By Hesham Zakai
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Fifty Million Short Stories

This article is over 12 years, 7 months old
Abdul Wakil Sulamal Shinwari, Dorrace Press, £5
Issue 343

Written by Abdul Wakil Sulamal Shinwari, a native of Afghanistan, this collection of 12 short stories surveys Afghan society from top to bottom: from the callous warlords, merciless police chiefs and corrupt officials, to the ordinary Afghan men and women denied the most fundamental of human rights. The invasion of Afghanistan coupled with the repression of the Taliban regime has engineered a society where looting is rife, loyalty is subservient to lust, violence is the norm and even brothers turn against each other.

It is a tragic but poignant representation of the realities of conflict and corruption by a man who is not just writing his stories but has lived them. This is what sets this book apart.

Trying to coerce all the ills of a hypocritical Afghan society sometimes leads to a claustrophobic structure. In one of the short stories, Excuse, for example, the protagonist is a commander who sees himself as being ejected from “true” Islam because of his transgressions, he punishes countless people for having pictures of women, pays for a specially ordered green-eyed girl, drinks wine and finishes by having sex with the aforementioned ordered girl – all in the space of a five-page narrative.

But the great feat of the collection is its ability to bring a sense of humanity to the most inhumane of circumstances.

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