From Publishers Weekly
Khadra is the nom de plume for Algerian army officer Mohamed Moulessehoul (In the Name of God; Wolf Dreams), who illustrates the effects of repression on a pair of Kabul couples in this slim, harrowing novel of life in Afghanistan under Taliban rule. Gloomy prison guard Atiq Shaukat is tired of his grim duties, keeping watch over prisoners slated for public execution. Life at home, where his wife, Musarrat, is slowly dying of a chronic illness, is no better. Mohsen Ramat, meanwhile, clings to the remains of his middle-class life together with his beautiful, progressive wife, Zunaira, after the Taliban strip them of their livelihood and dignity. Khadra's storytelling style recalls that of Naguib Mahfouz in the early chapters, in which the tense dissatisfaction of both couples is revealed. The pivotal event occurs when Ramat discharges his frustrations by participating in the brutal stoning of a female Taliban prisoner. The incident changes the dynamic of his marriage; after an extended argument about the incident, Ramat persuades Zunaira to go for a stroll in downtown Kabul and the couple is harassed and nearly brutalized by Taliban soldiers. Zunaira continues to bridle at her situation, and when their next argument turns physical, Ramat falls and dies after hitting his head on the wall. Shaukat is given the assignment of guarding Zunaira after she is arrested and charged with murder, and his instant infatuation with her sets off a remarkable chain of events. Khadra's simple, elegant prose, finely drawn characters and chilling insights ("Kabul has become the antechamber to the great beyond") prepare the way for the terrible climax. Like Khaled Hosseini's The Kite Runner, this is a superb meditation on the fate of the Afghan people.
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Two men struggle to keep their sanity in a brief, despairing novel written pseudonymously by a former Algerian Army officer. Before the destruction wrought by the Soviet war and Taliban rule, Mohsen was an affluent merchant; now he wanders the streets while his beautiful wife is confined to home and burka. Atiq, a volatile ex-mujahideen, guards the prisoners awaiting public execution. One day, Mohsen stops to observe the public stoning of a prostitute, one of Atiq's charges. Caught up in the frenzy, he joins in, initiating a series of tragic events. Khadra's prose is gentle and precise, but the violent climax of the book makes a powerful point about what can happen to a man when "the light of his conscience has gone out."
Copyright © 2005 The New Yorker