‘No nation can liberate another nation’

Malalai JoyaMalalai Joya’s talks at the Melbourne Writers’ Festival presented the war in Afghanistan quite differently to how it’s normally discussed here.

Whereas Australians are told that, without NATO, Afghanistan would descend into civil war, Joya explained that civil war is already raging; where we’re assured that foreign intervention protects Afghans from the Taliban, Joya says that the Taliban are, in essence, already in power, since the warlords and fundamentalists aligned with the Karzai regime share all the Taliban’s most reactionary attitudes. She explains more in her interview with Overland, which is now online.

But, in the context of a writers festival (and, for that matter, a literary journal), it’s worth noting that Joya’s activism was inspired, in part, by the books she read when she was young. In her memoir Raising my voice, she mentions, in particular, the impact of E L Voynich’s novel The Gadfly. After one of her sessions, she told me she’d read The Gadfly many times and it had greatly impacted both on her and other activists she knew.

I thought many of the writers who read Overland might want to know that novels do still have, on occasion, that kind of power.

Overland is a not-for-profit magazine with a proud history of supporting writers, and publishing ideas and voices often excluded from other places.

If you like this piece, or support Overland’s work in general, please subscribe or donate.

Jeff Sparrow is a Walkley Award-winning writer, broadcaster and former editor of Overland.

More by


  1. Thanks for this wonderful snippet Jeff – and of course for all the Overland’s support for and coverage of Malalai Joya and her activism. Needless to say, as OL fiction editor I’m very inspired to hear that Joya’s activism was inspired by fiction …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.