It is 1978 and all in Kabul seems quiet.
Habib Dhil is a member of the privileged elite in Afghanistan. As head of a powerful manufacturing concern, he has wealth, education, opportunities to travel, and family history hat gives him tremendous prestige. Yet Dhil is aloof, unable or unwilling to accept the notion that malfeasance and exploitation are prerequisites to fully joining the ruling class.
Despite his efforts to avoid entangling himself in government business, he has brought a complication upon himself. He is having an affair with Miriam, daughter of the ruthless Prime Minister Khan, who is already promised in marriage to the king’s son. Dhil is careful to keep the relationship secret, but wonders if they will be discovered.
One morning he learns that his assistant has been arrested at the central depot while negotiating for the price of supplies. Dhil is compelled to personally arrange his employee’s release, but doing so requires him to navigate through the unwieldy bureaucracy he has consciously avoided. For Dhil, it is a loathsome task.
He thinks of seeking help from his close childhood friend Alam Gol, now a colonel in the Army. Gol’s path has led him to seek the kind of power and influence Dhil rejects.
Dhil does not know that Gol is on a mission assigned by the prime minister himself, who seeks even greater control over the nation. If successful, it will solidify Gol’s influence in government. But at the same time, Gol’s actions may inadvertently trigger events that could ruin or even destroy Dhil.
Dhil begins to realize that perhaps it is time for a new life in a different place, but the pull of his native land keeps a powerful hold. Can he let go? And if he can, will he have time to leave before it is too late?
This is an Afghanistan that few Americans ever experienced. SILENT TREES offers a rare glimpse at the country before the “freedom fighters” known as the Mujahadeen, before the Taliban and warlords, before the Soviet invasion. Although the story is fictional, it is remarkable in its accurate portrayal of Afghan people of all types — and its provocative exploration of larger, universal truths about the consequences that accompany the unchecked pursuit of power.
In SILENT TREES, Habib Dhil will learn — as we all must — that when a select few ruthlessly control a people, everyone — the street vendor and the politician alike — is corrupted and suffers from the absence of liberty.