Author(s): Qais Akbar Omar
Qais Akbar Omar was eleven when a brutal civil war engulfed Kabul. For Qais, it brought an abrupt end to a childhood filled with kites and cousins in his grandfather's garden: one of the most convulsive decades in Afghan history had begun. Ahead lay the rise of the Taliban, and, in 2001, the arrival of international forces. A Fort of Nine Towers is the story of Qais, his family and their determination to survive these upheavals as they were buffeted from one part of Afghanistan to the next. Drawing strength from each other, and their culture and faith, they sought refuge for a time in the Buddha caves of Bamyan, and later with a caravan of Kuchi nomads. When they eventually returned to Kabul, it became clear that their trials were just beginning.
'A poetic, funny and terrifying memoir of life in Kabul between the Soviet Army's exit and the Taliban's retreat.' Economist 'Among Omar's many achievements, his greatest is in capturing a child's world without undercutting the depth of his book. ... exhilarating and unsettling, because this is Omar's lived experience, and one that is far stranger than fiction, though written in surprisingly refined prose for a writer who taught himself English to become an interpreter for Coalition soldiers.' Independent 'Lucid, moving ... The painful, sometimes funny human complexities of such anecdotes make Omar's book more than simply an eye-opening accout of a terrible period in recent history, though it's valuable enough as that ... a classic autobiography of universal resonance.' Newsday 'If you read only one book this summer, make it this one.' Jeanette Winterson, O Magazine 'An extraordinary memoir that [...] is even more haunting than The Kite Runner, because it's not fiction.' Philidelphia Inquirer 'I know of no other book in which the complex realities of life - and death - in contemporary Afghanistan are so starkly and intimately portrayed. This brave memoir, rich in tough humour and insight, recounts an insider's view into both the suffering and integrity of an uncompromisingly proud and courageous people; above all, it is a powerful reminder of the extraordinary tenacity of a culture which foreigners have repeatedly and fatally misjudged.' Jason Elliot, author of An Unexpected Light and Mirrors of the Unseen 'The first true life memoir of growing up in Kabul, this is both a magical and a chilling book which conveys the strength of family in truly terrible times. Definitely on my recommend list for 2013.' Christina Lamb 'Afghan author Qais Akbar Omar's story tugs at the heartstrings yet it is not maudlin or sentimental, only nostalgic and deeply evocative of his way of life ... His moving story will broaden your focus and understanding of an oft-maligned country.' The Chronicle 'Qais Akbar Omar's tale of one family's journey during the Afghan civil war is inscriptional: its images carve themselves into the reader's mind ... This book is essential reading for anyone eager to learn what more than three decades of war have cost the Afghan people.' Eliza Griswold, author of the New York Times bestseller The Tenth Parallel: Dispatches from the Fault Line Between Christianity and Islam 'Foreigners rarely penetrate the rich cultural depths of Afghanistan. Here at last is a powerful, haunting memoir that does justice to its tough, tenacious and astonishingly good-humoured people. The best thing about it ... is that it is a book about Afghanistan written by an Afghan.' Evening Standard 'In this stark, unflinching memoir, Qais Akbar Omar illuminates the beauty and tragedy of a country pushed to the brink by war. A Fort of Nine Towers gives voice to the unbreakable spirit of the Afghan people.' G. Willow Wilson, author of Alif the Unseen 'A story of a supportive family surviving against unbelievable odds.' Illawarra Mercury 'Qais Akbar Omar reminds us of the honor and courage of his people. A remarkable feat of memory and imagination.' Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya, author of The Watch and The Storyteller of Marrakesh 'As lyrical as it is haunting, this mesmerizing, not-to-be-missed debut memoir is also a loving evocation of a misunderstood land and people ... A gorgeously rich tapestry of an amazing life and culture.' Kirkus, starred review 'Omar's prose is deliciously forthright, extravagant, and somewhere mischievous, and very Afghan in its sense of long-suffering endurance and also reconciliation.' Publishers Weekly 'The story of Qais's family and their remarkable survival ... As he shares this long journey, through terror, loss, heartbreak, and sudden moments of joy, Qais's spirit still shines.' Queensland Times 'This is a book for those who love Afghanistan, for those who want to understand it, or simply for those who value deeply the best in the human spirit. It is a tale that deserves to rank with The Kite Runner.' Ronald E. Neumann, former U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan and president of the American Academy of Diplomacy 'Omar's beautifully written book is an affecting account of survival in the midst of brutality and fear, and a testament to the importance of family and friendships in a place where neighbours turned on neighbours.' Sunday Times 'Qais Akbar Omar's memoir sets out ... to show us the ordinary Afghanistan as well as the horror ... Yet for all the horrors he has seen and the loved ones he has lost, there is no desire for vengeance in this account, only a profound stoicism.' The Times 'Qais Akbar Omar, an Afghan journalist and carpet-maker ... conjures alarming images with a child's clarity: his father driving the family to safety as dead bodies sprawl by the roadside: a pit of decapitated human heads ... his father tied up and viciously bitten for the amusement of a warlord.' Independent 'Mind-boggling yet matter-of-fact, A Fort of Nine Towers is the memoir of a childhood in '90s Afghanistan - a riveting story of war as seen through a child's eyes and summoned from an adult's memory ... Omar and his family spend most of the book desperately searching for a way out of Afghanistan; they have finally raised the money for a smuggler when the twin towers fall. With the start of American airstrikes on the Taliban's strongholds, Omar's father digs his heels in. "I'm not leaving until I find out who these people" - the latest interlopers in his country's affairs, that is - "are," he declares. Resilience, of course, is itself a kind of stubbornness. Overcome with love for his homeland, Omar too ultimately pledges to stay so he can help rebuild the country. "I know it will take a long time," he says. "I am a carpet weaver. I know how, slowly, one knot follows another until a pattern appears."' New York Times
Qais Akbar Omar manages his family's carpet business in Kabul and writes books. In 2007, he was a visiting scholar at the University of Colorado. He has studied business at Brandeis University and is currently pursuing an MFA in creative writing at Boston University. Omar has lectured on Afghan carpets in Afghanistan, Europe, and the United States. He is the coauthor, with Stephen Landrigan, of Shakespeare in Kabul.