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The World is a Carpet: Four Seasons in an Afghan Village Hardcover – May 30, 2013


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Riverhead Hardcover; First edition (May 30, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594488320
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594488320
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #454,822 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. The trials and tribulations desperately poor Oqa, a hamlet in northern Afghanistan so remote that regional officials don't even know it exists, comes to life through the story of Thawra, a carpet weaver, and her family. Badkhen, a Russian-born war correspondent, charts the woman's work over a year of weddings, childbirth, Ramadan, and winter snowstorms. Amid the tedium and grinding poverty—made bearable by opium for the young and old alike—the local Turkoman women have over the centuries earned the distinction of producing some of the finest carpets in the world. It's an existence that Westerners can scarcely comprehend, Thawra's family surviving on less than a dollar a day, earned for an exquisite piece of craftsmanship that will command thousands in the US. Badkhen gains astonishing access to male-only gatherings, earning their lasting respect, and ably documents the infinitesimal though significant influence that Thawra has as breadwinner in this patriarchal society. More travelogue than reportage, her prose is rich and unhurried, evoking the harshness of the desolate landscape. Oqa's isolation means Osama bin Laden may be unknown, but the Taliban is not; their presence an inescapable fact of life, one that propels Badkhen's story to a simple yet chilling dénouement. (June)

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Journalist Badkhen traveled to the northern Afghan village of Oqa (“so remote that Google can’t find it”) and immersed herself in the villagers’ lives over four seasons as she watched Turkoman women weave one of their legendary rugs. In the sparest of language, she tells a heartbreakingly familiar story: the village is suffering its second year of drought; hunger is common; addiction to opium, used to mask hunger pangs, begins at birth; and war is simply another day of life. The carpet is a work of art, the family’s financial salvation, and the hallmark of a woman’s value. Badkhen tracks the carpet’s travels around the world to a place the people of Oqa can scarcely imagine, noting the history of the lands it crosses and the conflicts that have always raged. Badkhen makes friends and shares their stories, drawing readers into this small village where the dream of wealth is hope for a life without suffering. The irony is that, as their carpets garner great sums, money never reaches the place where they are created or those who need the money so desperately. A beautifully written book of eternal heartbreak. --Colleen Mondor

More About the Author

Anna Badkhen writes about people in extremis. She is the author of "The World Is a Carpet," "Afghanistan by Donkey," "Waiting for the Taliban," and "Peace Meals: Candy-Wrapped Kalashnikovs and Other War Stories." Her next book, "Walking with Abel," comes out in 2015. Badkhen's reporting from four continents, including the conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, and Chechnya, has appeared in The New York Times, The New Republic, Foreign Policy, and other publications.

Customer Reviews

A very well written book on Afghanistan and the extremes of poverty.
Pamela I Herlong
I really love hearing about the lives of the people in the villages & the importance of understanding but respecting their hardships as well as their way of life.
The Purple Bee
I recommend this to book clubs, our small group is putting it on our summer read list, I will happily reread it .
Vintage

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By James Ellsworth VINE VOICE on May 5, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Earlier reviewers are doing a fine job of describing this work! What can I contribute? Yes, the language used is intensely poetic--full of images and metaphors. As a result, today's readers either get used to it or one finds it a bit artificial by about the middle of the book.

Looked at from the standpoint of world literature: the author certainly respects the idea of unities of time and place and of effect. She writes a lot like Emile Zola, the French novelist of social reform. This story reminds me of the endless grey and grime and drudgery of 'Germinal', his story about coal miners.

The World Is A Carpet begins with the wanderlust of 'travellers.' The author admits she is drawn to wild and desolate places in the way of Sir Richard Burton and Wilfred Thesiger and T. E. Lawrence. She feels a compulsion to write about a land and a people ravaged in every way imaginable--by time, by climate, by war, by endemic disease. These are a people--men, women and children--who are trapped in an interlocking and unremitting web of hunger, ignorance, drug addiction, brutality and the machinations of foreign powers like America and Russia.

Focusing on women's lives, what little beauty they can see comes from their ancient proficiency in carpet weaving and is the product of their ancestral imaginations and cyclical toil. In this subsistence life, a single woman and her female helpers weave but one fine carpet each year. Its sale provides a crucial margin between hunger and outright starvation for them and their families. The purchase of yarn to make carpets keeps some families continually in debt. Through Anna Badkhen's eye of the journalist and taste for ethnographic description, we can 'look in on' a year in the life of one such family and their village neighbours. She presents a view that most of us would never see otherwise and she puts human and community 'faces' on the endless cycles of violence in that region.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By William Garrison Jr. VINE VOICE on April 7, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
"The World Is A Carpet" by Anna Badkhen (Spring 2013). I do great injustice to this book by summarizing it as an interesting, sad story about how an impoverished, pregnant, opium-chewing Afghan tribal woman in a dusty, leaking, mud-and-dung-wall hut slowly toils away on a rickety, hand-made loom in weaving a carpet for resale to buy food for her malnourished family. How a carpet enwraps the life-story of its female weavers. The Russian-born female author has mastered the English language well. For almost on every other page I found a sentence that caused me to pause and think: "Wow, now that was an interesting, well-written sentence full of alliteration" that seduced me in reading it again - just for the beauty of its well-nourished phrasing. (The author should be teaching English comp somewhere.) Her writing embraces the reader into feeling that you are sitting alongside her story's characters. This book is not an extensive travelogue to be used for backpackers seeking seldom-visited, unspoiled "Garden of Eden" hamlets somewhere in Afghanistan (I understand they once existed). Nor is it a serious socio-cultural analysis of the hopes and dreams of Afghan women who pack donkey droppings into eco-friendly paddies to fuel the family hearth - a warming story. Nor does it provide an in-depth political analysis of the Karzi regime, nor does it give any musings about the theological beliefs of the Islam-infused Tablian who terrorize women into being submissive, almost un-seeable chador-enshrouded Zombies. It is an enjoyable, fast-paced, easy read, long "short story" full of dreary hopelessness amongst a sometimes beautiful landscape.Read more ›
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Neal Reynolds VINE VOICE on May 24, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The picture most of us carry of Afghanistan is that of an impoverished and brutal country, one in which residents live hopeless lives. Yet Anna Badkhen tells us of the women who are able to transmit beauty through carpetmaking. This isn't a book that will give you a lot of history, political philosophy, and goodthings like that. Rather, it is an experience all its own. It will leave you of a feeling of compassion for the people, and yet a feeling of hope for a people who can bring beauty through carpetmaking to the world. I feel there's much more that can be said about this book, but I confess that I don't know how to say it. I can heartily recommend that you read it for yourself. I think you'll be glad you did.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By AuburnTygr TOP 1000 REVIEWER on June 5, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
When I finish reading a book I am pretty sure what I want to say about it. With this book I am not sure that I can put into words how I feel after reading it. To say the least I am stunned at the depth, feeling and obvious love the author has for the Country Afghanistan and the people of the village, Oqa, that the book is centred around.

Like the women of Afghan that are taught from a very young age to weave carpets in order to support their families Anna Badkhen has taken present day Afghanistan together with history and accounts of past Afghanistan and woven both together to create a beautiful story that portrays a very different people and place than that which is reported in the news.

The World Is a Carpet is poetic, magnificent, full of beauty, humour and at times despair. A wonderful book that has earned a permanent place in my personal library; a book that I will not hesitate to read again and again.
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