Poet and Social Critic
Biography and Translations by Dr.Sharif Fayez

Nasrullah Partaw Naderi was born in 1952 in Jershah Baba village of Badakhshan province and completed his elementary and high school education in his birthplace. In 1970 he graduated from Kabul Teacher Training School and received his bachelor from the Faculty of Natural Sciences of Kabul University in 1975.

Since childhood, Naderi loved reading literature, particularly poetry. The beautiful mountainous setting of his village inspired him to write his own lyrics. After graduating from Kabul Teacher Training School, he wished to study journalism at Kabul University, but, as a graduate of a public teacher training school, he was required to study either social or natural sciences at Kabul University. Nevertheless he believes his study of geology and biology has enriched the rationalistic aspect of his poetry and his sense of reality, which is reflected in his works.  

Like many other Afghan artists and intellectuals, Naderi was arrested by the Communist Regime in Kabul on charges of anti-regime political activities and imprisoned in the infamous Pulcharkhi Prison in the fall of 1984. He remained in prison until the end of 1986.

In September 1997, he fled to Pakistan, where he worked for the Dari program of the BBC World Service until 2002.  His cultural reports for the Dari program of BBC Radio enjoyed popularity among educated Afghans in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran and abroad. Nadiri is a civil society activist and an outspoken social and political critic.

Images of poverty, imprisonment, drought, Taliban-style tyranny and obscurantism, destruction and death abound in his poems.  Unlike many of his contemporaries, he has written more blank verses than fixed forms.  “The Other Side of Purple Waves” is considered one of the best blank verses in modern Afghan poetry. His published collections include: An Elegy for Vine, Leaden Moments of Execution, and A Lock on the Gate of Ashes.   

In the Frozen Streets of Eclipse

I passed through remote winters
where everyday an old man
from a dark history’s street
stood on the ancient Zenborak Wall*
cursing the bright civilization of his tribe
Then he rolled up his sleeves and
planted by the false stream
the black poplar of his sermons.

I passed through remote winters and
                      noticed that the sun’s hands
failed to put anything on a child’s small palm
The sun’s generous hands
in the frozen streets of eclipse
were empty of its shining generous coins 

The sun’s generous hands
were rotting in the night’s dark pockets.
I passed through remote winters and
                      it was possible there to offer the bread fragrance
                      as a rich perfume gift to the most beautiful city girl
And it was possible there   
                      to graft the blossom of the bread image
                      to the perfume of illusion 
in the flower vase of the children’s minds and
look forward for rain.

I passed through remote winters and
                      I saw there people nearby a bakery
counting with their fingers
                      the coins that the king of poverty
                      had minted on either side “hunger”
As I returned home at night with a bundle of hunger
                      my children understood
from the broken lines of my hands
the meaning of geographical nothingness
And they drank water from the pot of thirstiness
And for expectation, they expected a flower bouquet 
                      at the crossing point of winds.

My children have mastered the culture of hunger and
                      speak foreign languages and
from morning to evening translate the word “bread”
                      from the kitchen dictionary into a thousand languages. 
My children know
                      that “bread has overcome
                      the amazing prophetic mission.” **
My children know that
                      the destruction alphabet has been written
                      on school blackboards
with a chalk made of fire.
And the red rain of the disaster
                      has flooded the school’s orchard of songs
                      with the blossom of silence.
My children know
                      that the school is a monkey
                      unleashed in the black jungle of guns
                      a despised exile in the island of tanks.

I passed through remote winters and
                      I heard the voice of an old man   
                      flowing in the ruptured vein of every explosion
                      inviting death to watch the city.
And he still shackles life
                      in the lowest level of hell.
And stones the spring
                      in the green mirror of plants.
I recognize his voice;
                      his voice invites the sinister crows                     
                      to the high branches of the orchard.
His voice sings a lullaby
                      to the child of light
                      in the cradle of dawn and
                      beheads wakefulness.
His voice is a carnivorous plant 
                      rooted in history’s stench.

I passed through remote winters and
                      know that no person awake at night
                      had ever heard the sun’s coughing
                      from the other side of the darkness’ hills
And I know there is nothing in the land--
In the land, a swarm of the vultures of explosion
                      bite into the ripped body of the day.
And the village old farmer
                      thrashes his harvest
in a circle of nothingness.
And hunger is measured by a centurial measurement
which the sun has lighted
the human rights as a golden dome
over the pavilion of its awareness
There is nothing on the earth.
On the earth nobody trusts his shadow
And the curve of every street
    is a passage that
  has linked the Seven Adventures of Rustem ***
  to the reality of history.
I have come from remote winters and
                      my feet recognize every span
                      of the trail of misery.
What should I say?
The silk of my sentences are short
The “button” of my words is broken
What clothes should I tailor
for the tall figure of my pain?

Kabul, April 1996

*An ancient wall built on the Zenborak Mountain in Kabul city
** An allusion to a line from Farogh Farrokhzad, a famous Iranian poet
*** Rustem is the central hero of Ferdowsi’s epic The Shahnameh (The Book of Kings)

The Idol-Breaker’s Calendar

The spring is dead and a flock of black vultures
have laid on the sun’s bloody seat
a feast from the moon’s skull and bones of stars.
The spring is dead and nobody measures life and light
with the sun’s breaths.
And nobody knows that the sun in my land
has grown several centuries old
in three hundred sixty-five days.
Spring is dead and nobody knows
who from the devil party fired the first bullet
during the sun’s execution rite.
Spring is dead and the ashamed mourning multitudes
in the blue seclusion of Nirvana
heard only the sound of a blast
that blew apart the history’s millennia-old mind.
The spring was dead when the “Islamic Gateway”
was auctioning pieces of our torn body
at the crossroads of conspiracy
at the crossroads of the “Idol-Breaker’s Calendar”
The centuries-old dead bodies
died several thousand times in old graveyards
And the centuries-old dead bodies
died of shame in old graveyards and
died several thousand times over
When the “Islamic Gateway” on
the broken faces of Kabul walls:
inscribed in bold-faced letters:
Congratulations on the Victory

April 2001


All I had
 was a small knapsack
   that I carried from one house to another
Eventually I lost it
in one of the old city streets

Partaw Naderi Kabul, 1359