In 2005, everything seemed possible in Afghanistan. The Taliban was gone. A new government had been elected. A cultural renaissance was energizing the country.
An actress visiting from Paris casually proposed to some Afghan actors in Kabul: Why not put on a play? The challenges were huge. It had been thirty years since men and women had appeared on stage together in Afghanistan. Was the country ready for it? Few Afghan actors had ever done theater. Did they even know how? They had performed only in films and television dramas.
Still, a company of actors gathered—among them a housewife, a policewoman, and a street kid turned film star. With no certainty of its outcome, they set out on a journey that would have life-changing consequences for all of them, and along the way lead to A Night in the Emperor’s Garden.
About the Author
Qais Akbar Omar is the author of A Fort of Nine Towers, which has been published in over twenty languages, and has written for the New York Times and the Atlantic. He holds an MFA in creative writing from Boston University and was a 2014–15 Scholars at Risk Fellow at Harvard University.
Stephen Landrigan is a former journalist for the Washington Post and BBC Radio. He lives in Massachusetts, where he tends a small orchard near Boston. His play Pan Beaters won first prize in London Weekend Television’s Play on Stage Awards in 1989, and his dramatization of V. S. Naipaul’s Miguel Street has been staged in London, Edinburgh, and Dublin.
“Absolutely charming—touching, hilarious—and very different to all the depressing war tomes on Afghanistan.”
— Christina Lamb
“The story is alternately funny, poignant, and inspiring, providing a glimpse into another Afghanistan.”
— Jean MacKenzie
“A Night in the Emperor’s Garden is an illuminating and deeply moving book—a startling exploration of Shakespearean mobility, a tribute to the subversive power of the theater, and a poignant account of the tragic dilemmas of contemporary Afghanistan. It is an unforgettable story about courage, artistic ambition, and moral determination in the face of murderous violence.”
— Stephen Greenblatt, Harvard University, author of The Swerve: How the World Became Modern and Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare