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)
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
I loved the final modern portion. I spent 2 deployments with the Navy Seabees in Afghanistan workinf with local artisans and love the culture. I havent been back in 5 years but its great to hear from someone who is native how it is coming back.
Informative, well read, myth dissolving, quagmire of culture vs. modern intervention. At risk of own peril tread gently in this space.
I think as you read (or listen) to this book, you realize just how often the country of Afghanistan is reacting to its neighbors, and how much its neighbors have influenced its growth (or destruction). But what is different, is the book is written from an Afghan perspective. You see just how much external factors have affected the country. First the British (through British India) with their repeated and destructive invasions, then the Communists and eventually the Russians, and most recently the Pakistani's with their proxy The Taliban. There was the glimmer of home from the 1930s through the 1960s, where you get the feeling that things were beginning to go in the right direction, slowly, grudgingly, despite the repeated coups, that with a firm hand, perhaps this country could move forward, and then BAM, the Communists take over, Dawud Khan and his family are killed, and then everything slides almost irreversibly downhill. You know the rest after that. The description of the formation of the Taliban, religious fundamentalists aided by foreign governments taking advantage of a people whose families, culture and society has been destroyed, and creating this even more destructive force almost makes one lose hope.
I have to say, the narration is brilliant, as it is the author himself. I think he could read the phone book in Kabul, and I would listen to the whole thing. Assuming there are phone books in Kabul...
Only a couple of things I wanted more information on: how is it that the Afghan culture was so much more conservative from an religious perspective than its neighbors in Iran or India. I would also have loved to see more insight on the internal differences and squabbles within Afghanistan (Sunni vs. Shi'a, Pashto vs. Everyone else) and to what extent that has affected the situations above.
Married to a Presbyterian Pastor - 4 grand children - just returned from a mission trip to Russia - Career - Interior designer
Very easy to listen to. History - and not a bit boring! Many times I thought; If I can learn what I did through "Games without Rules" - don't American officials know much more. Why then, don't we have a better outcome?
Loved this book and will be reading more of Tamim Ansary's works.
The author spent his early years in Afghanistan, answers many questions re: its history. ....great
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.
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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