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The World Is a Carpet: Four Seasons in an Afghan Villageby Anna Badkhen
Synopses & Reviews
An intrepid journalist joins the planetand#8217;s largest group of nomads on an annual migration that, like them, has endured for centuries.
Anna Badkhen has forged a career chronicling life in extremis around the world, from war-torn Afghanistan to the border regions of the American Southwest. In Walking with Abel, she embeds herself with a family of Fulani cowboysand#151;nomadic herders in Maliand#8217;s Sahel grasslandsand#151;as they embark on their annual migration across the savanna. Itand#8217;s a cycle that connects the Fulani to their past even as their present is increasingly under threatand#151;from Islamic militants, climate change, and the ever-encroaching urbanization that lures away their young. The Fulani, though, are no strangers to uncertaintyand#151;brilliantly resourceful and resilient, theyand#8217;ve contended with famines, droughts, and wars for centuries.
Dubbed and#147;Anna Baand#8221; by the nomads, who embrace her as one of theirs, Badkhen narrates the Fulaniand#8217;s journeys and her own with compassion and keen observation, transporting us from the Neolithic Sahara crisscrossed by rivers and abundant with wildlife to obelisk forests where the Fulaniand#8217;s Stone Age ancestors painted tributes to cattle. As they cross the Sahel, the savanna belt that stretches from the Indian Ocean to the Atlantic, they accompany themselves with Fulani music they download to their cell phones and tales of herders and hustlers, griots and holy men, infused with the myths the Fulani tell themselves to ground their past, make sense of their identity, and safeguard theirand#151;ourand#151;future.
An unforgettable portrait of a place and a people shaped by centuries of art, trade, and war.
In the middle of the salt-frosted Afghan desert, in a village so remote that Google can’t find it, a woman squats on top of a loom, making flowers bloom in the thousand threads she knots by hand. Here, where heroin is cheaper than rice, every day is a fast day. B-52s pass overhead—a sign of America’s omnipotence or its vulnerability, the villagers are unsure. They know, though, that the earth is flat—like a carpet.
Anna Badkhen first traveled to this country in 2001, as a war correspondent. She has returned many times since, drawn by a land that geography has made a perpetual battleground, and by a people who sustain an exquisite tradition there. Through the four seasons in which a new carpet is woven by the women and children of Oqa, she immortalizes their way of life much as the carpet does—from the petal half-finished where a hungry infant needs care to the interruptions when the women trade sex jokes or go fill in for wedding musicians scared away by the Taliban. As Badkhen follows the carpet out into the world beyond, she leaves the reader with an indelible portrait of fates woven by centuries of art, war, and an ancient trade that ultimately binds the invaded to the invader.
About the Author
Anna Badkhen has won awards for her reporting from the Middle East, Central Asia, East Africa, and her native Russia and the Caucasus. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, Foreign Policy, The New Republic, The Boston Globe, and other publications. The author of Peace Meals and other nonfiction books, she lives in Philadelphia.
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