The history of modern Afghanistan is an epic drama, a thriller, a
tragedy, a surreal farce. Every forty years or so, over the last
two centuries, some great global power has attempted to take
control of Afghanistan, only to slink away wounded and bewildered.
Games without Rules recounts this strange story, not from the
outside looking in, as is usually the case, but from the inside
looking out. Here, the interventions and invasions by foreign
powers are not the main event. They are interruptions of the main
event, for Afghans have a story of their own, quite apart from all
the invasions (a story often interrupted by invasions!) Drawing on
his Afghan background, Muslim roots, and Western and Afghan
sources, Tamim Ansary weaves an epic story that moves from a
universe of village republics--the old Afghanistan--through a
tumultuous drama of tribes, factions, and forces, to the current
struggle. The drama involves a dazzling array of colorful
characters--such as the towering warrior-poet Ahmad Shah, who
founded the country; the wily spider-king Dost Mohammed the Great,
who told the British "I am like a wooden spoon; you can toss me
about, but I will not be broken"; and the late nineteenth-century
"Iron Amir," who said a telescope would interest him only if it
could shoot bullets, since what use had he for the moon? A
compelling narrative told in an accessible, conversational style,
Games without Rules offers revelatory insight into a country long
at the center of international debate, but never fully understood
by the outside world.
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