KABUL by M.E. Hirsh
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An expeditiously compressed and simplified--and quite splendidly mounted--action-and-angst version of the tragic and tumultuous recent history of Afghanistan (1973-1979)--as lived through, and influenced by, the members of a Western-educated, highly placed family, who through their various political stances and painful family relationships wound and I betray one another. On the eve of the 1973 coup (which would overthrow the country's last monarch), Omar Anwari, a cabinet member and internationally respected diplomat--but always removed and inaccessible to his children--will announce his resignation. He tells no one but his American wife Catherine of the corruption he's uncovered, for Omar believes that monarchy is necessary, the ""glue"" that holds the tribal-oriented country together. Omar's eldest son Mangal, career journalist, is a member, with his activist bride-to-be Roshana, of a clandestine revolutionary group working for ""democracy."" It is at the wedding of Mangal and Roshana that Mangal will give his support to ""Uncle"" Daoud (the real General who deposed his cousin)--and the next day Mangal will broadcast Daoud's proclamation of the founding of a Republic. On the same fateful wedding night, Omar's younger son, short-fused, volatile Tor, is in a towering anger at having been deprived of Karima, daughter of servants and deemed ""unsuitable."" Finding no sympathy from sister Sairi, just returned from college in the States, Tor exposes her shaming corruption--via a letter from her jilting American lover. Sairi is forced back to the States and Tor is sent to school in Moscow. All members of the family--except Catherine, the all-loving and forgiving--are bound in love and hate. Mangal will see the Republic wheeze out in impotency; he will die (with his young family) in the 1978 coup by Leftist Taraki, yet be miraculously reborn--as is Tor, turned from senseless crime and cynicism to fanatic nationalism. And Sairi, in Manhattan, always belittled as a woman in Islam, will make the decision--sparked by an idealism no smaller than her brothers'--which will bring on a nightmare of death and agony. A meaty, invigorating, politically speculative first novel--with a rich ambiance of place and mores, the drama of dusty perils and rumbling tanks, and a clutch of giant family members--intelligent, aching and doomed.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1985
ISBN: 0312301731
Publisher: Atheneum