Rebel Poet’s Death Leaves 40 Years of Epic Afghan Work Unfinished

Rebel Poet’s Death Leaves 40 Years of Epic Afghan Work Unfinished

“They can start with me — I am a volunteer to go to a tribunal,” Mr. Layeq said. “In the games of powers, in the games of parties, in the rivalries of international giants here, a nation has been sacrificed, a nation has been oppressed. We can’t count the widows and orphans.”

Throughout his political career, Mr. Layeq wrote prolifically in both of Afghanistan’s primary languages, Pashto and Persian, publishing about a dozen collections of poetry. His verses became anthems to the revolution, slogans shouted at rallies:

If the road home is carpeted with thorns

We’ll bare our feet and dance the way.

His son, Zmarak, said Mr. Layeq left behind about 70 volumes of unpublished political diaries. He was such a disciplined archivist that he would stay up late into the night during his provincial assignments as a party leader to record the events of his day.

It was on one of those provincial assignments in the east of the country around 1980 that Mr. Layeq met a young insurgent who became the subject of his unfinished, 40-year epic, “A Man from the Mountains.”

His soldiers brought before him a young man — “so well proportioned, it was as if his body had been carved from marble,” — on charges that he was a “counterrevolutionary,” what they called the guerrillas.

Mr. Layeq said he pardoned him. But much to his surprise, the young guerrilla refused — and even confessed to his crime. When Mr. Layeq asked why he had done so, the young man, according to a Los Angeles Times article from 1989, replied: “You gave me a kindness in offering your pardon. So I return the kindness. I give you the truth, for I have nothing else to offer.”

The young man, whose “face spoke of strength and power beyond the imagination,” lived and grew in Mr. Layeq’s imagination for 40 years and many thousands of lines of verse, as the poet aged and looked for answers to Afghanistan’s suffering.

Last September, Mr. Layeq left his small Soviet-built apartment and was on his way to his office at the Academy of Sciences when he was wounded in a Taliban car-bombing — a young insurgent of a different generation ramming his explosive-packed vehicle into one carrying American and NATO soldiers, the moment captured on camera.

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