Arif Farman BookGreen, red, blue; a novel written by Afghan writer and novelist Arif Farman, describing customs, traditions, love, difficulties and struggle in life.

Mr. Farman is well-known for his previous novel AFGHANI, which is written with a very clear and simple language style and talks in a fascinating way about the true experience of Afghan refugees’ lives and suffering in Iran.

The Green, Red and Blue, is a story of life in the east and west (Afghanistan and Sweden), two dramatically different countries, cultures and climates.

The main characters of the book are a man from Afghanistan, Shah Wali, and a woman from Sweden called Anna Karin.

Shah Wali works as a driving instructor in Sweden, having left Afghanistan because of internal family conflicts and the traditionally culture.

He reflects on his past while teaching Anna Karin, who reminds him of his old girlfriend Angriz “Just looking at her face, when I saw her yesterday, it was like seeing Angriz…Her cleavage takes me back to that of Angriz…”

Shah Wali was in love with Angriz back in Afghanistan, though she later married his elder brother Nadir and the story mainly focuses on this subject.

Nadir went to religious school in his childhood, and always wanted to become a mullah.  Later he joined the Taliban,… most of his life hours passed with Mosque, Prayer and Mullah. Maybe people like Nader established the Taliban. He was very cruel and against women, Angriz was always being beaten by him. According to him, none of our family´s female member had the right to see the other men. He believed that the key to paradise was keeping women away from other men”

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The author of Green, red and blue wrote a story based on true life, but covering topics which are still a taboo in Afghanistan. Many similar cases exist in this traditional society where violence against women is so high and talking openly about love is still a dream.

“After she got married to Nadir, sometimes I hated myself for our unchaste background, as I had loved to kiss my brother’s wife. I felt guilty and tried to forget her, but couldn’t. …. Nadir didn’t choose her; it was my mother who decided. My father created an environment at home in which we could never talk about love… I loved her laughing; I tried to see her as my brother’s wife but never could control my emotions and feelings of love for her.”

The love – regular sexual contact between Shah Wali and his brother’s wife – caused him to leave the country and seek asylum in Sweden.

The character of Shah Wali is a man of experience and who talks in a philosophical way about different issues of life.

Mr. Farman has chosen to demonstrate the struggle for life with a driving metaphor: “To drive a car in the square. when one needs to go straight on or turn right is important as it is to find a suitable position when we face crises in our life. Human beings are life’s wanderers, seeing thousands of road and experiencing endless challenges. rule and Law were born within these round about.

An interesting observation that he makes is about how the word airport is translated into Persian as “Landing Place”, reflecting the difficulty of daily life and situations of the country. In contrast, this word in Swedish is known as a “flying place”. In Persian, nobody thought about flying, but only focused on landing safely… why not to change it and call it flying place, as the Swedish do? The flying place, like flying for love. Love of life and hope for progress were the reason that mankind learned how to fly. Perhaps flight is the meaning of life, as flying can be a metaphor for freedom. Landing, on the other hand, is always about being stuck and going down …”

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The coincidence is that Anna Karin’s husband Stephan was killed by the Taliban while part of the NATO mission fighting against terrorism and working on rehabilitation and reconstruction projects in Afghanistan.

Anna Karin, while undertaking her driving course, is struggling with her painful loss – it´s just two years since her husband was killed, and tragically, one of her daughter has cancer.

Initially, she did not like foreigners who were from Asia, but after spending some months learning to drive with Shah Wali, she starts to feels a curious attraction to him, “a short, fat man with black hair that looked like someone she used to be afraid of, someone with a black mind and heart.

At the same time, single moment of contact with Anna Karin reminds Shah Wali about Angriz and old loves. He is still bound by love and guilt, the two emotions inextricably entwined.

This unlikely couple become good friends and ultimately lovers. Feeling loved again gives Anna Karin a new way to reshape her life and during a drive on the motorway she says “let me feel that there is a place I can have freedom too. Everyone has some pain and loss in life. I have to feel free in myself. This experience of driving on the motorway takes me to that point.”

During the summer and autumn in Sweden, one driving course sets the scene for a tale of parallel life experience and struggle in two different countries.

This novel illustrates the effect of Shah Wali having to hide his love in Afghanistan, making him feel guilty while in Sweden as he enjoys walking freely on the beach with Anna Karin.

It is one of the most captivating novels I have read in the last two years. Despite its sad subject matter and the bitterness felt by its two main protagonists, there is also a strong sense of hope running through it, as the characters support one another towards a happier more honest future.

The Green, Red and Blue, is something very different; quite brilliant in its use of language and the way that the story of love, loss, grieving and renewal from unfolds: universal themes of life whatever your continent. This work places Mr. Farman among the best contemporary novelists of our time.

The novel has an unknown finale/ending, written in the Persian language, I hope one day to read it translated into English or Swedish so that our foreign friends may also enjoy and learn from it.

Gulabuddin Sukhanwar