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WHY WRITE :THE POWER OF MEMORY TO REWRITE TRUTH

Jamaluddin Aram has been many things: a documentary maker, a film producer, and most recently and prominently, a writer. His book Nothing Good Happens in Waziristan on Wednesday tells a story of an Afghanistan and a people often overlooked by the headlines. Here he explains what drives him as a writer.


Jamaluddin Aram being filmed
Picture: Javed Najafi

My name is Jamaluddin Aram. I am from Afghanistan. Growing up I wanted to become an actor for film. But times were hard and dreams often remained dreams. The Taliban regime in the 90s made it nearly impossible for artistic expression to flourish. Yet they could not suppress that which breathes life into any creation: memory and imagination.

 

While studying my undergraduate degree at Union College in upstate New York, I found a new passion for storytelling, discovering the power of words to uncover truths and shed light on untold tales.

 

My plan after Union was to pursue an MFA in creative writing. It didn't quite work out. I kept writing regardless. As many writers will confirm, writing is an addiction. When it is going well one experiences a pleasure rarely found in anything else.

 

In the first few years, life in Toronto was testing. Despite having an American college degree, I could not find work. So I sold clothes in a clothing store and worked in construction. Early in the morning and sometimes late at night, I worked on what is now my debut novel, "Nothing Good Happens in Wazirabad on Wednesday.


This book takes readers on a journey through a working class neighbourhood in Kabul where gossip and intrigue stir the air, and ordinary people search for happiness and opportunities in the cracks between the systems of violence and power in which they are trapped.

For six years, I walked the alleys of Wazirabad in my imagination and built the book sentence by sentence. Sometimes I forgot I was in Toronto. The sky would be overcast behind the window in the room I wrote, but I would keep squinting my eyes because the summer sun in Kabul in the scene I worked was too intense. Gradually, the characters in my book became more than just words on a page—they came alive, as real as anyone actually in my life. More real, maybe.

 

It’s important to me to tell the stories of the people who in fact are the heart and soul of Afghanistan, and whose lives continue, quietly and beneath the headlines, ignored by those who dominate the news and the history books.

 

When you hear about Afghanistan, you often hear about this army or that, this politician and that general. The Afghanistan I know, however, is quite different. There people talk about life and living and everything that make existence possible.

 

By telling the story of such a place and those who live in it, my hope is to show that we humans, regardless of our beliefs and the color of our skin, have more in common than we are made to believe.

 

It was a lot of work but I had fun writing this book. I hope readers will have fun reading it.


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