23. ilb 06. – 16.09.2023

Taqi Akhlaqi

Taqi Akhlaqi was born in Afghanistan in 1986. In the 1990s, his family fled the civil war and stayed in Iran for more than ten years. Today, he is back in Kabul. When his homeland was plunged into chaos after the presidential elections in 2014, he also experienced a drastic personal event: during a theater performance in December 2014, a bomb exploded in the French cultural center in Kabul and Akhlaqi sustained minor injuries.

Everyday life in Afghanistan is a core subject in Akhlaqi’s prose texts. Inspiration for his first short story came after reading Maxim Gorky’s »Gray Ghosts« [1913], a story set in a damp cellar vault that describes the life of a paralyzed boy and his mother, a prostitute and alcoholic. Other works of world literature also inspired and influenced Akhlaqi, including those of Dostoevsky, Chekhov, Flaubert, García Márquez, Stefan Zweig, and Nietzsche.

The work of a writer is particularly difficult under the rule of the Taliban, he writes in an essay on Qantara.de: »The texts of a writer from Afghanistan are full of self-censorship, longing for freedom, worries such as not having to go to bed hungry and being able to live in safety, inner conflicts and hardships of all kinds. That’s why these texts may seem superficial and trivial to a reader from another country« In 2018, Akhlaqi published a bilingual collection of eight short stories he wrote between 2015 and 2016 entitled »Va naagahaan / Aus weiterem Himmel« [tr: Out of the Blue]. In two of the pieces in the volume, he describes the effects of the Taliban’s reign of terror: they are about people who are killed by an explosion or join the Taliban in the mistaken hope of being spared from being killed. Akhlaqi writes in terse sentences that reveal a precise power of observation, and he approaches everyday horror from the different perspectives of his protagonists. At times, Akhlaqi includes anthropomorphized animals in his texts, who appear downright intelligent in comparison to the brutalized world of humans, as exemplified in the story about a visit to the zoo, in which a parrot quotes Nietzsche. The »NZZ« praised the volume by saying: »That a writer with fine sensibility and strong imaginative power is at work here – this slim volume […] leaves no doubt about that.«

Akhlaqi also wrote a stage play for a production at the Junges Schauspiel in Munich, in which he addressed the topic of flight. In 2016, he was awarded a four-month residency opportunity by the Heinrich Böll House. This was Akhlaqi’s first encounter with Germany and Europe, and since returning to Kabul, he has been working on a memoir about this trip and his relationship with Germany and German literature. In addition to writing, Akhlaqi earns his living as an employee of an international aid organization. He was a 2021 guest of the DAAD Artists-in-Berlin Program.

Date: 2022