History holds witness to the fact that in any war, the civilians die the most tragic and unheroic death in the name of collateral damage. And that, war, was never and will be the solution. Rajesh Talwar’s political thriller An Afghan Winter has its story set with the war-troubled Afghanistan of 2007 as the backdrop and, a journalist of Indian origin Anzan Safri as the protagonist.
Afghanistan, a country leery of war, conspiracy, murder, and violence perhaps reached the pinnacle in 2007 as far as death, suicide bombings and opium production are concerned. Our man, Anzan, a Buddhist by religion, lands on Afghanistan just before the onset of winter only to discover that life has little or no value as the country is under constant threats of Taliban and Al-Queda militants or mujaheddin.
Anzan (meaning ‘quiet mountain’ in Tibetan) meets Zeenat, an Afghan-American expat and Michael, an officer of the US military group posted in Afghanistan. The latter two were in love with each other. The three of them became friends in a jiffy and, then, things began to roll quickly. Michael got murdered in a blast; someone planted a good number of grenades in his room.
Zeenat, devastated and heart-broken, fails to fathom the motive behind the murder. Officer Wendell, a detective from the US, appears on the scene to investigate and, Anzan, feels determined to find out the man behind the murder of his friend, Michael. As Anzan delves deeper playing the snooper, he unearths egregious facts potent enough to put his own life in mortal danger. Will he be able to save himself?
What Worked For Me
Rajesh has portrayed the picture of the Afghan settlements neatly. The multiethnic problems, discrimination between the different communities of the Afghan society; the Hazaras are looked down upon and despised by the upper classes, the Pushtuns consider themselves superior to others, the life and beliefs of the common men, the condition of the women- all are intertwined with the main storyline. War is always aided and abetted by several other immoral practices and, that has been depicted through the character of the German owner of a Development business, Kart Kainzner.
I liked the tidbits of Afghan history shared. A multilingual, multiracial country by itself, Afghanistan became a melting -pot in the truest sense at that time. The political chicanery played by some influential men among the squalor of the war and terrorism makes the readers rethink about the authenticity of what they read or watch in the media when countries are engaged in wars!
I also liked the realization that dawns upon Anzan at the end.
“Compassion. That was the key word. Compassion needed to be factored into any karma korrector.”
It’s Anzan who tells us the story, in the first person in a too simple and somewhat stilted language. His views on religion, relationships, violence, war, as well as on the cultural and political aspects, sometimes have slackened the pace of the story. A monotonous feeling creeps into the mind of the reader. I, myself, felt like omitting a few pages a couple of times. (I resisted the temptation, though) However, his is a realistic and likeable character who possesses a definite ideology on everything.
What Could Have Been Better
As the adage goes, too many cooks spoil the broth, too many leading characters often make a novel over-crowded. Besides the protagonist, the author has tried to pay equal attention to other characters as well. Eventually, the number of subplots have raised.
Moreover, from the narrative tone, it would not be difficult for a thriller/mystery aficionado to draw the conclusion well before the author is going to make it. At least, I was able to do that.
If you like history, have the interest to know about the political, economical and social conditions of an exotically beautiful country that permeated violence at the time period depicted in the novel, you can go for this book. Also, you will garner a good knowledge over the Afghani gastronomical delights. Don’t expect a fast-paced, hot and happening thriller.
From my side, it’s 3/5
I won a review copy from The Tales Pensieve as part of Reviewers Programme. Register on #TTP for lots of #book fun and activities.