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The Taliban are synonymous with the war in Afghanistan. Doughty, uncompromising fighters, they plant IEDs, deploy suicide bombers and wage guerrilla warfare. While much has been written about their military tactics, media strategy and harsh treatment of women, the cultural and sometimes less overtly political representation of their identity, the Taliban's other face, is o The Taliban are synonymous with the war in Afghanistan. Doughty, uncompromising fighters, they plant IEDs, deploy suicide bombers and wage guerrilla warfare. While much has been written about their military tactics, media strategy and harsh treatment of women, the cultural and sometimes less overtly political representation of their identity, the Taliban's other face, is often overlooked. Most Taliban fighters are Pashtuns, a people who cherish their vibrant poetic tradition, closely associated with that of song. The poems in this collection are meant to be recited and sung; and this is the manner in which they are enjoyed by the wider Pashtun public today. From audiotapes traded in secret in the bazaars of Kandahar, to mp3s exchanged via bluetooth in Kabul, to video files downloaded in Dubai and London, Taliban poetry has an appeal that transcends the insurgency. For the Taliban today, these poems, or ghazals, have a resonance back to the 1980s war against the Soviets, when similar rhetorical styles, poetic formulae and tricks with metre inspired mujahideen combatants and non-combatants alike. The poetry presented here includes 'classics' of the genre from the 1980s and 1990s as well as a selection from the odes and ghazals of today's conflict . Veering from nationalist paeans to dirges replete with religious symbolism, the poems are organised under four headings - - War, Pastoral, Religious and Love - - and cover many themes and styles. The political is intertwined with the aesthetic, the celebratory cry is never far from the funeral dirge and praise of martyrs lost. Two prefatory essays introduce the cultural and historical context of the poetry. The editors discuss its importance to the Pashtuns and highlight how poetic themes correspond to the past thirty years of war in Afghanistan. Faisal Devji comments on what the poetry reveals of the Taliban's emotional and ethical hinterland.


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The Taliban are synonymous with the war in Afghanistan. Doughty, uncompromising fighters, they plant IEDs, deploy suicide bombers and wage guerrilla warfare. While much has been written about their military tactics, media strategy and harsh treatment of women, the cultural and sometimes less overtly political representation of their identity, the Taliban's other face, is o The Taliban are synonymous with the war in Afghanistan. Doughty, uncompromising fighters, they plant IEDs, deploy suicide bombers and wage guerrilla warfare. While much has been written about their military tactics, media strategy and harsh treatment of women, the cultural and sometimes less overtly political representation of their identity, the Taliban's other face, is often overlooked. Most Taliban fighters are Pashtuns, a people who cherish their vibrant poetic tradition, closely associated with that of song. The poems in this collection are meant to be recited and sung; and this is the manner in which they are enjoyed by the wider Pashtun public today. From audiotapes traded in secret in the bazaars of Kandahar, to mp3s exchanged via bluetooth in Kabul, to video files downloaded in Dubai and London, Taliban poetry has an appeal that transcends the insurgency. For the Taliban today, these poems, or ghazals, have a resonance back to the 1980s war against the Soviets, when similar rhetorical styles, poetic formulae and tricks with metre inspired mujahideen combatants and non-combatants alike. The poetry presented here includes 'classics' of the genre from the 1980s and 1990s as well as a selection from the odes and ghazals of today's conflict . Veering from nationalist paeans to dirges replete with religious symbolism, the poems are organised under four headings - - War, Pastoral, Religious and Love - - and cover many themes and styles. The political is intertwined with the aesthetic, the celebratory cry is never far from the funeral dirge and praise of martyrs lost. Two prefatory essays introduce the cultural and historical context of the poetry. The editors discuss its importance to the Pashtuns and highlight how poetic themes correspond to the past thirty years of war in Afghanistan. Faisal Devji comments on what the poetry reveals of the Taliban's emotional and ethical hinterland.

30 review for Poetry of the Taliban

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jo

    How could I resist such a title? The whole concept of the book is unique and interesting. The scholarly preface and introductions give a helpful context for the poetry within the traditions of fine aesthetic accomplishment in the region. They explain the nuances of rhyme and metre, and the myths and legends, old and new, which are drawn upon in the imagery of many of the poems. They explain how the poems were gathered and their reasons for crediting them with representing the poetic heart of the How could I resist such a title? The whole concept of the book is unique and interesting. The scholarly preface and introductions give a helpful context for the poetry within the traditions of fine aesthetic accomplishment in the region. They explain the nuances of rhyme and metre, and the myths and legends, old and new, which are drawn upon in the imagery of many of the poems. They explain how the poems were gathered and their reasons for crediting them with representing the poetic heart of the Taliban and their supporters. The poems show us a male human face, educated in the lyrical traditions of the region and aching with emotion - concerning love, loss, pain and patriotism - rather than doctrines and statements. In some ways this makes them even more powerful as propaganda tools (most are published on the Taliban's website). Though there is the occasional voice that questions and expresses self-doubt, these are almost lost amid the strident certainty of victimhood and cries of vengeance. Part of me recognises that this is with good reason - read poems such as 'The young bride was killed here', or 'The Burning Village' and you can see there is powerful justification for outrage. At the same time, this human face, this human, feeling voice, is depressingly drenched in blood. The red of blood touches almost every poem. It reads like the most bloody biblical psalms. I feel like I am meeting a very traumatised human in this book, a brutalised and brutal humanity, unable to see the humanity in those against whom it perpetuates violence, whether those labelled 'enemy' or those in its control close-by. There is a kind of security in a feeling of all-or-nothing entitlement and the self-rightness of victimhood. How can anyone argue against the victimhood? Though the layered internal politics of this country seem incredibly complex to me, people cannot be so neatly positioned as victim or oppressor. The overwhelming question it leaves me with is how the violent cycle can be broken, and how this particular victim voice can be heard in the political process of Afghanistan while recognizing the danger of its woundedness to the rights and freedoms of others. A very stimulating, though depressing read.

  2. 5 out of 5

    my name is corey irl

    the line for thenew hunger game stretches across the walmart carpark. in uruzgan two opium farmers bump iphones to exchange only the sickest and nastiest talib poetry. farmer #1 turns to camera: [pashto] this is why you fail

  3. 5 out of 5

    Phil Halton

    Afghanistan is a country of poets. “The Poetry of the Taliban” would seem to be a very unusual book, until the centrality of poetry in Afghan culture is understood. One only has to speak with an Afghan for a few minutes—be they a government official or an illiterate farmer—before they include a quote or aphorism from the large body of Persian, Pashto, or Urdu literature. It would be easy to dismiss this collection of poetry as mere propaganda, but this wouldn’t be correct. “Poetry of the Taliban” Afghanistan is a country of poets. “The Poetry of the Taliban” would seem to be a very unusual book, until the centrality of poetry in Afghan culture is understood. One only has to speak with an Afghan for a few minutes—be they a government official or an illiterate farmer—before they include a quote or aphorism from the large body of Persian, Pashto, or Urdu literature. It would be easy to dismiss this collection of poetry as mere propaganda, but this wouldn’t be correct. “Poetry of the Taliban” contains over two hundred poems, from the period of the anti-Soviet jihad until today. I don’t recommend this book for its artistic value, as the poetry is of very mixed quality, but instead because of its anthropological value. It’s important to see the Afghan people as neither solely victims nor insurgents, but as a society so thoroughly embroiled in conflict that one becomes indistinguishable from the other. You can read the full review at: www.philhalton.com

  4. 5 out of 5

    Justin Leroux

    Painfully repetitive.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Saurabh

    Poignant, scary, moving, terrifying... Want a real peek into the minds of those "caught up" in the prolonged war? These poems potentially tell us more than many scholarly tomes can... Poignant, scary, moving, terrifying... Want a real peek into the minds of those "caught up" in the prolonged war? These poems potentially tell us more than many scholarly tomes can...

  6. 5 out of 5

    Matt A

    Yeah so saw a book in the library called "Poetry of the Taliban" and couldn't really resist. The poems themselves were okay, the introducton essay and translation notes were fascinating. If this sounds even vaguely interesting to you I'd recommend giving it a go. Yeah so saw a book in the library called "Poetry of the Taliban" and couldn't really resist. The poems themselves were okay, the introducton essay and translation notes were fascinating. If this sounds even vaguely interesting to you I'd recommend giving it a go.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Nett

    Not this book! Serial Season 2 Bowe Bergdahl

  8. 4 out of 5

    Mills College Library

    891.5931 P7457 2012

  9. 4 out of 5

    Imaduddin Ahmed

    Context is important.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Angel

    (Review coming soon)

  11. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

  12. 5 out of 5

    Stockfish

  13. 4 out of 5

    D-PDF

  14. 4 out of 5

    Mujib Abid

  15. 4 out of 5

    Middlethought

  16. 5 out of 5

    Bilal Shakir

  17. 4 out of 5

    Asia

  18. 4 out of 5

    Joost Perreijn

  19. 4 out of 5

    Barnana Roy

  20. 4 out of 5

    Eric Groo

  21. 4 out of 5

    Aaron

  22. 4 out of 5

    Laura Cesaretti

  23. 4 out of 5

    Larry Landrigan

  24. 4 out of 5

    Enkidu_

  25. 5 out of 5

    Kyle

  26. 5 out of 5

    Saba Imtiaz

  27. 4 out of 5

    Alex Firth

  28. 4 out of 5

    Benjamin Redwood

  29. 5 out of 5

    Aleksandra

  30. 5 out of 5

    Angie Chen

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