Friday, 8 October 2010

Afghanistan: 1946

Another good book to read as basis for understanding modern Afghanistan. A book that recorded the transition of Afghanistan to nationhood, albeit through the eyes of Michener. It's free too. Some vivid insights:

1. Afghanistan was once invaded and razed by the Mongol hordes, but they left behind a pillar of corpses encased in gypsum as testimony of their terrifying presence;

2. Life of the Pashtuns, a major tribe of Afghanistan and their fascination with the travelling dancing troupe of feminine boys

3. The lives of the Povindahs, that nomadic tribe that traversed the deserts and mountains of Asia;

4. The powerful influence of the mullahs in the life of ordinary Afghans;

5. The stoning to death of an adulterous woman;

6. Afghanistan as a centre for learning and teaching Buddhism centuries before Prophet Mohammad was born;

7. The covert jostling for influence among the Russians, Americans and the British, and much more.

The funny thing is that there is no mention of the 'Talibans'. Presumably, they belong to another dominant tribe, the Afghans.

Go here for free downloading of the book.


  1. Hi Chang Ngee, I'll have a look at this selection and pass on your recommendation to my brother John who lives in Australia. He visited Afghanistan when he was in University as part of an Overseas Study Program. I think he was there for about 5 months and for at least one month of that time each individual student stayed with a host family. He really enjoyed it. That was some 40 years ago now!

    Our friend Don C. liked to read novels but not particularly James Mitchener because he complained that Mitchener described everything in such excruciating detail that he wrote long boring books. There was a book Mitchener wrote titled "The Drifters" that one interesting PC volunteer in our training group read and while in Malaysia he wrote to Mitchener and received a reply! The volunteer had told Mitchener that reading "The Drifters" had affected him in a way that he wanted to join the Peace Corps. He wrote to James Mitchener and received the letter from the author while we were both posted to a bahasa Malaysia rural school in Sungai Mati, about 10 miles from Muar. I remember the volunteer let me read Mitchener's response to him (it was a typed letter and typed signature that his wife had typed from dictation). I tried to memorize lines of James Mitchener's words: "Dear Whitt, I wish I were in Malaysia with you right now. Kuala Lumpur, Penang,and Kota Bahru are all places I would like to see again. Take a good look at them for me. I will always remember my time in Malaysia. I should have paid a million dollars for the privilege of going there, for the experience has modified my entire life." James Mitchener. Pretty remarkable author. The experience of Malaysia and my Malaysian friends has been a million dollar experience for me as well. Glad to read your blogs too.

  2. Sorry I spelled his name wrong! It's MICHENER.