Book: The Lovers
Author: Rod Nordland
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Price: Rs 399
When two lovers are compared to Romeo and Juliet, one expects a story with death foretold. Not with Rod Nordland’s Zakia and Ali in The Lovers. The New York Times’ correspondent-at-large in Kabul came across them two years ago when they were still in hiding after eloping. The two belong to rival sects (Sunni and Shia) and opposing ethnicities (Tajik and Hazara). Set in Bamiyan, Afghanistan, where the Taliban destroyed the sandstone Buddhas in 2001, Nordland traces their life on the run, briefly marred by the celebrityhood that his front-page story gave them in the country.
Given Nordland’s journalistic background (he is the recipient of a shared Pulitzer Prize), the book is rich in details. Zakia and Ali’s story, he confesses, can be eclipsed by the actual horrors that cases like theirs encounter in the country — reducing their struggle to a Shakespearean drama does little justice to their realities. However, the most significant element in the story is the author’s role in the narrative — that of a seemingly reluctant chronicler who ends up being as much a part of the story as his protagonists.