‘Gripping storytelling. A personal odyssey, narrated in the backdrop of a century of history, that could have been the story of hundreds of thousands of Afghans.’—Nazes Afroz, translator of Syed Mujtaba Ali’s In A Land Far From Home: A Bengali in Afghanistan (Deshe Bideshe)
Red Sky Over Kabul is the deeply personal, moving and dramatic story of a royal Pashtun family—the Popalzais—intimately connected with Afghanistan’s history from the 1800s. After the Soviet invasion in 1980, the narrator, Baryalai—Bar—is forced to leave his beloved country as National Security guards carry out a house-to-house search for young men who refuse to fight for the Russians against their fellow Afghans. He flees to Pakistan, where he is imprisoned as a spy, eventually making his way to the US, to make a new life for himself. He returns twenty years later, to reclaim his family homes in Kabul and Jalalabad, only to find them occupied by drug dealers and warlords.
This memoir is as much a story of Bar as it is a story of Afghanistan: Bar’s father, Rahman, was tutor to Zahir Shah, who would become the last king of the country after the assassination of his father in 1933; Rahman Popalzai continued to serve Zahir as his advisor and confidant for 40 years. At the heart of this book is the relationship between a father and son—Rahman and Bar—who share a fierce love for their homeland, but whose paths diverge.
Red Sky Over Kabul is also a vivid portrait of a vanished Afghanistan—a world of kite flying, duck hunting and sitar lessons; a world lost to unending, horrific violence. But even in loss and tragedy, the human spirit finds hope and resilience—which is Afghanistan’s triumph, as it is Bar’s.