Synopses & Reviews
Written with compassion, intelligence, and insight,andlt;iandgt; A Bed of Red Flowersandlt;/iandgt; is a profoundly moving portrait of life under occupation and the unforgettable story of a family, a people and a country. andlt;BRandgt;andlt;BRandgt;and#8220;The picnic of the red flowerand#8221; is a traditional time of celebration for Afghans. One of Nelofer Paziraand#8217;s earliest memories is of people gathering in the countryside to admire the tulips and poppies carpeting the landscape. It is the mid-1970s, and her parents are building a future for themselves and their young children in the city of Kabul. andlt;BRandgt;andlt;BRandgt;But when Nelofer is just five the Communists take power and her father, a respected doctor, is imprisoned along with thousands of other Afghans. The following year, the Russians invade Afghanistan, which becomes a police state and the center of a bloody conflict between the Soviet army and American-backed mujahidin fighters. A climate of violence and fear reigns. andlt;BRandgt;andlt;BRandgt;For Nelofer, there is no choice but to grow up fast. At eleven, she and her friends throw stones at the Russian tanks that stir up dust and animosity in the streets of Kabul. As a teenager she joins a resistance group, hiding her gun from her parents. Her emotional refuge is her friendship with her classmate Dyana, with whom she shares a passion for poetry, dreams and a better life. andlt;BRandgt;andlt;BRandgt;After a decade of war, Neloferand#8217;s family escapes across the mountains to Pakistan and later to Canada, where she continues to write to Dyana. When her friend suddenly stops writing, Nelofer fears for Dyanaand#8217;s life. With lyrical, narrative prose,andlt;iandgt; A Bed of Red Flowersandlt;/iandgt; movingly tells Paziraand#8217;s haunting story, as well as Afghanistanand#8217;s story as a nation.
"Pazira, star of the film Kandahar, remembers picnics and flowers from her 1970s youth in Afghanistan. But those joys disappeared when the Soviets invaded. Her Kabul changed from beloved home to war zone, and her father was imprisoned for his beliefs (he believed in social democracy and refused to join the Communist Party). Pazira's memoir follows not just her own story but that of her country, and sometimes her overviews are broad. When she focuses on her own life, though, the narrative turns gripping and horrifying. Teenaged Pazira joined the resistance, bought black-market blood to aid her ill father after his imprisonment and arranged for the release of detained relatives. In 1989, her family escaped to Pakistan and eventually settled in Canada. Her story continues through her return to Afghanistan in search of a friend in 2002. Pazira's details when discussing Afghanistan are striking: 'Once the last tank has gone, the dust from their tracks settles... on the leaves of our almond, pear, and fig trees, over the roses, on the grapevines and on my hair and face.' Yet she skates over details in her own life, leaving gaps. Still, Pazira's memories make this, like The Kite Runner, a worthy look at the Afghanistan Americans don't see on the evening news. Agent, Helen Heller. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"andlt;Iandgt;A Bed of Red Flowersandlt;/Iandgt; is more than the remarkable story of Nelofer Pazira's difficult life in war-torn Afghanistan, her family's sacrifices and escape, and her eventual triumph as a writer, teacher, journalist and actress. Written movingly, honestly and lyrically, it is the story of Afghanistan itself." andlt;BRandgt; -- Khaled Hosseini, bestselling author of andlt;Iandgt;The Kite Runnerandlt;/Iandgt;
The star of the film "Kandahar creates a moving memoir of life, childhood and friendship as her world collapses around her
Nelofer Pazira was born into a privileged family living in Kabul. When she was six, the Russians invaded Afghanistan and her childhood ended. Her father, a respected doctor, was imprisoned along with family and friends. Their country became a police state and the centre of a bloody conflict between the Soviet army and the American-backed guerillas.
Amid the blood and fear of war, Nelofer's refuge from violence and anger was her friendship with Dyana. Together they shared their lives, their passion for poetry and the dangers of underground resistance.
After a decade of war, Nelofer's family escaped across the mountains to Pakistan and from there to Canada, where she continued her friendship with Dyana through letters. When her friend suddenly stopped writing, Nelofer felt bereft. Her return to Afghanistan under the Taliban and her desperate search for Dyana became the story of the internationally acclaimed film Kandahar. Her journey to discover Dyana's tragedy led her finally to Russia, to the country that destroyed her life, where she found a nation imprisoned by its own history.
Nuanced, affecting and stunningly written, A Bed of Red Flowers is a gripping portrait of ordinary life under occupation and an illuminating window onto the devastation of a country and the resilience of its people.
"For fear that the Communist government might find evidence that could be used against my father, my mother decides to burn everything. In utter anguish she sits on the floor in front of the stove. The tiny door of the chimney is open, and my motherrelentlessly feeds the beast of fire my father's books, albums and papers.
Book burning is a quiet ritual. The only sound is of the papers crackling and of my mother's sighs. The cherry-red glow of the fire highlights the lines of tiredness beneath my mother's eyes. I've never seen her so exhausted or lost. When she opens the door, the flames run like red water over the white pages, darkening their words.When we are done, we wash our chimney-hot faces as if what we had been doing were an ordinary household chore.
--excerpt from A Bed of Red Flowers
About the Author
andlt;Bandgt;Nelofer Paziraandlt;/Bandgt; is a journalist and filmmaker based in Toronto. She starred in the movie andlt;Iandgt;Kandaharandlt;/Iandgt; and was featured in andlt;Iandgt;Return to Kandahar,andlt;/Iandgt; which she also coproduced and codirected. She currently works for the Canadian Broadcasting Company's nightly newscast, andlt;Iandgt;The National.andlt;/Iandgt; She has also recently set up a charity -- Dyana Afghan Women's Fund -- to provide education and skills training for women in the city of Kandahar.
Table of Contents
2 Sleeping with Wolves
3 The Pilgrimage
4 The Night Choirs of Kabul
5 Token of Shame
6 Scud versus Stinger
7 Shadows on the Wall
8 Naseema¹s Revenge
9 A House of Martyrs
10 Season of Grief
11 Leave My Daughter Alone
13 The Tomb
Reading Group Guide
Reading Group Guide
A Bed of Red Flowers
By Nelofer Pazira
1. A Bed of Red Flowers begins with Nelofer Pazira's account of visiting her father, Habibullah, in prison when she was just four years old. He tells her: "I didn't raise you to cry on such a day." Discuss the author's relationship with her father. How does she feel about his political activism? How is she ultimately influenced by his beliefs?
2. Jamila, the author's mother, burns all the books in the house when her husband is suspected of being anti-government. What does this act symbolize to Nelofer, and what does it reveal about the Communist presence in Afghanistan?
3. How do the people of Afghanistan respond to the arrival of the Soviet army? What are some of their forms of passive resistance? Discuss some of the modes of active resistance that Nelofer and her friends from school engage in.
4. Nelofer's Uncle Asad and her father, Habibullah, disagree over the Afghan communist government. What are some of the consequences of political dissent in this era?
5. Discuss the role of the mujahidin -- the resistance to the Soviet occupation -- in A Bed of Red Flowers. How do they contribute to the dangerous conditions in Kabul and other strategically important cities? What are some of the daily dangers that Nelofer and her family endure at the hands of the mujahidin?
6. Who is Dyana, and what role does she play in Nelofer's childhood? How does their relationship evolve over the course of their lives? What do Dyana's letters reveal about the changing conditions of life in Afghanistan? Why do you think these letters motivate the author to return to Afghanistan?
7. How does the legend of Malalai inspire Nelofer, and what does she symbolize to the resistance movement in Afghanistan? Discuss Malalai's role in the Battle of Maiwand between the British and the Afghans.
8. Describe some of the measures the Pazira family takes in their escape to Pakistan. Who accompanies them on their long journey? How do they finally make it to the border? What did you think of the hardships they encountered on the way?
9. What does Nelofer come to realize about the leadership of mujahidin when she arrives in Pakistan? What is the dress code she must follow as a Persian literature teacher at one of the mujahidin-run schools? Discuss some of the other restrictions on women forced by Muslim extremists.
10. Nelofer Pazira writes: "What the Taliban are doing is regarded by some as a part of everyday Afghan culture. There is a strong sense of unease about condemning their actions." What do you think explains the international reluctance to intervene in politically and socially repressive conditions in other countries?
11. What does the author encounter when she returns to Afghanistan to make the film, Kandahar? How does she feel about wearing a burqa? What does it protect her from, and what does it symbolize? How does the author feel about Afghanistan's liberation by the United States in the days after September 11?
12. Why does the author decide to travel to Russia? What does this trip enable her to understand about the Communist ideology and its role in her childhood in Afghanistan?