (Afghanistan), this continuously startling and often very moving book opens up a new country, a fresh and diverse landscape of human striving and disappointment. With grace, melancholy and wit, it describes the joys and sadnesses of ordinary life obscured by the last decade of shrill headlines. Everyone should read it."--Pankaj Mishra
"Very little of what is written in English can describe the grip of Afghanistan's "normal emergency" as can these beautiful, remarkable stories. They are heartbreaking and violent tales, excerpts from the minds of orphans who mourn not so much mere parents as ancestry itself - the ancestry of history and wisdom - and there is rarely any redemption to the grief save only the lyricism of storytelling. But this lyricism is rich, one that brings into fluid English the poignant harmonies of other literatures and tongues, and it carries with it a faith greater than those of warring forces." --Rana Dasgupta, author of Tokyo Canceled and Solo
"I was extremely impressed by this collection of stories by Afghan writers under thirty. From the elemental simplicity of Abdul Shakoor Jawad's story of retribution and reconciliation, 'The Hasher', to the acid wit of Hosai Wardak's exposure of collective mysogyny, 'Ice Cream', to the complex horrors of Khalid Ahmad Atif's extraordinary war story, 'The Sea Floor', the work on display here is not only gripping and beautifully executed, but also possessed of a rare cultural and political urgency. I recommend it very highly."--James Lasdun
Adam Klein is the author of story collection The Medicine Burns, the novel Tiny Ladies, and the artist monograph Jerome: After the Pageant. His work has appeared in Bomb, the New York Times At War Blog, and the Huffington Post.