“This dazzling narrative is full of wonders and unfamiliar magic, shadows and lightnings. The tales it tells are fascinating in their ordinariness and their strangeness. The Honey Thief is simply delightful to read on its own terms, but it also illuminates the real Afghanistan, that country many great powers have proved keen to invade but rarely to understand.”
—Thomas Keneally, bestselling author of Schindler’s List and the upcoming The Daughters of Mars
“This is such a charming book. Its delightful tales take me back to my own childhood of stories. It’s so good to see another side of Afghanistan—here we see a magical place, full of trials, certainly, but where we can observe the triumph of the human spirit. It has lessons for all of us in the West. How good to see the enormously rich vein of Afghan traditional story-telling tapped rather than the usual catalogue of death and destruction we read of in the papers.”
Saira Shah, Emmy-winning filmmaker of Death in Gaza and author of The Storyteller’s Daughter and the upcoming novel, The Mouse-Proof Kitchen
“Moving effortlessly from the oral to the written, from folktale to modern day fable, and from the earthly to the transcendent, this beautiful, life-affirming book probes the heart and soul of a remarkable culture, while paying homage to the universal power of story.”
– Arnold Zable, bestselling author of Jewels and Ashes and Café Scheherazade
“If a story is a recipe for how life should be, then Mazari’s unforgettable stories—of wolves and warriors, beekeepers and musicians—hold the power to rewrite his country’s past. Reading his recipes for traditional Afghan food feels like being in the kitchen with your favorite uncle. The Honey Thief is one of those books you’ll want to read out loud so you can delight in Mazari’s wise and funny voice.”
—Annia Ciezadlo, author of Day of Honey: A Memoir of Food, Love and War
“A masterpiece. Linked tales tell what happened to Afghanistan over the past century. Odd, yet so vivid that you feel as though you belong amongst Mazari’s Hazara ancestors. The most spellbinding stories are those where different cultures intersect.”
– Annabel Lawson, in Country Style
“The wisdom and enchantment of thousands of years are spun together in this vivid, beautifully written book. The author brings one tribe in Afghanistan into your heart as well as your mind, taking you on a fascinating journey across the centuries and laying bare the undying strength as well as the trials, triumphs and tribulations of the Hazara people. A wonderful account of the past in fiction. [The Honey Thief] was a true joy to read.”
—Deborah Rodriguez, author of New York Times bestseller Kabul Beauty School
“Tales from the oral tradition of Afghanistan, a land where “memories are not made of air and light and colour [but]…of iron and stone”; in this collection, the stories vary in tone from the homely to the harrowing.
The artistic process behind this collection is uncommon, for Mazari, an immigrant to Melbourne, tells his stories to Australian author Hillman, who reshapes them and then runs them by Mazari again to see whether he has captured the authenticity of his original voice. While the stories are separate, they’re concatenated in that characters recur from story to story, so while one might be a major player in one tale, he might be only alluded to in a subsequent narrative. Mazari focuses on one specific area of Afghanistan here: the relatively remote mountainous area of the Hazarajat. There we meet the Hazara, who, according to Mazari, are a “mystery people, but only to others,” and indeed, we do locate universal themes within the individual stories he tells. The title story is (no pun intended) sweet, for it concerns the passing of a long tradition of beekeeping and honey-gathering from one generation to another. Among the more haunting tales are The Life of Abdul Khaliq and The Death of Abdul Khaliq. For reasons that become obvious, the title character of these stories becomes known as “the king-killer” for his assassination of Mohammad Nadir Shah, a monarch who’s been oppressing the Hazara. The Snow Leopard introduces us to Abraham, a London university professor who, in searching out the elusive snow leopard, finds much more than he expected.
Mazari and Hillman’s collaboration reveals the rich culture of a region largely unknown in the West.”
– Kirkus Reviews, February 15th, 2013
Mazari and Hillman’s second collaboration (after The Rugmaker of Mazar-eSharif) is an homage to the richly folkloric Afghani culture. The collection of linked stories focuses on customs and legends spanning centuries of the Hazara people. “In Afghanistan, memories are not made of air and light and colour; memories are made of iron and stone.” A poor young man, in “The Life of Abdul Khaliq,” is rumored to have slain a king. Karim Zand, of “The Music School,” is a “mad” inhabitant new to the area. When his neighbors discover the otherworldly music he plays on his rubab (a lute-like instrument originally from Central Asia), they gather around his house. He angrily demands to be left alone, but a mute teenager feels a connection to the music and determines to learn the difficult instrument, despite the obstacles. “The Cookbook of the Master Poisoner Ghoroob-e-astab of Mashad” is about a wily poisoner whose masterful concoctions are “almost an honor to die from.” At the urging of the prince’s bodyguards, he agrees to share recipes that might shield royalty. This entertaining tapestry of myths from Mazari and Hillman will shed light on the Hazara people and their backgrounds. Recipes.
Publishers Weekly, March 4th, 2013