Jamil Jan Kochai, "The Haunting of Hajji Hotak and Other Stories" (Viking, 2022)

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The first story in Jamil Jan Kochai’s newest collection has an interesting title and premise.

“Playing Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain” leads The Haunting of Hajji Hotak and Other Stories (Viking: 2022). But what starts as a story of a young Afghan-American man buying the latest installment of the stealth video game becomes an exploration of Afghanistan, how its borne the brunt of generations of imperial and geopolitical conflict–and how that history is etched on its people.

Jamil’s book is about Afghanistan–as well as Afghans and Afghan-Americans, grappling with history and strife, conflict and tension, family and community, often amidst the backdrop of an unfeeling U.S. invasion.

Jamil Jan Kochai is the author of 99 Nights in Logar (Viking: 2019), a finalist for the Pen/Hemingway Award for Debut Novel and the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature. He was born in an Afghan refugee camp in Peshawar, Pakistan, but he originally hails from Logar, Afghanistan. His short stories have appeared in The New Yorker, Ploughshares, Zoetrope, The O. Henry Prize Stories, and The Best American Short Stories. Currently, he is a Hodder Fellow at Princeton University.

Today, Jamil and I will talk about his short stories, his Afghan and Afghan-American characters, how they relate to today’s Afghanistan–and some of the surprising inspirations for some of his stories.

You can find more reviews, excerpts, interviews, and essays at The Asian Review of Books, including its review of The Haunting of Hajji Hotak. Follow on Twitter at @BookReviewsAsia.

Nicholas Gordon is an associate editor for a global magazine, and a reviewer for the Asian Review of Books. He can be found on Twitter at@nickrigordon.

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