I Am the Beggar of the World: Landays from Contemporary Afghanistan

Trans. from the Pashto by Eliza Griswold, with photographs by Seamus Murphy. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $24 (145p) ISBN 978-0-374-19187-0
Landays, 22-syllable folk couplets sung anonymously by women, have long been the dominant form of social satire and gender subversion in Afghan poetry, and Griswold’s translations mark a stunning handling of their complex “beauty, bawdiness, and wit.” Flanked by Murphy’s photographs, with their striking blend of wartime journalism and human compassion, Griswold’s couplets are peppered with brief prose passages in which she delves into the cultural and historical traditions that inform the humor and gravity of her translations. Among her many accomplishments is elucidating the “fury at the presence of the U.S. military and rage at occupation” while also detailing the fears surrounding the end of American occupation, including a return to lives of isolation and oppression for Afghan women. “My lover is fair as an American solider can be,” begins one couplet. “To him I looked dark as a Talib, so he martyred me.” In Griswold’s version of this 19th-century landay, the Pashto word Angrez (English) is no longer translated as “British soldier,” pointing with stark irony to the landscape of contemporary military occupation, and signaling a collection that may indeed be remembered as a groundbreaking work of translation and poetic journalism. Photos. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 03/31/2014
Release date: 04/01/2014
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 160 pages - 978-0-374-53518-6
Open Ebook - 160 pages - 978-1-4668-8066-5
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