In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks, an e-mail letter sent out to friends by Tamim Ansary, an Afghan-American author (mostly of school history books) living in the Bay Area, became widely circulated and led to a bunch of TV interviews. Now Ansary is developing his views into a book, West of Kabul, East of New York, which Farrar, Straus & Giroux editor Paul Elie bought at a best-bid auction from West Coast agent Julie Castiglia. Ansary was born in Afghanistan, lived there until he was 15 and still retains close ties to the country. In his e-mail letter, which stirred controversy when it was widely reprinted and passed along, he declared: "I speak as one who hates the Taliban and Osama bin Laden. I agree that something must be done about those monsters. But the Taliban and bin Laden are not Afghanistan. It's not only that the Afghan people had nothing to do with this atrocity. They were the first victims of the perpetrators." He suggests that bin Laden's aim is to foment a major holy war between Islam and the West, and that the only way to get at him is with ground troops, not air strikes. FSG will publish the book next April and will be selling rights at Frankfurt.
Another Afghan voice about to be heard is that of Afghan-born British journalist Saira Shah, whose study of life as a woman in that country, Beneath the Veil, was a TV special before it became a book. The book has already made a number of foreign sales and was bought here by Sonny Mehta at Knopf from Emma Parry at Carlisle & Company, acting on behalf of U.K. agent Patrick Walsh.