Mapping 'The World' Of A Remote Afghan Village

Play associated audio

When freelance journalist Anna Badkhen returned to Afghanistan in 2011, she set her eyes on a region so remote it doesn't exist on Google Maps.

In her new book, The World Is A Carpet: Four Seasons in an Afghan Village, Badkhen chronicles her time in Oqa - a rural, rainless village of 240 people and "40 doorless huts."

For many of its residents, survival hinges on the fingers of women and children. They engage in the local tradition of carpet weaving, earning about 40 cents a day for carpets that eventually sell for $5,000 to $20,000 abroad.

"It took a village to weave a carpet," writes Badkhen, explaining that each carpet served as a personal diary, "with its sorrowful zigzags, daydreamy curlicues, loops of melancholy, knots of joy."

In what reads like poetry, Badkhen's book conveys the age-old tradition against a backdrop of deprivation and violence — it's "the friction between extreme poverty and unspeakable beauty," she tells Wayne Goodwyn, host of weekends on All Things Considered.


Interview Highlights

On the village and how she arrived there

"A friend introduced me — he worked with me as a driver in 2010, and we came by car to this village of this humped desert in northern Afghanistan where nothing grows. The only water source in the village is two diseased wells. People live extremely poor — one of the poorest villages I visited in Afghanistan."

On the significance of carpet weaving

"I want people who happen to own an Afghan carpet or who go in a dealership in New York, or Philadelphia, or San Francisco and examine and admire an Afghan carpet, I want them to remember that these were woven by hand in a village, that the entire village participated. That this one carpet helps sustain the livelihoods of a lot of families, starting with the very poor weaver in Oqa to the slew of middlemen and traders who sell it each time at a markup larger than the previous markup."

On village reaction to the U.S. war in Afghanistan

"It's fair to say that most Afghans are extremely disillusioned in this war that was fought, and is being fought, very largely in their name. To them, this is just the latest iteration of war that has been battering their land since the beginning of recorded history. People in Oqa had never even heard of Osama bin Laden, which I found out after bin Laden was killed. I said, 'Have you heard?!' And they said, 'Who's that?'"

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

Poetry Behind Bars: The Lines That Save Lives — Sometimes Literally

Words Unlocked, a poetry contest for juveniles in corrections, has drawn more than 1,000 entries. Its judge, Jimmy Santiago Baca, says it was a poetry book that helped him survive his own prison term.
NPR

When It Came To Food, Neanderthals Weren't Exactly Picky Eaters

During the Ice Age, it seems Neanderthals tended to chow down on whatever was most readily available. Early humans, on the other hand, maintained a consistent diet regardless of environmental changes.
NPR

Trump And Cruz Campaign At California GOP Convention

The remaining Republican presidential candidates have been making their case at the party's state convention. Capital Public Radio's Ben Adler explains the divisions on display among Republicans.
NPR

'The Guardian' Launches New Series Examining Online Abuse

A video was released this week where female sports journalists were read abusive online comments to their face. It's an issue that reaches far beyond that group, and The Guardian is taking it on in a series called "The Web We Want." NPR's Audie Cornish speaks with series editor Becky Gardiner and writer Nesrine Malik, who receives a lot of online abuse.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.