Samman Akbarzada is a novelist and award-winning poetess from Afghanistan. She was born in Pakistan and has spent the first nine years of her life there studying and making a memorable childhood. She’s been passionate about writing since a young age. It was an on and off progress, eventually, she got more into it when she was twelve. Forthwith, it evolved as an essential part of her life.
Akhila Saroha: I would like to begin by congratulating you on the publication of “Life is a Movie.” How has the response to the book been so far?
Samman Akbarzada: Thank you, dear Akhila. Well, the response was quite dramatic, to begin with. Five minutes after reading the congratulating email from my dear publishers, I was sobbing in my mother’s arms. An unforgettable moment. Similarly, my friends and family have been extremely thrilled for me, too. Then after sharing the good news on my social media accounts along with my book’s blurb and cover, I was overwhelmed by the love and support. Their messages were filled with words encouraging me and thanking me for giving a voice to the millions of women, suffering behind closed doors.
Akhila Saroha: What led to the idea of writing “Life is a Movie”? Were there any events that inspired the work?
Samman Akbarzada: It was the thirteenth of April 2020, at that time I was working on my first novel “Silent War” and was in the editing process of the draft. It was quarantine, and all I could think of was what my life would be like if all that didn’t happen. I would be in school, hugging my best friend after the three months of winter break, making the most of our last year. But instead, I was inside my murky room, hushed on the bed, unhealthy writing for hours and hours, barely eating, doomscrolling, loathing my existence. I was so drifted away by the present moment sometimes, and somewhere in between those moments, I became a character, someone I used to know, to some level.
His head propped against the school wall on the pathway, cotton candy was what he used to offer by his scratched and bleeding little palms. Every single morning, I would see him, sometimes I’d look straight at his sad, innocent eyes, sometimes too ashamed to make eye contact I would lower my gaze passing by him, sometimes I could do the least which made me feel even worse, but never would I dare to have a taste of that cotton candy, coming from that nefarious state of life.
I thought about him, what he may be doing? What would he sell now? Did the police throw his cotton candy on the streets, shouting at him? Does he have anything to eat? Is he infected with the virus? Is he alright? Is he alive? I asked my mother if she saw a little kid near my school selling cotton candy, more working children used to be around him too, she said the streets were empty and no one was selling anything.
To cope with it I became him myself, a ten-year-old working child, on the streets of Kabul. This fiction gave me a sense of comfort, that he is alive in my world, in my story he is and he will be forever.
Akhila Saroha: How easy or difficult was it for you to write on a subject that held relevance for all and also remain objective about it in “Life is a Movie”?
Samman Akbarzada: The day I decided the plot and had a look at my characters scheme, I noticed right away that this story is certainly something most people are unaware of and that’s exactly why I was the one writing it. To make a typical citizen relate to a working child or the independent woman to Rukhsaar who has no other choice but to nod and oblige all her life is indeed difficult. I can only hope I did justice to my characters and made that civilized man who read my book notice the shoe-shining kid on the pathway as he gets in his car. And the females to not be feminists only on matters that are trending, but to speak up and understand all kinds of oppression.
Akhila Saroha: What are your views about present-day writing? Do you think it does complete justice in depicting human nature in the light of “Life is a Movie”?
Samman Akbarzada: I like how literature has changed and simplified itself throughout the years. It’s mostly focused on evoking emotions and borrowed as a personal friend to the author who can use their writing to compose worlds where there are no limitations as there was before. It’s a more free-verse type of thing and readers love that and so do I. “Life is a Movie” revolves around a serious set of events that took place in Afghanistan, yes it’s fiction, but people lost versions of their life just like the characters do in my book. And the liberty that comes with the present-time writing allowed me to portray it from my heart and the truth.
Akhila Saroha: “Life is a Movie” shows the uniqueness of your style of writing. Are there any authors that you enjoy reading or any books which are your favorites?
Samman Akbarzada: Thank you for your kind words. Yes, when it comes to “Life is a Movie” my huge inspiration has been Mr Khaled Hosseini’s masterpieces, particularly, “A Thousand Splendid Suns.” Though, it doesn’t quite fit right to call it “enjoy” there isn’t much relish to reading about a county that had so much potential and watching it collapse over and over again. But his works have left me sleepless and aching. To cope with it, I wrote my own book of sheer melancholy.
Akhila Saroha: How would you categorize “Life is a Movie” as its appeal seems to be to a broad audience?
Samman Akbarzada: If you love to look outside your traditional events and want to expand your International criteria, and of course, adore Mr Khaled Hosseini’s books, then you will like to read “Life is a Movie” hopefully
Akhila Saroha: “Life is a Movie” has given a powerful introduction to your potential as a writer. Can the readers expect more from you in the future? Would you please share about your future projects?
Samman Akbarzada: Once again, thank you. I have one unpublished novel which revolves around the effect of war on the psyche and is about a young suicidal teen. I have a poetry manuscript that I believe I will soon hear from them about it. There would be a psychological thriller coming. And my WIP is again a story taking place in Afghanistan. Though I had to sadly take a break from it since I’m not in the right headspace after the recent events that happened in Afghanistan
Akhila Saroha: The title of your work, “Life is a Movie,” is quite powerful. What is the story behind its creation?
Samman Akbarzada: When I say, “Life is a Movie” I mean it in the literal sense. There are twists, plot holes, dialogue, characters and bizarre dramatic coincidences… And some of us are chosen to be in the same movie. Life is a Movie. Just yesterday as my father was trying to cheer me up, he said, “You made a mistake, life isn’t a movie, life is a horror movie, that’s what you should’ve named your book.” I’ll take his word into account for the next project.
Akhila Saroha: Do you think “Life is a Movie” is a prediction of what the future holds for the innocent in Afghanistan?
Samman Akbarzada: It has been the past, it is the present, I can only plead to God to not make it our future.
Akhila Saroha: In the present time, the subject of “Life is a Movie” does not find much mention. What, according to you, could be the possible reason for that?
Samman Akbarzada: I’m afraid that’s very true. The generations of this country for the past forty years didn’t get the chance to breathe for a sec, so perhaps they could raise their voices and involve in the literature world. We mostly focus on the need to survive rather than chasing our dreams. But to those who are aware of Afghanistan, I want to say that we can’t empower women until we highlight the oppressions they withstand. Putting the spotlight on thriving females is nice, but the woman whose voice shakes before she speaks for herself, that’s where feminists are needed. Words fall short to express how happy I am seeing people like Angelina Jolie spread the voice of the Afghan people. The angst of how voiceless Afghans have become is crushing, but now discerning that we won’t be suffering silently, it has brought a bit of light to my eyes. I can’t thank her enough.
Akhila Saroha: If you were to describe your book “Life is a Movie” in a few words without giving any spoilers, what would those words be?
Samman Akbarzada: It’s about a working child, trying his best to be a ten-year-old adult. It’s about a Mother, trying her best to change the narrative of her dire fate. It’s about a God-forsaken country and its sad people.
Akhila Saroha: What advice would you give to budding writers who may be planning to write in the same genre as “Life is a Movie”?
Samman Akbarzada: Go for it. This is something the world should constantly be reminded of. It shouldn’t take a county to collapse so it can finally get the world’s attention. Write without fear, write honestly, and most importantly, write from your heart, and if it’s broken, the better you’ll write.
Akhila Saroha: Thank you very much for sparing your time. I look forward to reading more books from you in the future. All the best.
Samman Akbarzada: Thank you so much for reading my book and for your thought-provoking questions, I loved answering them. And I look forward to hearing from your amazing team soon again. All the best.