"Though the book spends a lot of time with the narrator dazed and confused about where he is and what’s happened to him, his disorientation becomes the perfect metaphor for the time depicted there — the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. An Afghan student named Farhad is caught in the middle of the turmoil, trying to maneuver through vicious soldiers and a labyrinth of Islamic custom. Like the characters in Keilson’s Comedy in a Minor Key, Farhad is in danger and hiding. His “crime” is essentially acting surly at a checkpoint, for which he’s brutally beaten. He finds temporarily safety thanks to a beautiful, mysterious woman named Mahnaz (who has a troubled past with the authorities) and her son Yahya (who keeps calling Farhad “father”). Now, his only salvation seems to be exile from his own land. Rahimi’s tale of confused nationality, indiscriminate punishment, desperate survival, and no clear way to safety depicts decades-old events, but it feels especially poignant amid the US-led war in Afghanistan that’s spanned the greater part of the past decade."
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