I am a Beggar of the World
Landays from Contemporary Afghanistan
Farrar, Straus, and Giroux 2014
In my dream, I am the president.
When I awake, I am a beggar of the world.
The landay represents an oral tradition of a mostly illiterate people. It is a dirge, a calling out to, that is specific to each woman who sings it. Even within the confines of an unwavering regime, life finds a way. We, as Americans, will recognize ourselves in these landays. We will see our drones and occupying soldiers enter the consciousness and historic tradition of an ancient people.
May God destroy your tank and your drone,
you who’ve destroyed my village, my home.
Eliza Griswold traveled to Afghanistan extensively as a reporter and then again to collect the landays she had encountered. Throughout their hesitancy, the Pashtun women left Eliza with the representation of a millennia of culture to decipher. With the help of translators, she took the folk couplets from literal translation to poetic pieces featured alongside their history.
I am a Beggar of the World: Landays from Contemporary Afghanistan (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2014) combines her translations with Seamus Murphy’s photography for a book that bridges artistic and reference. It is a necessary collection that allows us, but a brief moment in the lives and generations past of Pashtun women.
When sisters sit together, they always praise their brothers.
When brothers sit together, they sell their sisters to others.
Although this is a much shorter format than our regular podcast, we want to get word of this collection to you in any way we can. It represents not only a historic oral tradition in poetry but a people that hold tightly to their culture in the face of constant change and war.