Feature

Jamil Jan Kochai's 6 favorite works that explore violence and culture

The author recommends works by Anand Gopal, Karan Mahajan, and more

Jamil Jan Kochai is the author of 99 Nights in Logar, a debut novel that was a 2020 PEN/Hemingway Award finalist. His new story collection, The Haunting of Hajji Hotak, focuses on Afghan characters in both Afghanistan and America. 

Hard Damage by Aria Aber (2019)

This is the book I've been trying to press into everyone's hands for two years. It's a breathtaking poetry collection. The poems — about war, God, love, Afghan history, migration, and Rilke — will leave you goose-bumped and weeping. Buy it here. 

Inheritors by Asako Serizawa (2020)

Beautifully written and philosophically complex, this heart-shattering collection of linked stories explores political violence, nationalism, memory, and loss as it follows multiple generations of a Japanese family scattered across the world. Buy it here. 

This Blinding Absence of Light by Tahar Ben Jelloun (2001)

Perhaps the most devastating novel I've read, Jelloun's award winner follows the plight of several political prisoners who are tortured and starved for decades in an underground prison in Morocco. Despite its accounts of immense suffering, the novel is ultimately an incredible exploration of spiritual transcendence. Buy it here.

Texaco by Patrick Chamoiseau (1992)

An underread masterpiece, Texaco traces the development of its titular shantytown in Martinique. A harrowing examination of slavery and colonization and a magical testament to oral storytelling traditions, Texaco is also, in its narrative ingenuity and reckless beauty, comparable to One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez. Buy it here. 

No Good Men Among the Living by Anand Gopal (2014)

Thoroughly researched as well as captivating, No Good Men Among the Living provides a focused, factual account of the early war in Afghanistan, when the U.S. military was empowering warlords, torturing civilians, and accidentally assassinating U.S. allies. If you want to understand how the U.S. lost the war, this book is an excellent starting point. Buy it here. 

The Association of Small Bombs by Karan Mahajan (2016)

Assuming multiple perspectives — of the bombers, victims, and everyone in between — this novel weaves a remarkable tapestry of stories from the wake of a "small" bombing in Delhi. Impeccably written, the novel should also be lauded for its aversion to simplifying how and why "terror" occurs. Buy it here.

This article was first published in the latest issue of The Week magazine. If you want to read more like it, you can try six risk-free issues of the magazine here

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