Most Dangerous, Most Unmerciful: Stories from Afghanistan by J. Malcolm Garcia
From Seven Stories Press:
Timely literary reporting from Afghanistan by one of our most important nonfiction writers includes insightful new writing since the US pull-out in 2021.
“J. Malcolm Garcia has channeled the empathetic ear of Studs Terkel and the investigative skills of the best literary journalists … These stories will remain in the heart and mind’s eye forever.” –Beth Taylor, author of The Plain Language of Love and Loss
Reporting from Kabul and Kandahar between 2001 and 2015, J. Malcolm Garcia tells us what actually happened to the Afghan people as the conflict between first world nations and fundamentalists raged. In telling the stories of ordinary Afghans, Garcia shows the impact of years of occupation and war—and the sudden and harsh changes as new occupiers push in—on a people and their culture.
Garcia meets Laila Haidary—everyone calls her “mother”—who, with no resources to speak of, gives addicts living on the street one month of detoxification and clean living, while at the same time sending her own children to make the perilous journey to Western Europe as best they can. And there is nine-year-old Ghani, who earns a few dollars a day collecting cans on the street to support his two brothers and sister now that his father has died of a brain tumor. There are the translators and fixers Garcia hires, who risk their lives working for foreigners against the warnings of the Taliban, and also the US soldiers who don’t understand what their mission is here, and why they can’t just do what they are trained to do, which is to seek out and kill the enemy.
J. Malcolm Garcia has been compared to the Russian writer Svetlana Alexievich, winner of the 2015 Nobel Prize in Literature, for how the voices of everyday people ring out in the stories he tells. Most Dangerous, Most Unmerciful is an essential work of literature that documents one of the true disasters of our age, at the same time as it celebrates the human endurance and ingenuity of the Afghans we meet in these pages, and affirms the role journalists can play to make sure their stories can be heard.