Literary Afghan Voices
The American involvement in Afghanistan, the longest war in the U.S history, could potentially open our eyes onto a wonderful and hitherto unexplored vista: the voices and tales of Afghan poets.
Thousands of Americans and Afghans have been born during this war. There have been thousands of articles and news coverage on Afghanistan, a staggering number of books on the plight of Afghan women, and yet we know very little about its people, culture and history. Does the existing literature offer nuanced narratives and analysis? How often do Afghans get to narrate their story and point of view? Where do we look for their perspective?
Afghan literary voices.Poetry, one of the most sophisticated, prized and common forms of art in Afghanistan, often reflects and challenges the status quo, and critiques society with its wit and wisdom. As part of my ongoing research to introduce contemporary Afghan poets and artists, I will share my findings and resources that are available in English translation; they are listed and often updated in this entry. Let’s welcome these figures into ours homes. I hope their stories provoke your curiosity!
- Wasef Bakhtari: A prominent scholar, translator and poet. Professor Wali Ahmadi has translated his works into English.
- Mohammad Kazem Kazemi: ََLiterary scholar, poet and book editor residing in Iran. An excerpt from his famous masnavi, “Bazgasht” (Return) has appeared in Language for a New Century.
- Raziq Fani: Mr. Fani was a prominent poet living in San Diego. He passed away in 2007. I have not seen any English translations of his works. I am translating a few of his poems (forthcoming).
- Nadia Anjuman: A student of journalism at Herat University who passed away as a result of domestic violence. Her works appear in various online publications as well as Language for a New Century, translated by Abdul Salam Shayekh. I am also translating her (forthcoming).
- Parwin Pajwak: A poet, educator and artist who lives in Ontario, Canada with her husband, Hozhaber Shinwary, also a prominent artist. I have translated a few of her poems which have been published on Tehran Bureau (see the Poetry of Afghan Women).
- Bahar Saeed: I found the translation of her famous poem “The Veil,” I am translating a few poems by her (forthcoming).
- Latif Nazemi: Featured in Language for a New Century
- Partaw Naderi: Some of Mr. Naderi’s writings and poems have been published by Khorasan Zameen, he is also a Persian-language poet featured by Poetry Translation Centre, an organization based in London.
- Sajida Milad: I have not been able to find any of her works in English yet.
- Noozar Elias: Professor Ahmadi has translated Elias, featured in Language for a New Century.
- Songs of Love and War: poems that “celebrate nature, mountains, rivers, dawn and night’s magnetic space. They are songs of war and honor, shame and love, beauty and death.”
- The Poetry of Afghans from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century
- Afghan Dreams: Young Voices from Afghanistan
- Language for a New Century offers the works of contemporary Afghan poets in English translation as well as hundreds of other poets from the Middle East and Central Asia.
- Images of Afghanistan: offers a glimpse of Afghan “music, film, proverbs, short stories, poetry, cartoons, and folktales in popular style. By the same translator, also the short stories of Akram Osman in English.
- Khalili, Khalilullah. An Assembly of Months (New Delhi, 2004): New volume of poetry by former poet laureate of Afghanistan in English translation. I could not find this book online.
- Ashraf Ghani, “The Persian Literature of Afghanistan, 1911-78, in the Context of its Political and Intellectual History,” Persian Literature (Albany, NY, 1988): 428.
- The introduction of modern fiction in Afghanistan, Encyclopædia Iranica.
- A scholarly article on Afghanistan & Languages, Encyclopædia Iranica.
- Afghanistan in Ink: a much anticipated and needed anthology on twentieth century Afghan literature. By the same editor, Ms. Nushin Arbabzadah, From Outside In: a book depicting a personal refugee experience in the UK.
- Zuzanna Olszewska is a PhD a student at Oxford University who is working on a dissertation entitled Poetry and Its Social Contexts Among Afghan Refugees in Iran. Her translations of Afghan Persian poetry have been published in Words Without Borders and Modern Poetry in Translation.
- Two of Zuzanna’s publications are: Olszewska, Zuzanna (2007) “A Desolate Voice:” Poetry and Identity among Young Afghan Refugees in Iran, Iranian Studies, 40:2, 203-224 / Olszewska, Zuzanna. “Stealing the Show: Women Writers at an Afghan Literary Festival in Tehran.” Bad Jens. Sep. 2004. Also, her article on Afghan women writers at Tehran’s literary festival.
- Abdul Rasoul Rahin’s article entitled “The Situation of Kabul University Library: Its Past and Present.”
- One Story, Thirty Stories: An Anthology of Contemporary Afghan American Literature; edited by Zohra Saed (2010). Though not just poetry, this exciting anthology explores some of the new currents, themes and styles of Afghan-American literature.
- Khorasan Zameen: an excellent venue for experts and writers discussing the arts and culture of modern Afghanistan.
- May 2011: Writing from Afghanistan, Words without Borders: The Online Magazine for International Literature. Introduction and translation of seven short stories from Pashto and Dari-Persian.
- A United Nations of Poetry (features poems by Nadia Anjuman and other Persian-language poets)
- Afghan Women’s Writing: offers the works of Afghan women writers in the form of short story, art work and poetry
- Poetry Translation Centre: offers translations of several Afghan and Tajik poets
- Afghan Web: a good source for translated poems and references
- The website of Ms. Zohra Saed, the editor of One Story, Thirty Stories, an anthology dedicated to the works of Afghan-American writers
- The website of Mr. Farhad Darya, a U.S-based Afghan singer and poet.
- The website of Mr. Mithaq Kazimi, an Afghan-American film-maker.
- Ms. Nushin Arbabzadah is an Afghan writer, journalist, translator and scholar. Follow her writings on various publications including The Guardian and Tehran Bureau.
- The English weblog of Mirwais Balkhi, a PhD candidate in Middle Eastern Studies. He has introduced and translated many modern Afghan poets.