Book Jacket


rank 1383
word count 10442
date submitted 09.12.2010
date updated 16.11.2011
genres: Young Adult, Non-fiction
classification: universal

Running from Life

Shah Wali Fazli

Imagine someone who lived under the communists, Mujahidin and the Taliban and lost everything in his struggle against time.


I ran all my life, but I wouldn’t die. I ran from the Russian soldiers, when I was a child. I grew up under the communist regimes. I went through everything, but I wouldn’t die. I saw people being forced to fight in the front lines and getting killed. I saw people abandoning their homes and leaving Afghanistan. I saw people’s houses being bombarded, women and children getting killed, but I wouldn’t die.

The worst was to come, when Mujahidin took over Kabul. They fought each other in every street, killing thousands. I saw people’s houses being destroyed and women being raped. I saw the schools and university changing to garrisons. I saw people being burnt to death, but I wouldn’t die.

Now the Taliban. It was time to run. But I stayed behind for my family. I saw women being humiliated on the streets. I saw the museum and public buildings being destroyed. I saw my home changing to ruins, and going back a hundred years. I ran, in the end. I grew old. I lost my home and family, but I wouldn’t die.

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afghanistan, childhood, city, family, germany, jail, london, moscow, mujahidin, peshawar, the communists, the soviet invasion, the taliban, torture, t...

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     It was a normal day like any other when the Russian troops, as part of their search policy, came to our village.  My father was with us coming from the city.  My father and uncles sat in the house thinking what to do.  The helicopters and jets filled the air bombing the suspicious places and houses.  Tens of the Russian tanks rolled on the only road, which connected different areas, and shelled the houses, gardens, mountains and hills.  The Russian troops marched in the village and went into many suspicious houses and places looking for the Mujahidin.

     My father and uncles took their guns out and went to hide in the gardens and shoot at the Russians, but as they realised that they had left us behind, they returned back, when the Russians and Afghan communists attacked our house.  My father and uncles wanted to shoot them from the windows of our uncle’s house, but they did not, thinking that it would put our lives in danger.

     “Let’s shoot them,” my father said, sitting behind the windows, and watching the Russians and Afghan communists, standing behind the gate.  “Life is two days.”

     “No,” one of my uncles said.  “Can you not see the tank?  Its gun is towards us.  They’re waiting to hear one gunshot then the whole house would be levelled.”

     “That’s right,” my other uncle agreed.  “Let’s hide the guns and open the gate for them.” 

     My father and uncles hid their guns, when the Russians and their Afghan partners broke in into our house.   One of the Russian generals came in to give hands to the Afghan communists, in searching the house.  Tow of the Russian soldiers stood by the southern and eastern gates; our huge house had three gates, the third one was located on the western side of it.  The Afghan pro-Russian communists ransacked every room, the attics, and the storerooms.

     It had nearly stopped the breathing in my chest to see the helicopters manoeuvring over our house, making the thudding noises.  Would they bomb our house?  That was the question that had taken over my mind and my entire body, making the breathing hard for me.   It seemed like my heart had stopped beating, but then it would knock hard on my chest when I saw the Afghan communists waving their hands towards the Russian pilots.  Would they bomb us if the Russians and Afghan communists were not in the house?  The fear would not leave my heart and my mind for a second when I saw the helicopters flying close, looking like the giant hawks that would want to sit on my heart and suck my blood.

     It was a different day and time for our family.  Who would kill us first, the helicopters in the air, the Russians in the house, the tank on the road, or our communist rivals who had guns, power and our family in their hands?  The house did not look the same.  I could sense a tension.  The atmosphere in our house was like it had changed to a graveyard. 

     Now all the fear that I had from the ghosts and the thieves that my father and uncles used to say about, had come true.  Now, I saw the real ghosts in the house.  Now, I saw the thieves who I had thought would come inside, one night, throughout the roofs or throughout the almond tree that stood behind our house, reaching our rooms by its branches, had come in throughout the gates, in the day, with the guns in their hands.

     Now, the stories that my grandma used to tell me about the people who would come from the south of the country, called Manglia, loot the villages and take the women with them, had been buried, and a different story was about to start for me to tell my grandsons, if I were alive to grow as old as my grandma, who had now lived for more than a hundred years.

     Now, the stories that my father used to tell me about a robbery that had taken place in our old house had come to live.  I saw it with my own eyes.  I even saw the person who had robbed our house, whose name was Ghausdin, known as Ghauso.

     My father used to say that my eldest uncle came out of our old house late at nights, at or after midnights, to get the water from the village river into the canals that ended to our gardens to irrigate them.  One night, after he was a few hundred metres away, a bunch of thieves would catch him by surprise and then tie him to a tree.  They went into our house and gathered all the precious things, and left.  On the way out, they shot a relative in his leg who was yelling for help (he would be lame for life, because of that incident). 

     In those times, Zahir Shah was the king of Afghanistan.  My family’s elders found out that one of our neighbours who came to our house and had access to the entire building had had a hand in organising the robbery.  The police of the district arrested the neighbour for interrogation.   The neighbour would then name all the robbers.   One of them who had been jailed for many years by then, after my father’s efforts, was back today to our new house, alongside the Russian general and guards, with a new job, to rob us in a new way.

     Ghausdin was the same man who had robbed our old family house many years ago, and now he was back to take revenge on our family’s elders, trying hard to prove our links with the Mujahidin.

     “I’ll find out about you,” Ghausdin said to my father, when he was coming up the stairs of my uncle’s house.

     “Try it,” my father snapped.

     “You cannot hide your link with the Mujahidin, forever, I will find out about you.”

     “We don’t have anything to hide.”

     “Tell me where the guns and documents are.  I’ll search this house forever, and I will find them.”

     “Try it, but we don’t have anything to hide.”

     In the end, after finding a few pistols and a few hunting guns that my father and uncles had hid they tied my father’s and uncles’ hands behind their backs.  One of my cousins had hid in the toilets that located at the back of the building, where the communists didn’t go, because they didn’t find it.  The rest of our family were terrified as they had been all put in one room.

     “What’s this?” Ghausdin asked my father.

     “They‘re the weapons that we use for own protections and hunting,” my father answered.

     “We’ve reports that you had seen the Mujahidin.”

     “We’ve never done that.”

     “We know.  You kept these guns to fire at the Russian soldiers.”

     “That’s not true, who told you that?”

     “I know about every single move you mother fuckers have done.  People from the village have told me.”

     “I’ve no idea what you are talking about.”

     “You’ll talk in the jail, when I break your nose.”

     “We’ll see.”

     “Take them,” Ghauso ordered his Russian and other Afghan partners.

     A scary shriek would follow my father and uncles from the whole family after they were taken away.  We forgot about what the helicopters and jets would do to us.  The mixture of the women’s and children’s screaming deafened one’s ears.   I thought that my father and uncles would never return alive.  I thought that they took them to kill them.  My cousin, who had hid in the toilet, had somehow made his way to the room, where the women and children had been put together, wearing a burqa veil. 

     “Someone should go,” my cousin said from behind his burqa, “and inform others in the city.”

     “Who can go at this time?” his mother asked.

     “I can’t go, because they will kill me or take me with them if they see me.”

     “So, who can go to the city?”

     “You go,” my cousin said to me.  “If you go out, the Russian soldiers would not harm you.”

     I didn’t read my mother’s expression because she was under her veil.  My cousin did not even ask her whether she was ready to let me go after what had happened to my father.  I was her child.  She loved me.  Did she not imagine me getting lost forever?  Did she not think that I would get killed in the crossfire?  Did she not see how little I was?  Why did she agree for me to go out under the imminent threat of the jets and helicopters?  Did she also think that it would help if I could go and inform others in the city?

     “You should let us go to the city,” my uncle’s wife said to the leader of the Afghan communists, whose name was Dr. Baha, Ghausdin’s close relative.  “You’re our own Afghan.  Here, the children are terrified.  They’re scared of the helicopters.”

     “I know, I know, we’re not here to harm the women and children.”

     Khair bibini.  You’re our own Afghan.  Please do something.  These women and children are dying, here.”

     “I’ll do something, don’t worry.  We don’t harm your children.”

     “You took our men away.  Why do you keep these women and children here?  Please, take us to the city.”

     On the way to the city, Ghausdin would stop the tank which had my father and uncles on its top, their hands tied behind their backs, bring them down and stop them in front of the Russian general, trying to convince the general to kill them, calling them doshman the enemy.

     “They’re doshman,” Ghausdin said to the Russian general.  “We’ve reports that they had sat with the Mujahidin.”

     “Where’re the proofs?” the general asked.

     “They keep guns.  They keep loads of food in their storerooms to feed the Mujahidin.  They’re doshman.  Let’s shoot them.”

     “Yeah, but that is not a proof.”

     “The whole village know that they are linked with the Mujahidin.”

     “Let’s take them to the city and investigate their case.”

     “Just get rid of them, they are doshman.  Please kill them here.”

     “I’m not going to kill them without any trial.” 

     My father and uncles would escape the random death penalty by the mercy of that nice general.

     I came out of the house to go and do something for my father and uncles, the rest of our family members remained in the house.  Turning from the corner, my eyes fell onto the Russian soldier’s eyes who was standing by the southern gate.   I passed by him with all my fears.  Taking another left, I saw the second soldier who was standing by the second gate.  I continued on my way along the main road. 

     When I first met the soldier my eyes caught his eyes, I withered in my place.  The pain of fear and terror wrapped my body as such that like a dead body my brain stopped thinking.  It was like, in that place, I died and came back to life many times, like the disappearance of the day after the night falls, or like arrival of the darkness after the light is gone, or like the fading of a shadow after the moon is gone behind the clouds.

     He remained quiet and static.  My fear was that much that his mercy could not reach me.  I was suffering from the fear when he was proud of his sympathy.  I passed by him, which felt as hard as passing by him a hundred times.  I thought I was crossing a horrific flood that would take me away any second.

     When I saw the second soldier, I thought my whole drive had come to a halt.  I hardly moved.  How terrified I was only my heart could tell.  Did the soldier read the fear in my eyes, and the tremble in my little body that he wouldn’t even move?  He looked into my eyes like a soldier, but not like a man (proving that any man with a uniform was more than a man, and the general had spared some lives to repeat and approve it).

      The soldiers didn’t harm me although they had taken over me like a dark night.  To me it felt like they could fight with everything; with the stones, men and trees.   Whatever that came against them would be destroyed.

     I passed by the neighbour’s house which looked as little against our house as I looked against the soldiers.  Not looking my back I carried on my way.  They were the same grounds that I used to play on them along with the other boys in the village, but its sky was different, the atmosphere was different, I was different, and the time was a different time.  On the same ground that I used to run, from the day when I had first learned how to walk, now terrified me.  I was too little against all that was going on around me.  I used to run on these grounds laughing and looking at the walnut and berry trees,  but now the time forced me to slow down to the pace of a hundred-year-old man, who was about to die any second.  Looking up, I wondered if the helicopter was following me.         

     I did not see anyone, but thousands of bullets lurked around me, hitting the trees around.   One minute was far too long not to hear the shrieks of the poor trees in the Nalaw, from being hit by constant firing of the bullets and rockets.  From the Nalaw, where I used to gather walnuts or drink water from its underground water sources, a terrifying sound like the howling of the wolfs, and the roaring of the lions, would make me keep away from it, but that was the only safe and remote place where I could hide from the helicopters, flying above my head.  I left the gardens and went down the Nalaw.

     After a while, I left the Nalaw and came up to another area where one of my aunts lived.  I didn’t go to see her.  That was not my plan.   My plan was to go to the city and do something for my father and uncles.  Leaving one area after the other and going from one garden to another, I was growing older minute by minute; or decade by decade, as I could see myself getting closer to death.   Nothing was the same.  I had never missed going to see my aunt who would cook for me and look after me, but now I had forgotten about her and about all those good times.

     This day, everything was different.  The trees had lost their tranquillity not only to the wind, but to a quite different thing.  I knew all these gardens that went along the main road, because the whole village was like a playground for us.  But all the way the soldiers’ scary features were with me. My heart was beating, and I was afraid of myself.  The terror would surround me wherever I was.  The earth and air had changed to an eternal noise that had filled my ears and added to my fear.  The horror was everywhere, as if it would take me to the mouth of death.

      Looking back I felt by every tissue of my body and by my soul what I had left behind.  Baghal Koh, the mountain where I went to see Shah-w- Aros, seemed like its rocks were constantly shouting from too much shelling of the tanks, bombing of the jets and helicopters, and firing of the bullets.  I wondered what had happened to the Shah-w- Aros -- the two lovers who had been married and had asked God to change them to two stones.

     In the cover of the walls and trees I continued on my way, away from people, and away from the Russian soldiers.  By running away from the soldiers I thought I was running away from all the problems, which would satisfy my horrified mind.  But what kind of satisfaction was it when it was born by my own deep sadness?  Fear and death would call my name every second as if they were waiting for me every step I took forward.  Death and horror would control everywhere I was, all the time.

     I crossed the river, where the main road would wash its way through, and walked along the white building of the high school that had been built by my father’s friend, who had been a teacher in its old building, and where my eldest brother and my cousins went to study.  The scary noises of the tanks, jets and the helicopters added to my pain and fear.  The horrifying noises took the peace away from my heart.  Looking at the mountains, my eyes went dark to see hundreds of the Russian soldiers going up those mountains to chase the Mujahidin.   The horror never left my heart thinking what it was it like for those who came against those soldiers.  They followed the Mujahidin who fired from behind the rocks and from inside their holes and hideouts and then disappeared. 

     It wasn’t a cloudy day.  The sun was up and shining.  I saw its golden rays on the fields in front of me.   Now I had arrived somewhere that I had to jump down a wall that was probably more than two metres high.  I jumped but it didn’t hurt me because those jumps would never hurt me.  What hurt me that day was something that I hadn’t been familiar with.  I saw something I had never seen before.  Yes, I saw that some people had wanted to take those sun’s rays away from me forever, as they had taken them away from many other children of the village.  I saw a cord that had come out a landmine.  I sat in my place terrified.  I didn’t force a smile like a brave would do.  I nearly cried.  Then I got up and continued on my way. 

     I was scared of showing myself to others.   I hid behind everything I could.  I hid from the light of the day, covering myself in the shadows of the big walnut and apple trees.  I hid myself in the narrow valleys, next to the water streams, where no one could see my tiny body, but the horrifying sound of the death and bullets would find me. 

     I continued on my way.  The black shadows of the helicopters walked on the ground in front of me by breaking the sun’s rays in the air everywhere they flew, which terrified me.  My heart melted when I saw one of them closing down on a house and firing its rockets.  I didn’t think if there was anyone in the house because my brain couldn’t work it out.  Not only that I was a child that didn’t help me understand all those, understand other peoples’ fear and pain, but also the fear and the horror had taken over my body, brain, and any sense of sympathy that I might have had.  The horror and fear in me were as happy with me as I was sad and terrified with them.  It was like they had turned to me and I had turned to them. 

     When I arrived close to a relative’s house, in an area called Deh Naw, the day had gone and it was dark already.  I knocked on their door to ask them to help me going to the city.  My cousin, who had been married to her cousin, opened the door.

     “What’s wrong,” my cousin asked, “What’re you doing here at this of the night, in such a bad situation?”

     “They took my father and uncles away.”

     “Who took them away?”

     “The Russians.”

     “What happened, when?” her uncle asked.

     “Today.  They took them away.   I need to go to the city to inform others.”

     “You can’t go to the city on your own.”

     “I’ve to, I’ve to do something.”

     “Ok, wait until tomorrow.  I’ll see if anyone with a bus or truck goes to the city, I will ask him to take you there.

     I stayed in Deh Naw.  My cousin cooked for me.  But I was so terrified that a cloud of horror had sat on top of my heart and rained horror over my whole body, making me sad and terrified.  I didn’t eat.  Throughout the night the war continued.  My other cousin, who was the brother of the cousin who I was staying with, had gone out to do what the Mujahidin did, because he was happy with the guns and fights, anyway.  He would come home late at night. 

     Throughout the night, the scary sounds of the bullets and tanks wouldn’t leave my ears.  So many things terrified my little heart.  So many thoughts had conquered my small brain.  So many things had taken the sleep from my eyes and the peace from my heart.  I didn’t sleep.  In the morning I got behind a truck and it took me to the city.

     Fortunately, my family had been put behind a truck, with the cooperation of the Russians and pro-Russian local communists, and taken to the city.  The Russians and Afghan local communists used our house as their stronghold against Mujahidin.  They took my father and uncles to the city and put them in their jail.  In time, the local communists left the house and it fell into the Mujahidin’s hands.   Mujahidin set the house on fire, so it could not be used against them, in the future.     




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mscynthia wrote 799 days ago

Hi Shah,

The houses of both your father and then your uncle's which you described seemed to be opulent and otherwise nice abodes had it not been for the various factions fighting to take over your country. As you stated in your pitch, first there were the Russian soldiers, then the Mujahidin and then the Taliban. All the adult males seemed to be taken first, with the women and children after. I think after a few more years of living, you could incorporate these stories in an official memoir - they were very dramatic they way you described how then enemy soldiers infiltrated first your father's house, then your uncle's. Congratulations on living to tell the tale!

Sharing Short Stories/Alecner

A G Chaudhuri wrote 832 days ago

Dear Shah,

You’ve written a touching account of the early years of your life.
Most of us who’ve never experienced the horrors of war can’t even come close to imagining the trials that you and so many others like you have gone through.

As our perceptions are always shaped by what is fed to us by the media, we are almost never exposed to the other side of the story. Stories such as yours bring us face to face with the eventual mortality of all human beings and make us see the futility of greed, hatred and mindless acts of aggression.

It will never be possible for you to banish these dark memories, my friend.
But I pray that you make your peace with them and live your life to the fullest, wherever you may be.

Your writing bears the flavour of your native land and seems to be a literal translation of a piece that was already written by you in your native language.
Please correct me if I’m wrong here.
Consider it a humble request that you seek the help of an editor to polish your manuscript and rectify whatever minor linguistic errors there may be.
Your remarkable story deserves to be perfected.

Limitations notwithstanding, my rating: 6 stars !!!

Best regards,

Neville wrote 870 days ago

Running from Life.
by - Shah Wali Fazli.

Hi Shah,you have written a good account of the earlier years of your life.
You have also given a good description of the horrific torture suffered by your family as you moved around from place to place. Not a very nice time.
These sad memories will of course always be with you.
I hope that with the passing of time, they will be dimmed.
I wish you the very best with your book and I'm pleased to star rate it. high.

Kind regards,

Neville . The Secrets of the Forest - The Time Zone.

Paulo9 wrote 926 days ago

Hi Shah Wali and welcome to Flash Mob Friday.

What can I say about this? I think it's absolutely fascinating. There are obviously issues with your English but what makes this special is some of your imagery. You've written a fascinating, endearing tale which encapsulates both normal family life in an Afghan village and the sheer terror and confusion of the Russian invasion. It's nice, for me, to see a culture that we only experience on the news.

Your use of the English language took a little getting used to but after a while you notice a cadence and rhythm in your writing which is really, very pleasing and, as I said there are some great lines and images here. I think it would benefit from a really good edit, however, that shouldn't be allowed to take away from your voice which I think is quite unique.

There isn't much else for me to say except that I really enjoyed reading this and will be reading more. Thanks mate.

Paul Mackay

Jack Cerro wrote 926 days ago

I think I saw this opening in the faux agent thread.

The first thing strikes me here is the detail you use when describing the soldiers. Things like Afghan-pro Russian communists. Since this is from the kids perspective, I'd be fine without the details. I can find out what kind of soldiers later.

Despite the awkwardness of some of your phrasing, I was often impressed by your thoughts and words and images. "They let me go away and meet death somewhere else." great line.

This whole chapter had little patches of beautiful inventive writing. In general, it might need some trimming to fit with the modern style and keep the pace moving. but that's style choice.

AudreyB wrote 926 days ago

Hi, there – congratulations on being selected for the weekly Flash Mob crit.

I am intrigued by your pitches because my mother’s stories all start the same way. “When the Russians came…” She was a child in East Prussia during World War II.

For your short pitch, try not to say, “It’s about…” Just provide a statement that really hooks in the reader. Start with “Imagine being….” And see what comes up. “My earliest memory…”

Your long pitch reads too much like a synopsis of your book. Give us one dramatic incident to entice us to read the others.

I like how you begin your story with the visit from the Russian soldiers, then move to some background information in Chapter 2. I enjoyed the tales about your childhood and your family and its squabbles.

You will definitely need to work with an editor on your English. You have done a remarkable thing here, offering your story in an unfamiliar language, and it’s important that your voice remain at the forefront. But from time to time I had trouble following your narrative.


HarrietG wrote 926 days ago

I found this a very interesting read, showing me a society and place that I know only filtered through news reports. The glimpses of village life and family ties against the backdrop of the Russian occupation of Afghanistan were extremely evocative. It provided an insight into life and family structures I haven't otherwise experienced; explaining when men were considered strangers, for example, and the arguments between members of the extended family. I would have been interested in reading on into the Russian retreat and the rise of the Mujahadin and Taliban. It had a good balance between the personal and the political, and made clear the horrific events experienced by members of the narrator's family with a restrained understatement that was quite moving. Likewise, the revenge later taken by family members is told in a plain, matter of fact manner. I think from your pitch that the worst is yet to come. I was also interested to see that, whilst the Russians were an occupying force, the struggle was not depicted in black and white terms.

I also liked the language. It took me a little while to settle into it, perhaps because English is not your first language but there is a rhythm and a structure to the prose that is very pleasing. There's also a precision about the descriptions of places and activitiies: childhood games, the gardener. I like the extended simile of narrator's ruined home as a dead dragon. In fact, the whole description of that visit is quite beautiful, and then seguing into the tension and danger as he tries to get home. Very effective writing.

That said, I think it needs a jolly good edit, at a line reading level for sentence structure, punctuation, and spelling. Errors of the latter type are mostly of the misplaced word or near homophone variety (for example, 'taught' in place of 'thought' in discussion of his sisters' teacher (ch5), and you have'dragoon' instead of 'dragon', 'niece' for 'nephew', both ch7. Spell checks won't find these, so you must!). This matters, because such errors distract a reader from total immersion in the text. However, before you get down to line edits, I also think that a bit of editing as to structure would help. It's a complicated story set in a complicated place but, even so, as presented now reads very much as if everything has just been splurged down onto the page in the order that it came to you. For instance, the action moves from village to town within a paragraph, and back again, and also between the years, so we have the narrator in a school, at university, then back in a school again. I found the structure particularly confusing in the earlier chapters - as I said, perhaps I was still finding my way at this point - whereas the minor errors of vocabulary and punctuation mounted up later. But these are, on the whole, points of presentation. I must say that I read the whole thing with considerable interest and would read more if you posted it here.

Good luck, Harriet

Eponymous Rox wrote 931 days ago

Hullo again, Shah Wali. Just wanted to PING you that your awesome memoir of life in war-torn Afghanistan is now proudly on my shelf here, and also featured in the NonFiction section of my webbie this month. (IMHO, the work belongs on the Ed Desk...and on real bookshelves as well.)

CHEERS to you and very best of luck with 'Running From Life'--

Eponymous Rox wrote 937 days ago

A moving and poetic testimony. Brutal and elegant.

klouholmes wrote 1154 days ago

Hi Shah, A fascinating narrative and you have written this with good texture between anecdote, narrative, scene and dialogue. Clear writing. It's moving to read. Katherine

Orlando Furioso wrote 1172 days ago

I've been reading about great battles between Germans and Russians in 1942. I don't understand how human beings can be as theyu are, how they can submit themselves to become drawn into such things. The love of power drives some and the fear of power drives others I suppose.
This chapter of yours in some way captures the story of millions and millions of village dwellers whose lives are uprooted and ruined by men from outsise pursuing their big power games. History tells us about the big battles of thousands of men and guns and the politics behind it all. It also often tells the stories of individual soldiers. But how often do we hear the stories of individual farmers, country children whose lives are ruined by war?
Your chapter here captures the intense sadness of the destruction of the village way. The paragraph beginning 'Burning the village, all the local customs ... hospitality, picnics, gardening ...' captures the tragedy of it all. A good way of life is replaced by nastiness, brutality, guns and death.
You admit that all was not always perfect in the villages before, with rivalries and difficulties. But the village tried to deal with its own in its own way. The communists sought to impose their will from outside. This has been the story of communism from beginning to end. They cannot tolerate those who disagree with them. This intolleration is seen also in some religions, which seek to destroy those who do not look through their eyes.
This paragraph is beautifully sad, 'The fruit trees around our house, in our beautiful gardens, were dying, day after day...'
The drift of people into cities all over the world is bad. City life, though appealing for many reasons, takes us away from nature and natural ways. Cities will collapse one day when there is one peasant left not in a city. Because cities consume without regard for nature and people become arrogant.
This line applies to every war there has ever been and goes to the core of our collective soul, 'Everything and every place was the target of the humans' rage...'
This line -- along with the earlier reference to a lost education -- is so, sad, 'There was no place for my childhood's plays...'
The image of pepole squabbling over water and such things has a timeless biblical feel about it. Is this how we will all become one day if the population carries on growing and growing until there are more people than trees on the planet?
This line shows how vile we can be, 'Now the gun ruled and the bullets did the talking'. The people of Mexico where they are killing each other in their thousands -- because people to the north of them crave drugs to make their city lives bearable -- would understand it only too well.
And the resistance to the russians? '...behaved like gangsters or mafias...'
This line screams out at me as the title of a poem, 'IT WAS THE TIME OF THE GUN'.
All I know about your country is what I have seen on western TV and a little from reading history. I know we British could not subdue Afghanistan in the 19th century and were beaten off. But no one learnt the lessons of history. The Russians didn't and now the Americans and their allies are discovering that Afghanistan will not be tamed. From reading your story I think we should all weep for your country which, as far as I can tell, probably just wanted to be left alone by all the various foreigners with their ideas of empire, communism and now democracy. The invaders come with guns, not with clippers to prune the fruit trees.

M. A. McRae. wrote 1177 days ago

You have the potential for a bestseller here. But what you need is a ghostwriter. At the moment, maybe because you are too close to your story, it is apt to turn into a garble. There are too many errors, and events jump around in a thoroughly confused manner - much like Afghanistan itself.
I don't think you have the skills to render this yourself. If you can, hire somebody to do it for you. If you can't pay upfront, maybe you can do a deal on future profits. You have the story, but you need a writer.

tomewriter wrote 1177 days ago

Started reading your story as you asked that I might. I found it fascinating and I particularly liked that you start the book when the main character is a child. I will star your book. Please read my book: Speed Trap when you get a chance. If you would like to add a critique, I would appreciate your efforts.
Janell (tomewriter)

billy.mcbride wrote 1178 days ago

Dear Shah,

Thank you for exposing us to some of the difficulties with being in that kind of bad situation. I think that it is very important to know that hatred is a useless emotion and I admire your stance against agressiveness. I hope that you find hope in what you are writing, that writing is a great way to seek hope. Thanks again. If you like, I would suggest my experimental book "Powers" to read.

All the Best,

Billy McBride

Shieldmaiden wrote 1180 days ago

Personally, I think the storyline line is good, but you seriously need to work on the grammar and word usage. It seems like it could use a few revisions. But like I said, the storyline itself seems promising.


Diane60 wrote 1182 days ago

A very poignant tale which makes me think of THE KITE RUNNER, because it is told from a childs' POV. Very powerful and i agree with previous comments about structuring the narrative as at time it is confusing. Try reading the paragraphs out loud in between the dialogue to see if that helps.
Thanks for asking me to read it.

Ellie S Lee wrote 1183 days ago

A fascinating and often horrific story related with great originality of style. Your story is compelling and vividly described with an intriguing and sometimes almost poetic use of language. In the way that you write you manage to convey the terror and torment of years of the Russian invasion, and contrast this with the slower paced, more peaceful pre-invasion years of your earlier childhood. I agree with a couple of your previous comments: you could maybe work on the narrative (for me it is in places repetitive and just needs 'gathering together' a little), but more importantly there is a pleasing rawness about your writing which I hope you do not lose.

This is such a vast subject and despite the daily headlines I suddenly realise how ignorant I am. You describe most effectively the impact this has had on you and your family, thank you for sharing it with us.

Red Ribbon wrote 1185 days ago

I don't think I can add any more to the other comments. The story seen through the childs eyes is strong and well worth a read. It story feels more like a non-fiction book so the story doesn't flow and I feel as a reader that I am going from one scene to another without taking me with it.

As others have said the dialogue is good you just need to work on the narrative.

Good luck,


Stuart & Victor wrote 1188 days ago

Have 6 starred this and added to our WL which means you WILL make our shelf in the next (+3) round of backings (its 11pm for us). Check our comments trail if u want to confirm this and do feel free to chase at ANY TIME to know exactly how long till ur going up...

Terry Murphy wrote 1188 days ago

There is a powerful story being told here and it represents an allegory for our times. There is a rawness and simplicity to the writing that works well as a first person POV.

As others have said, the narrative needs work to make it a compelling story from a 'mainstream commercial' point of view. The dialogue is good, but I think the story needs to be re-worked to set up a narrative arc with a strong hook (probably using a later, traumatic event). I also think the typical reader will need more scene-setting and more characterisation to help bring the story to life. But I also agree that if you make changes, you don't lose the rawness of voice that makes it different.

There's lots to like here and lots of potential.

I wish you all good luck with such an amazing, first-hand story.


Daniel Manning wrote 1188 days ago

Running For Life gives explicit details of communist oppression and collaboration in a conquered land. Seen through the eyes of an afghan child, the story is moving and poignant. The actual writing may struggle to reach the definition of great literature as far as picky western standards are concerned, but a story this important doesn't need to be rich in similes and metaphors.
I'll Keep Running For Life on my W/L and will back it when I have room.
Daniel Manning
No Compatibility.

JP Behrens wrote 1189 days ago

This is the sort of book I might read, but the narrative needs work. The story doesn't really start until the first line of dialogue. Everything before that should just be deleted. Most of that history lesson can be shown throughout the story when it matters, versed told to the reader on the outset.

You dialogue is your strength, use that more to tell you story. Your narrative reads more like a history book than a story. The words and tone are a little too sterile. Evoke emotion with every line. This kind of story demands it.

Good luck to you.

DLDzioba wrote 1189 days ago

In general this isn't my type of novel and I'm sorry I've only read one chapter. It's interesting but not enough so to catch my attention. You've gotten a lot of good constructive critique here, though, which is an accomplishments and there are obviously people who really do like this book. It's just not for me.

banana_the_poet wrote 1189 days ago

I like the slight distancing of the story by your use of past tense. I think if you made this more immediate using the 'show not tell' technique so many are mentioning - this story would become too painful both for you to tell it and for the reader who is aware that this is true and not some sensationalist fiction.

Finish the book before you make any changes to it. Get it all written and THEN start thinking about how to improve it. Do not get distracted by details now. FINISH your story. A jeweller does not start polishing a diamond while it is still half-embedded in the rock. Dig it all out, then when it is all there, you will be able to bring out the full beauty. First things first.

Most importantly - keep a copy of the original work as it is in the raw - BEFORE you made changes. There is a strong possibility that eventually you will find the way you had some of it in the first place was better than the result after a few 'alterations'. Don't remove all chances of returning to the original for a rethink.

Remember this is non-fiction and a true-life memoir. Many of the 'rules' of literature are not that hard and fast with this type of work as often if a publisher takes it on they will want to bring in a professional writer to put finishing touches and work with you to make it commercial.

Just get the book finished. Please - it is important that you do.

enj wrote 1189 days ago

Nice start. I will definately come back to read more
The Stone of Madness

lfk wrote 1189 days ago

I have only begun to read this and yes, of course it needs editing, but there is a great deal of promise and a story that should be told. I am putting it on my watch list to come back to later. Good Luck.

Mannin Boy

Orlando Furioso wrote 1190 days ago

Ch 1 (more)
Ach, we are in The Valley of Flowers. But now 'The grape and apple gardens had changed to a dangerous place that walking in them cld not bring fun anymore, but, could be deadly.' Damn those men who came to The Valley of Flowers and did this! Damn them!
There is astonishing drama as you, full of fear, look into the eyes of Russia, 'He let me go away and meet the death somewhere else. ... but the magic hands of Time...' Death, Time, Nature, the Universe stand behind the Russian soldier and the boy, pulling strings.
There is another beautiful clutch of paragraphs all of which start with, 'This day... This day... This day...' They contain this most moving line 'The noise of the bullets hitting against the woods' ........... The woods are part of the valley, they live there. You live there. You and the trees are part of the valley. The bullets are hitting something that you are part of when they hit the trees. This line is achingly beautiful, but sadly so, 'THE BIG TREES FELL TO THE GROUND, CHANGING INTO ASHES,' O the pride of man, the most destructive of animals! What other creature does these things?
And then this, 'My small brain cld not work out the whole thing.' No, nor can mine. I sometimes want to run from life as lived by men also because men are dangerous creature who have a rare intelligence that can make tanks and helicopter ... BUT DOES NOT UNDERSTAND HOW A VALLEY CAN BE KILLED, TOO. Damn those men in their tanks and helicopters and in their big fancy corporate headquarters of the companies that make such things and of the policians who send them to do their worst in pursuit of what? Progress? Profit? Justice? My small brain cannot work out the whole thing either, brother.
Ach, the cunning of man to stretch out that metal cord and all the other metal and metaphysical cords to catch out other men ... and children.
I will read more in the coming days.

eurodan49 wrote 1190 days ago

As a historian, I understand what you are writing about.
Instead of saying “the first communist president,” give the name…Daoud Khan.
The first paragraph is a little confusing. Why not just give facts “Doud grabbed power, instituted a reign of terror and was deposed, assassinated with his whole family in the Saur Revolt, lead by Mohammad Taraki, who assumed power.”
Then, you state that “the first leader was suffocated by the second leader.” Must give names. After a year of communist ideology being forced upon the people of Afghanistan, infighting within the ruling class erupted and Taraki himself was killed by his trusted lieutenant, Hafizullah Amin. Amin’s reign was short lived, as he himself was assassinated three months later by Soviet Special Forces. Babrak Karmal was installed in power by the Russians and the indoctrination of the Afghan people, along Marxist ideologies, begun in earnest.

It’s hard to do this. Better e-mail me your first chapter and I’ll use tracking for you to see the suggested changes.
You are tackling a very subjective thematic. Facts wise it better be full-proved. Get off long narrative chunks and bring the reader in. Don’t tell us what it was like, show it to us.

I like the topic and I’ll be backing it as soon as I have room on my shelf…which should be later tonight ot tomorrow morning.

Orlando Furioso wrote 1190 days ago

Ch 1 (more)
How old were you when your father was taken away, bound, on the top of the Russian tank? From what follows it seems you were very young. Seven maybe? I am guessing.
The running away 'to go and do something' is heartbreaking to read.The force of your descritions becomes stronger and more poetic as you capture and convey the powerful feelings you experienced in your flight: 'I withered in my place ... the trees had lost their tranquility ... I died and came back to life, died cand came back to life, many times... I was crossing a horrific flood ... after the moond wld go behind the clouds.' The use of this natural imagery is very strong, esp in light of how you describe Nature as character later on. Death and Universe are also players in your flight. There is superb beauty in the paragraphs which begin 'I continued on my way. I continued on my way. Every time I looked up I cld see the helicopters...' and then this '...I hid from the light of the day.'

Orlando Furioso wrote 1190 days ago

Ch 1 (more)
The description of life in the valley before the communists turn up is one of timeless, rural certainties and order. But power and politics will not leave the valleys alone. They must work their evil everywhere, they must have everyone under their power, thinking like them, being like them, being as they want them to be. This was communism. They knew best, they wanted people to live their way and those who disagreed had to be broken, and were. They were not 'normal theives'. The shock of their arrival with tanks and helicopters comes over very strongly. This is a poignant line, 'It was a normal day...when the Russian troops, as part of their seach policy, came to our village.' The response to this invasion from the world with electricity is proud, poetic, heartbreaking. There is painful beauty in this phrasing, 'Life is two days.' We can hear the helicopers now as the mens' hands are tied and they are taken away. This line says a lot 'The rest of our family were terrified.' The word terror is used a lot now. But we in the west must remember that we are not the first to suffer if.

Frank Talaber wrote 1190 days ago

Well, the old expression for new writers I give is write from that which you know. It will give you the greatest connection and you can pull the visuals out of your head easily. I can say this, if this is your life, I really feel for you and I for one am glad I live here in CAnada where we enjoy peace and no wars. You have my sympathy, brother.
On to the writing. I found a few spelling mistakes and much passive writing. for example, Paragraph 12, which begins, Every time I looked up I could see the helicopters flying over my head, like the metal forms of death, when thousands of the bullets were lurking around me., ...., which could kill me any minute.
This is passive and telling. Show me his fear.
For example
The uncoming thump of helicopters approaching. the thud, thud, thud of their blades singing of leaden death. I stole glances overhead. My feet sweated as I walked in the land mines. One false step and I'd be blown into a million forgotten fragments.
Show us, what is going on. This is active voice. Another trick I learned long ago is try to engage all five senses.
If I can taste, smell, hear, see and feel in a scene. Then you'll have pulled me in. Also avoid passive words, could should would. In paragraph 20, show me his terror at tripping over the metal cord of a land mine. "I tripped, my heart hammered as I crashed to the ground. Dirt stabbed my lips as I prayed to Allah. Split seconds blew reality away into minutes and no click of a landmine detonating. I got up, my legs shook. I hadn't wet myself, but felt like it. A large gulp, my family pictured in my mind. I had to continue. Trembling, sweat rolled through the Afghanistan dirt crusting my face and haggard breathing returned to my soul. Was I the only one left and was this truly living?"
Again, this needs more work, but you've great potential here. the story is real and gripping. If this is from your life, my regrets.
Do continue writing.

Hannah N. wrote 1191 days ago

Hey there, I'm really not sure how to go about commenting on your book because it's something I am definitely not familiar with.

I guess all I can say is that you might try to make things more "immediate"-seeming to the audience, especially if you are aiming this at young adults. I think they might get themselves lost in the descriptions and details.

But like I said, this isn't something I normally read so I'm not familiar with the style, but I can tell it's very powerful and you've gone through so much.
Best of luck with this!

Orlando Furioso wrote 1192 days ago

Ch 1
This is a fantastic read.
I love history and this is history in the making, movingly written by an eyewitness to some terrible events that have changed the world.
Your second paragraph put me in mind of how the Romans went about their politics on occasion, 'mounted a mass murder of all his political opponents and anyone whom he felt threateend by.'
The 'Valley of Flowers' is an achingly beautiful name and the notion of being in the mountains gives your account a feel of more natural times which most in western Europe know nothing about. I also noted how you repeated family/villag/nation showing how important family is to your culture.
Your account also put me in mind of one of the very greatest classical historians, the Greek THUCYDIDES who described the wars that tore through ancient Greece with great beauty.
I am half way through Ch 1 now. I will finish the chapter on my train journey home this evening and comment more tmr morning. Above all I am enjoying your story, which is clearly and written with a strong air of humanity to it. Your world was torn apart, thieve came in large numbers and many new ghosts were made and still are being made. There is intense tragedy to it all, for decade after decade. But it is a tragedy we must understand. Pehaps your account will help us to understand.
Ron Askew

Walt Alexander wrote 1192 days ago

Hi Shah, I find it difficult to evaluate your book because, although it is current & almost in the news all the time, I don't know any thing of value to you about the lives of the ordinary people of Afghanistan. They are obviously oppressed as your brilliant description depicts and your account is powerful and frightening. Going back to the British in the north of India, there was talk of the Khyber pass and a terrible massacre of British troops, women and chidren. Then the Russians and now a mixture of western forces. It is obviously a difficult place to conquer because of the terrain and the Taliban are fierce opponents! I like 'the valley of the flowers' and I'm intrigued by the entity who lives as different animal and bird beings. I'd quite like to do that providing I could easily return to human form when I like. Good luck with your book. Backed & shelved. Walt.

Charmain wrote 1192 days ago

You have a neat writing style, and the story compells the reader to go on, I will bakc this book when I have room on my shelf.

ccb1 wrote 1192 days ago

Backed Running from Life. People who live in a free and open country such as the United States can not grasp the horror of living in the turmoil that comes from unstable countries. Thanks for telling your story.
CC Brown

Nanty wrote 1192 days ago

Running from Life - Very few people living in the western world have experienced the harrowing tale set out in the pitch.
I am assuming this is a first draft as there is quite a lot of repetition, which I found jarring. Edited and polished this could very well be one heading for booksellers shelves.

mrsdfwt wrote 1193 days ago

God bless you my friend, you've earned it. Good luck with your writing.

ed_larel wrote 1193 days ago

I can't add much more than to say I like your writing style and the way you handle the topic of your story. It is also very educational without being boring; both of which are important since you've marked it as Young Adult.

Hampstead wrote 1193 days ago

This book gets off to a good start; it is very factual, but that is its advantage; it's a dramatic subject, and Afghanistan is still topical. I like also how you show the human side of the Russians - that makes it more three-dimensional. Just by reading chapter one I've learned a lot about life in Afghanistan in those days, and can imagine how it must be now.


Sometime in Andalusia

AlleJo wrote 1194 days ago

Fascinating story. I like the direct, vivid style that rings of truth.

I think the author introduction is whimsical and could be distancing, and the pitch fails to convey the strong story, gripping storytelling, very engaging, convincing voice of the narrator, and tight writing style where every word has weight.

Lynne Ellison wrote 1194 days ago

very interesting true story, providing good understanding of Afgahn life and wars

Lynne Ellison

The Green Bronze Mirror

Pretzki wrote 1194 days ago

I think if you called this 'Remininscence of an Afghan Boy' it would be more accurate as your material is so real.
As a work of non-fiction aims for an even more particular market than fiction. I would say that your style of writing could be best moulded for the education market. I definitely see this (swear words curbed of course) on school shelves.

Twist2010 wrote 1195 days ago

Usually it's not my type of reading material, but the writing was so vivid that I was hooked.
Added to my watchlist and good luck!


Orlando Furioso wrote 1195 days ago

I like your pitch, there is humanity in identifying with nature, in being other than human, especially as humans can be the most horrifyling creatures on this planet. I am also interested in your story as my own countrymen are fighting in your troubled country and perhaps your story would help me to understand what they are facing and why. Watchlisted with a view to coming back.

Redd Lady wrote 1195 days ago

Really good not my usual type of reading material . Liked it and will ad to my watch list .

Margaret Anthony wrote 1196 days ago

You transfer your fear and the horror of the Russian's arrival very effectively in the first chapter. Reading the pitch, I sense this story is a hard one to tell.
Your ability to describe vividly also adds strength to the narrative and the reader can only try to appreciate what these events must feel like in reality.
If we are ever to understand such things, then your story must be told. Backed. Margaret.

cicuta wrote 1196 days ago

Dear Shah, Your book is a real insight into the recherche of forceful change, in an already challenging civilisation. Your passion and determination is a dedication to all your hard work. I think for any reader who doesn't understand; or even wish to learn of another's way of life, then it will only restrict your reasons for writing. This book is worth your backing for its individual inspiration alone. Good luck and best wishes with your book. And please look out for my future support. Take care. Cicuta, [ Carl. Arcane ].

flower girl wrote 1196 days ago

Hi Shah, I found your work very thought-provoking as well as quite harrowing. It is a story that needs to be heard. It is beautifully told, but needs some work on the English. I'm backing it because of the story.

writingbear wrote 1196 days ago

I added you book to my WL. I'll get to it as time permits. I encourage you to take a look at either of my two novels.
Thank you,