Cover image for This shall be a house of peace / Phil Halton.
Title:
This shall be a house of peace / Phil Halton.
Author:
ISBN:
9781459742239
Publication Information:
Toronto : Dundurn, 2019.

©2019
Physical Description:
395 pages ; 22 cm
Abstract:
"Chaos reigns in the wake of the collapse of Afghanistan's Soviet-backed government. In the rural, warlord-ruled south, a student is badly beaten at a checkpoint run by bandits. His mullah, who leads a madrassa for orphans left behind by Afghanistan's civil war, leads his students back to the checkpoint and forces the bandits out. His actions set in motion a chain of events that will change the balance of power in his country and send shock waves through history. Amid villagers seeking protection and warlords seeking power, the Mullah's influence grows. Against the backdrop of anarchy dominated by armed factions, he devotes himself to building a house of peace with his students - or, as they are called in Pashto, Taliban. Part intrigue, part war narrative, and part historical drama, This Shall Be a House of Peace charts their breathtaking ambition, transformation, and rise to power."-- Provided by publisher.
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Summary

Summary

After the collapse of Afghanistan's Soviet-backed government, a mullah finds himself doing anything to protect his students.



Chaos reigns in the wake of the collapse of Afghanistan's Soviet-backed government. In the rural, warlord-ruled south, a student is badly beaten at a checkpoint run by bandits. His teacher, who leads a madrassa for orphans left behind by Afghanistan's civil war, leads his students back to the checkpoint and forces the bandits out. His actions set in motion a chain of events that will change the balance of power in his country and send shock waves through history.

Amid villagers seeking protection and warlords seeking power, the Mullah's influence grows. Against the backdrop of anarchy dominated by armed factions, he devotes himself to building a house of peace with his students -- or, as they are called in Pashto, taliban . Part intrigue, part war narrative, and part historical drama, This Shall Be a House of Peace charts their breathtaking ambition, transformation, and rise to power.


Author Notes

Phil Halton has worked around the globe as a soldier and security consultant, including in Afghanistan. He has spent over twenty-five years as an officer in the Canadian Army. Phil publishes the literary journal Blood & Bourbon and lives in Toronto.


Excerpts

Excerpts

The sun hung behind the distant mountains, seeminglysuspended in place below the horizon. Only a thin lineof light outlined the far-off peaks. Swirling unseen inthe darkness were clouds of dust, rolling over the landscape. Asthe sky began to lighten, the wind died and the dust settled overthe countryside like a shroud. The air became heavy and still. The sun's first, harsh light fell upon a tiny village of a half-dozenabandoned mud-brick houses perched atop a rocky plateau.Their design was unchanged since ancient times; theysquatted silently within the thick walls of the courtyard.Although the walls were solid, their surfaces were like lace,the plaster pockmarked with bullet holes and scarred by blasts,revealing the bricks underneath. The brown, terraced fields surroundingthe village were untended and grew nothing but shortclumps of grass. A disused track led up from a thin ribbon ofasphalt that stretched across the valley below. A slight breezeblew ripples of dust between the houses, but all else was stillin the heat of the new day. In the centre of the abandoned village was the madrassa, itswhite paint barely visible under a thick coat of dust. In its courtyard,an old tarp was tied between the main building and one ofthe outer walls. A teenage boy with a wispy beard, perhaps fourteenyears old, stood in the shade of the tarp, stirring a large pot of daalthat bubbled over a small open fire. Set well into the ground nearthe pot was a large earthen jug that served as his tandoor. A young boy no more than eleven years old played nearby,hitting a ball made from tightly tied plastic bags and scraps ofcloth against the wall with an old cricket bat. "Tell me the storyagain," said Amin. His brother's voice was wearier than it should have been fora boy his age. "But I have told you the story a thousand times." Amin stopped hitting the ball and turned to him. "Please,Wasif. The smell of the daal always reminds me of it." Wasif scowled, in the way that he had seen adults do. "I shouldbe making you do your job and helping to prepare the meal." Evenas he scolded his brother, he did not stop the rhythmic motionof the thick-handled spoon that kept the daal from burning tothe sides of the pot. Amin had turned away and was contemplatingthe ball in his hand in silence, and so after a moment, Wasifrelented and began to tell the story. "There once was a rich andpowerful man with seven sons. One day, he summoned them alltogether and told them to sit with him. Once they were seated, heasked each of them, 'How much do you love me?'" Amin continued to hit and chase the ball, but in his mind hesaw himself seated with the other sons, preparing his reply to hisfather. His feet kicked up a roll of dust as he ran after the ball,quickly dissipating across the courtyard. Wasif continued to tell the story, his mind drifting, stirringthe daal rhythmically as he spoke. He had not yet reached theend when he decided that the meal was ready. Amin implored his brother, "Aren't you going to finish?" "You know how it ends. You could tell the story yourself inyour sleep." "That's not the point," said Amin. Wasif gestured toward the pot and held out the spoon as hepulled a bag of yesterday's bread out of the crate that held theirfood. Amin put down his bat and ball, and took the spoon fromhim, quickly tasting the daal before beginning to stir it vigorouslyas his brother had done. Wasif quietly approached the doorway of the madrassa, slidingoff his sandals and standing just inside the door, waiting patiently.Young boys ranging in age from five to fourteen years old sat inrows that filled the spartan room. Other than a few ragged pillowsand threadbare carpets, the only furniture was a small woodenbookstand on a low table at the front of the room. The Mullah stood in front of the class, the boys -- each onean orphan -- watching him in attentive silence. Everything abouthim was plain and unadorned, from his thick, black beard, tohis black turban and the homespun shalwar kamiz he wore. Hewas stocky through the shoulders and chest, and in his powerfulhands was a well-worn Quran. He glanced at Wasif and gavehim a brief nod before surveying the boys again in silence. Theywaited expectantly for him to speak, hardly moving. After a longmoment of waiting, the Mullah pointed to one boy, smaller thanthe rest, in the middle row. "You are truly blessed," said the Mullah. "Indeed, you are richalmost beyond belief. Do you know why?" The small boy shuffled uncomfortably, thinking for a momentbefore answering earnestly in a thin voice. "Have you found myparents? Are they rich?" An older student sitting at the front of the class shot a lookof annoyance at the small boy. "Yes, we have! Your father is theAmir! You will be going now to the palace and we all hope tofind positions there working as your servants." The class burst into laughter. The Mullah held up his handfor silence, and the boys froze. "Enough! I will accept no mockeryhere." In an instant, he was standing over the boy who had teasedthe other, his hand raised as if to strike him, but then stoppedhimself. He took a breath, and reassured the small boy. "No, wehave not found your parents, though we are your family now andare as good as any that can be had." The Mullah held up the Quran, its polished leather surfaceshining like nothing else in the dusty classroom. "All knowledgerequired by humankind is to be found in this book, praise God.It is the mother of all books, and it contains the solution to everyhuman problem, no matter how complex. And here you will learnit by heart. This knowledge will be the source of your wealth, apool of riches beyond belief." The boys sat in complete stillness, transfixed by their teacher'svoice as he spoke to them. He held their attention for a momentlonger before releasing it with a wave of his hand. "But first, letus eat." The boys were on their feet in an instant and stormed outof the room, digging through the pile of sandals on the otherside of the door to find their own. The Mullah carefully placedhis Quran onto the small wooden stand, and took a well-wornstring of blue prayer beads off the table. The Mullah clicked hisprayer beads mindlessly, as if they were a loose extension of hisown fingers. Glancing around the room and satisfied that all wascorrect, he followed the boys outside, Wasif trailing close behind. Excerpted from This Shall Be a House of Peace by Phil Halton All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.