KH: Yes. Virtually all of it was poetry. One of the works that really affected me was the grand epic of Persian literature, the which literally translates into It was written by Ferdowsi back in the 11th century, and it's the crowning jewel of Persian literature. It begins with the dawn of time and ends with the Arab invasion of Persia, but it's really the story of the great, mythical kings and warriors of old Persia. It has all the elemental themes of literature -- betrayal and guilt and greed and honor and so on. I remember being very moved by these stories, particularly by the tale of Rostam and Sohrab, a father-son story that I alluded to in The tales of the are very dramatic, very intense, invariably tragic.
I think my upbringing in that kind of literary environment also influenced me. But I discovered novels on my own, in a local bookstore in Kabul that sold used old paperbacks as well as condensed young adult editions of classics, like and and There isn't, even now, a great tradition of novel-writing in Afghanistan. Most of the literature is in the form of poetry. But serial novels were popular -- actually, [LAUGHS] was being published in a women's magazine, in an Iranian women's magazine, and it was presented as a cliffhanger, two or three chapters at a time.
In any case, I was drawn to stories and to writing from a very, very young age -- from the time I was 9 or 10 years old.
JM: Those novels that you read then, and the condensed versions of the classics, were they in Farsi?
KH: Yes, they had been translated in Iran. The condensed editions were actually called "Golden Books." I even remember the name, "Ketab hai telaii," which means "Golden Books" in Farsi. I collected some of them. They were translated in Iran, and then imported into Afghanistan.