Novel Set in 70s Afghanistan, But the Dangers Are Universal

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Once a leading industrialist in Afghanistan, author Nasir Shansab writes a novel that provides valuable perspective on widely unfamiliar era.

Silent Trees by Nasir Shansab

...I have gained the freedom to tell others how fortunate we are in America and that we should never lower our guards in defending the freedom we have.

Nasir Shansab’s dark and brooding new novel is set in Afghanistan, but not one you might recognize. Silent Trees takes place before the Taliban, the Mujahedeen, and even before the Soviet invasion, revealing a world few Americans have ever experienced. Though the story and its characters are fictional, they inhabit a world where the distinction between the real Afghanistan of the 70’s and the one of Silent Trees is arbitrary.

The novel follows Habib Dhil, a powerful businessman with slight interest in the political games of ambition and power that rule the country. Despite his desire to remain uninvolved, Dhil is undeniably tangled in the world of the ruling class, from his friendship with the ambitious colonel Alam Gol to his secret affair with the prime minister’s daughter. When Dhil’s assistant is wrongfully arrested, Dhil uses his influence to secure a release. However, what begins as a minor misunderstanding quickly twists into a political conspiracy far beyond Dhil’s control. Where power and ambition fuel the actions of the corrupt, no one is untouched by the profound absence of liberty.

The realities of corruption and the struggle for power in the world of Silent Trees are themes Shansab knows well. Once Afghanistan’s leading industrialist, whose family’s factories employed many thousands of Afghans, Nasir Shansab was arrested and sentenced to death after making a critical comment about the government at a private dinner party. He and his family were able to flee the country, but the memory of the oppression he left behind stayed with him.

When asked about the parallels between the Afghanistan he knows and the one of Silent Trees, Shansab says, “In Afghanistan, when I lived there, experiencing political oppression was an everyday affair. Even when it wasn’t directed at me, watching it happen to anyone was painful and distressing. Writing Silent Trees forced me to reflect on my life in Afghanistan and relive what I had encountered and seen others experience. The writing process was painful but also exhilarating. I had survived the arbitrary nature of power held in the hands of dictators and murderers. My children and I are safe and live free lives in a country where the rule of law prevails. And I have gained the freedom to tell others how fortunate we are in America and that we should never lower our guards in defending the freedom we have.”

Though he fled the country in 1975, Shansab’s thoughts have never truly left his homeland. As the head of a family whose roots can be traced to the 12th century, he feels an intense compassion for the country and its people.

During the 1980s, when the Mujahedeen were battling the Soviets, Shansab regularly traveled to the mountains of Afghanistan to observe the struggle first-hand. During those years he authored a non-fiction work, Soviet Expansion in the Third World: Afghanistan, a Case Study. He has regularly returned to the country in the years since 2002, seeking ways to help the Afghan people.

In writing Silent Trees, Nasir Shansab offers us a glimpse of a place and a people that we really don’t know. The powerful lessons of corruption and ambition, however, are universal: everyone—from the street vendor to the powerful businessman—is destroyed by the unchecked pursuit of power. We often try to avert our eyes from the truth about human nature, but it is a narrative of which we must often be reminded.

To find out more about Nasir and his novel Silent Trees, visit his website or search for Nasir Shansab on Facebook.

For any inquiries or for an author interview with Nasir Shansab, contact:
Jessica Lloyd with Allen Media Strategies
(703) 589.8960 or jessica(at)allenmediastrategies(dot)com

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Jessica Lloyd
Allen Media Strategies LLC
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