When Indian journalist Taran Khan arrives in Kabul in 2006, she imagines it as a return to the land her forebears hailed from centuries ago. It is a city both familiar and unknown. She finds an unexpected guide in her grandfather who – despite never visiting the city – knows it intimately through books and stories, poetry and myth. With his voice in her head, and falling in with poets, doctors, actors and other Kabulis, Khan uncovers a place quite different from the one she anticipated.
Her wanderings reveal a fragile city in a state of flux: stricken by near-constant war, but flickering with the promise of peace, a shape-shifting place governed by age-old codes but experimenting with new modes of living. These walks take her to the unvisited tombs of the dead, and to the land of the living: the booksellers, archaeologists, intrepid film-makers and entrepreneurs who are remaking and rebuilding this ancient 3,000-year-old city.
Lost in its labyrinthine streets Khan reads the city more closely, excavating the ghostly iterations of Kabul’s past and its layers of forgotten memories – unearthing a city that has been brutally erased and redrawn as each new war sweeps through. And as NATO troops begin to withdraw from the country, Khan watches as her friends and comrades also prepare to depart, and the cycle of transformation begins again. Filled with unique insights about the meaning of home and the haunting power of loss and absence, Taran Khan conjures a magic that is spellbinding and utterly her own.
‘Any reader of this book is sure to discover a Kabul so unlike what the media portrays. Taran’s love of her city comes across in her enchanting evocation of a city where so many tragedies echo from across Kabul’s decades of war’ Raja Shehadeh, author of Palestinian Walks
Taran N. Khan is a journalist and non-fiction writer based in Mumbai. Her writing has appeared in Guernica, Al Jazeera, Berfrois, Himal Southasian, Gulf News and Dagsavisen, as well as in leading publications in India like The Caravan, Open, The Hindu and Scroll.in. She has received fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, Logan Non-Fiction Program, Jan Michalski Foundation and Pro Helvetia. From 2006 to 2013, Khan spent long periods living and working in Kabul. Shadow City is her first book.