Winner of the Tata Literature Live First Book Award for Non-Fiction 2020
Shortlisted for the Stanford Dolman Travel Book of the Year Award 2021
'A fabulous piece of writing... I recommend it unreservedly' William Dalrymple
'A brilliant book' Christina Lamb
One of the first things I was told when I arrived in Kabul was never to walk...
When journalist Taran Khan arrives in Kabul, she uncovers a place that defies her expectations. Her wanderings with other Kabulis reveal a fragile city in a state of flux: stricken by near-constant war, but flickering with the promise of peace; governed by age-old codes but experimenting with new modes of living.
Her walks take her to the unvisited tombs of the dead, and to the land of the living - like the booksellers, archaeologists, film-makers and entrepreneurs who are remaking this 3,000-year-old city. And as NATO troops begin to withdraw from the country, Khan watches the cycle of transformation begin again.
'A wonderful journey' Atiq Rahimi
'Khan illuminates Kabul's life-affirming humanity' TLS
Shadow City is no conventional travel book. For Khan gives us a Kabul of the imagination: it is the city that was, less the city that is, that fascinates her. Her perambulations represent a form of "bipedal archaeology", an exercise in exhuming the past and probing the lost... It is easy to cast Kabul as a tragic mess of a metropolis, but Khan illuminates its life-affirming humanity
Offers a unique on-the-ground view of the city...a refreshing counterpoint to the macho foreign correspondent genre... Khan’s interviews during her walks powerfully evoke the fluctuating mood in a city that is trying to heal itself
These stories conjure a magic in the labyrinthine streets and reveal a fragile city in a state of flux, shape-shifting and flickering with the promise of peace
Any reader of this book is sure to discover a Kabul so unlike what the media portrays. Taran’s love of her city comes across in her enchanting evocation of a city where so many tragedies echo from across Kabul’s decades of war. On her last walk, she writes: “to leave Kabul was to take it with you.” This is what happened when I finished reading this book, I took Kabul with me
On the surface, Kabul is a city caught "between the hope of peace and the habit of violence." The deeper reality, though, is even more complex and layered: like Kabul's actual lanes, those that map its character "twist and vanish . . . like well-kept secrets." It is an elusive, illusive place - bood, nabood, now you see it, now you don't. Taran Khan's achievement is to have caught it in an affecting and beautifully observed portrait, a word-map that will endure