Today, most Westerners still see the war in Afghanistan as a contest between democracy and Islamist fanaticism. That war is real, but it sits atop an older struggle between Kabul and the countryside, between order and chaos, between a modernist impulse to join the world and the pull of an older Afghanistan - a tribal universe of village republics permeated by Islam.
Now, Tamim Ansary draws on his Afghan background, Muslim roots, and Western and Afghan sources to explain history from the inside out and to illuminate the long, internal struggle that the outside world has never fully understood. It is the story of a nation struggling to take form, a nation undermined by its own demons while every 40 to 60 years a great power disrupts whatever progress has been made. Related in storytelling style, Games Without Rules provides revelatory insight into a country at the center of political debate.
Tamim Ansary is the award-winning author of Destiny Disrupted and West of Kabul, East of New York. He has been a major contributing writer to several secondary-school history textbooks offering an Islamic perspective.
©2012 Tamim Ansary (P)2012 Blackstone Audio, Inc
"A breezy, accessible overview of centuries of messy Afghan history, including the present military quagmire…. Lively instruction on how Afghanistan has coped, and continues to cope, with being a strategic flash point." (Kirkus Reviews)
"In Games Without Rules, Tamim Ansary has written the most engaging, accessible and insightful history of Afghanistan. With gifted prose and revealing details, Ansary gives us the oft-neglected Afghan perspective of the wars, foreign meddling, and palace intrigue that has defined the past few centuries between the Indus and Oxus. This brilliant book should be required reading for anyone involved in the current war there - and anyone who wants to understand why Afghanistan will not be at peace anytime soon." (Rajiv Chandrasekaran, author of Little America: The War within the War for Afghanistan)
I have read most books on Afghanistan (there are lot!). This is one of the better introductions you can get. Especially because its well written and flows easily. So if you want to know more about the country its a very good place to start. However, nothing new or anything you cannot read elsewhere. The author tries to suggest why modernity has been a struggle for the country - I do not agree, but he succeeds well in using his core idea to build a consistent narrative throughout the book. 4 stars because it reads like an nice summery of what others have written before for those of us that know Afghanistan already.
Afghans deserve a voice like Tamim Ansary to tell their modern history in contemporary English. His style reminded me of my grandfather who told me among many others about the reign of Amanullah Khan in relatable way full of rich imagery and humor. Most other history books about Afghanistan originally written in English are by outsiders which makes Afghanistan and its history seem like an exotic carnival completely disconnected from modern issues, or a place full of gloom and tragedy. Not to say that Afghans haven’t lived through some crazy carnival type periods filled with pain and tragedy, their story is not very different from most people elsewhere like the United States. Except that every time they’ve tried to create a nation that allows its inhabitants to more freely pursue happiness, they’re rudely interrupted. These interruptions in past couple of hundred years came in form of three wars with Great Brittan, Russian invasion, a civil war, followed by a brutal Taliban rule, and the ongoing U.S/NATO occupation. In those brief peaceful periods yet greatly influenced by outside powers, Ansary argues Afghans made great progress to become a functioning nation with lingering conflict between urban and village perspectives. Solaiman Afzal
This is a fascinating journey through the history of Afghanistan and its people. Thoroughly knowledgeable and eminently readable/listenable, the author quietly and authoritatively relates this complex nation's background, bringing it up to the present day. It is a book that would repay, at least for me, a second reading, because of the complexity of the subject. I recommend it.
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