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Solitude, Diaspora, and Narration: Epic Memory in Afghan and Afghan-American Literature

Solitude, Diaspora, and Narration: Epic Memory in Afghan and Afghan-American Literature

A lecture by Shafiq Shamel, Stanford University, part of the Afghanistan in Ink Conference

This paper will examine two inter-related literary and historical concerns in the works of Afghan authors Wasef Bakhteri, Atiq Rahimi, and Khaled Hosseini: first, the structural and intellectual function of textual and epic memory, and second, the question of literary form and the representation of traumatic experience of modern warfare in the works of these authors. I am particularly interested in showing how epic memory constitutes an alternative (utopian?) space of experience vis a vis political and social realities of war and exile. The paper will focus on selected poems by Wasef Bakhteri, Atiq Rahimi’s Earth and Ashes, and Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner. In my discussion, I will examine what the significance of remembered stories from the Persian epic Shahnama by these authors may be in relationship to the contemporary world of their works. In addition to considering the intellectual-historical dimension of epic memory, I will also elaborate on the narrative function of epic memory in these texts as it particularly relates to the textual and/or narrative closure.


The paper will further discuss textual strategies that the above mentioned authors employ in their works to describe, represent, or articulate traumatic experiences of war in the last three decades in Afghanistan. This will include an analysis of both narrative techniques as well as an examination of verb tense and temporality fictional and/or literary writing use to represent traumatic experiences of war.

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