Filed under: Book news
When a nation is at war, where does it draw the line between artistic freedom and propaganda? That is the question swirling around a volume of Taliban poetry set to publish later this month in Britain. The book, Poetry of the Taliban, has prompted one former British officer, Richard Kemp, to warn the publisher and the reading public not to be “taken in by a lot of self-justifying propaganda.”
“What we need to remember is that these are fascist, murdering thugs who suppress women and kill people without mercy if they do not agree with them, and of course are killing our soldiers,” Kemp said on Friday. “It doesn’t do anything but give the oxygen of publicity to an extremist group which is the enemy of this country.”
The retired army colonel acknowledged that the legal right to print the book in the U.K. should be respected. But Michael Dwyer, managing director of the publishers, Hurst and Co., said there had been some angry reaction to the publicity, and the company had received an expletive-filled anonymous call accusing it of “giving voice to terrorists.”
The Guardian also quotes British poet Ruth Padel, who suggests that the volume opens a window on “a uniquely rich oral tradition of poetry in the eye of an international political storm.”
Alex Strick van Linschoten, one of the book’s editors, says, “The poetry shows that the Taliban are people just like we are, with feeling, concerns, anxieties like ours.” Of course, for those who assume that the first thing a soldier must do is dehumanize the enemy, this may be precisely the problem.