|The ancient art of storytelling continues to flourish
in Afghanistan, partly in response to widespread illiteracy. This age-old
practice of telling folktales, through music and the spoken word, is a
highly developed and much appreciated art form. The use of folklore has
become the thread that links the past with the present in Afghan society.
Folktales concern all parts of Afghan life and often teach traditional
values, beliefs, and behaviors. They are also a major form of
entertainment in Afghanistan.
Literature in both the Dari and Pashto languages originated in the
early Muslim centuries, when Arabic was also used. Shah nameh (Book
of Kings), the great epic poem completed in 1010 by the Persian poet Firdawsi,
consists of 60,000 rhyming couplets in Dari. Many other poems and tales
were written in Dari and Turkic languages as well. Khushhal Kattak, a
famous 17th-century Pashtun warrior and poet, used verse to express the
tribal code. Modern writings have attempted to bring Afghans closer to
understanding the changes associated with the modern world, and especially
to comprehend the destruction of their country by war. In 1972 Sayyed
Burhanuddin Majruh wrote several volumes in classical, rhythmic Dari prose
about a traveler who joins his countrymen in exile, where they exchange
ideas and narratives from ancient times in the light of modern concepts of
reason, logic, science, and psychoanalysis. During the war with the
Soviets, writings focused on the twin concerns of Islam and freedom.
Resistance to the Soviets was especially pronounced in the Pashto province
of Paktia; in 1983 Gulzarak Zadran published "Afghanistan the Land of
Jihad: Paktiain Uprising Waves" in the Pashto language. The Afghanistan
Historical Society and the Pashto Academy published literary magazines and
encouraged new writers in recent years, although much of their effort has
been stopped by the most recent warfare.