Reviews

Among the prominent contemporary Afghan authors, Akram Osman, born in 1937, stands out as the major short story writer in the full sense. Once a public figure at home and an acclaimed representative of Afghan culture in Tajikistan and Iran, Osman moved to Sweden in 1992, at the outbreak of the civil war. Today, he heads the Afghan Pen Club in Stockholm. His first writings date back to the late 1950s, and, with over 80 short stories published to this day, Osman probably numbers among the most prolific writers in this particular genre. In this article, F. Bezhan submits his own anthropological reading of Osman’s literary achievements. According to F. Bezhan, Osman’s short stories can be classified into four categories: “the political, satirical, novel of manners and diaspora stories.” Among them, the satirical and “novel of manners” stories would be of greater “artistic significance” and more characteristic of Osman’s style. From a chronological perspective, Osman has evolved from the overtly political tone of his early works to a more disenchanted portrayal of the condition of exile or, in F. Bezhan’s words, from a form of “ideological sentimentalism” to “the awareness of loss”. But the same could be said of a whole generation of Afghan writers. More relevant is the unique intertwining of folk traditions and Western influence specific to Osman’s writing. When he describes the coming apart of the old Afghan world, his satire comes close to a genuine “comedy of manners”. While drawing from the remote repertoire of Western novels and drama, Osman skillfully incorporates folk tales and colloquial language in his stories, and achieves a striking “mobility of tone”. Far from the worn out patterns of witty anecdotes, his satirical and “novel of manners” stories can truly be said to embody a shift in the development of modern Aghan fiction.

Justine Landau, New Sorbonne University, Paris
CER: II-5.2.B-437