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.
JM: Although you were raised in a culture in which there was not a strong tradition of the novel, your two books embrace, it seems to me, the fundamentally empathetic imagination of the form, telling stories that broaden the reach of our own passions and sentiments by allowing us to identify with the emotions and experience of others outside of our familiar circumstances. Does the tradition of the novel tell us anything about a culture's sense of itself?
KH: I don't know. Both of my novels -- certainly the first one, which is a kind of coming-of-age story -- are far more influenced by my American experience than by my Afghan experience. I think we're going to see more and more writers from my native country embrace this form, rather than poetry, to write about their society and the things that shaped it, especially writers who live in exile and who have been exposed, as I have, to Western novels and the art of writing novels. Which is not to say that there aren't people writing novels in Afghanistan; but it's very hard to get a sense of what is being written there, given the limited resources available to people in terms of getting published and getting their work out to be read by the world at large. But I have a sense that going forward, particularly in the Afghan diaspora, we will see more of the kind of thing that I have tried to do with my writing.