The Paranda network
The Paranda Network is a three-year partnership of co-operation between KfW Stiftung and Untold to enhance the craft of creative writers working in Dari and Pashto, as well as to develop a network of local Afghan writers and those living in the diaspora.
Paranda is a virtual space where these writers can share skills, knowledge, and life experiences with their peers. It consolidates Untold’s active – but so far informal – online community of women writers, established through its Write Afghanistan project.
The political upheaval of 2021 has meant many Afghan writers have resettled in other parts of the world, yet the Paranda network enables them to continue working as a group.
The collective Diary
Since the Taliban retook control of Aghanistan in August 2021, the women writers in the Paranda Network have stayed connected via a secure messaging app. For the first year of Taliban rule they shared their stories in the form of diary style exchanges between each other. These short, poignant entries in Dari and Pashto are very real glimpses – from emerging literary voices – of daily life from the women’s perspective.
Read extracts from the Diary as published in the Financial Times and reprinted in The Week to mark the one-year anniversary of the fall of Kabul in August 2022. Excerpts have also been published in literary journals in Germany, Sweden, and Belgium.
Rising After the Fall (Scholastic)
This collective diary has been adapted into a book for children, in translation, published by Scholastic in October 2023. The book is fully illustrated in colour by Afghan artist Sara Rahmani. It gives 8-12 year olds a compelling snapshot of events from the women’s perspective. Each chapter provides children with a better understanding of life in Afghanistan as the country was retaken by the Taliban.
A Song for Afghanistan (Hodder/Coronet)
The Untold team has also worked with Afghan women writers to turn their collective diary into a book for adult readers, in translation. Hodder/Coronet will publish A Song for Afghanistan: The Diary of a Women’s Writing Group, in August 2024. We read how this group of women watched cities fall, schools close, families change and freedoms disappear. This now disparate writers’ group continues to stay connected, and their online community marked the start of Untold’s Paranda network.’
This now disparate writer’s group continues to stay connected, and their online community marked the start of Untold’s Paranda network.
New fiction by Afghan women
“Powerful, profound and deeply moving, these stories will expand your mind and elevate your heart”
Stories by 18 writers from the Write Afghanistan project are published in My Pen Is the Wing of a Bird: New Fiction by Afghan Women (MacLehose Press).
My Pen Is the Wing of a Bird is a landmark collection: the first anthology of short fiction by Afghan women. These writers tell stories that are both unique and universal – stories of family, work, childhood, friendship, war, gender identity and cultural traditions; with an Introduction by Lyse Doucet.
Published in the USA, and in translation in Korea, Ukraine and Japan. Shortlisted for the Jan Michalski Prize for Literature 2022.
“This book is a precious collection of work, the first and maybe last of its kind. My Pen Is the Wing of a Bird is a huge accomplishment”
Monique Roffey, Author of The Mermaid of Black Conch
“As the current humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan grows, with millions at risk of starvation, it seems more important than ever to read the work of these courageous writers”
“This book is like a little light shining into the lives of women in Afghanistan… a beautiful read”
Weiter Schreiben partnership
Since 2020, Untold has partnered with Weiter Schreiben, a literary platform based in Berlin, for authors from war and crisis zones. This collaboration offers writers from the Paranda Network an opportunity to be commissioned and published in German.
Weiter Schreiben has re-published several stories from the anthology My Pen Is the Wing of a Bird on its platform in German.
Nine of Untold’s writers have also taken part in Weiter Schreiben’s letter exchange programme, where an Afghan woman writer is paired with an established German author, for an exchange of letters, emails and mentorship. These exchanges are then published in German.
The Untold-Weiter Schreiben partnership is supported by KfW Stiftung.
Weiter Schreiben Magazine
Untold and Weiter Schreiben continue to work together to promote and develop Afghan women writers. In October 2022, Weiter Schreiben released the fourth edition of their annual magazine, which showcases work from Untold’s Write Afghanistan programme and includes interviews with its writers. The magazine celebrates the voices of Afghan women authors who tell stories of oppression, violence, and exile but also of sisterhood, silver high heels and the power of words.
To celebrate its publication, Untold writers Batool Haidari, Naeema Ghani, and Marie Bamyani, and Director Lucy Hannah joined Weiter Schreiben for a live event, hosted by supporter, KfW Stiftung in Villa 102, Frankfurt on 17th October 2022. The event was delivered in in English and German, with simultaneous translation in Dari.
Helen Wolff Grants
In September 2022, 19 of Untold’s writers were awarded Helen Wolff grants to support their work. The grants were set up by descendants of Helen & Kurt Wolff to support politically persecuted women writers. These grants were administered by Weiter Schreiben and Untold’s writers were the first to receive them.
The grants helped these writers to buy laptops and encouraged them to keep writing.
Lucy Hannah – Project Director
Sunila Galappatti – Editor
Sunila has worked with other people to tell their stories, as a dramaturg, theatre director, editor and writer. She has worked with the Royal Shakespeare Company, Live Theatre, Kali Theatre and Raking Leaves. Most recently, Sunila has worked as a fiction and non-fiction editor with Commonwealth Writers and as Consulting Editor at Himal Southasian. She was Director of the Galle Literary Festival (2009 & 2010) and is the author of A Long Watch, which retells the story of a prisoner of war in the Sri Lankan conflict.
Parwana Fayyaz – Translator
Born in Kabul, Afghanistan in 1990, Parwana was raised in Quetta, Pakistan. She earned both her B.A. in 2015, with a major in Comparative Literature (with Honours) and a minor in Creative Writing (Poetry) under the supervision of late Eavan Boland, and her M.A. in Religious Studies in 2016 from Stanford University. She then moved to Cambridge University to pursue a PhD in Persian Studies at Trinity College in September of 2016 and completed a thesis titled, ‘Poetry and Poetics: the Sufi Eye and the Neoplatonic Vision in Jāmī’s Salāmān va Absāl’, in 2020. She took up a junior research fellowship as the Carmen Blacker Fellow at Peterhouse, Cambridge University in October 2020.
Zarghuna Kargar – Project Advisor and Translator
Zarghuna is an award-winning journalist for BBC World News, based in London. She produced and presented the BBC Afghan Woman’s Hour and is the author of Dear Zari, The Secret Lives of Women in Afghanistan (2012), a book that reveals the secret lives of women across Afghanistan and allows them to tell their stories in their own words. She has dedicated most of her journalistic career to working for and with Afghan women, reporting and writing their stories. She also wrote Amina’s story, in 2013’s Girl Rising documentary. Zarghuna speaks Pashto, Dari, English and Urdu.
Allia Popal – Interpreter
Allia worked as a judge in Afghanistan from 2011 to 2021 and now lives in the UK, where she is a volunteer with Safe Passage Legal Route, where she assists vulnerable Afghan children, using her interpretation skills to navigate complex legal processes. She’s a part-time interpreter for Untold Narratives, while she prepares for her solicitor’s qualifying examination (SQE) with BARBRI.
Dr Zubair Popalzai – Translator
Zubair is a Pashto, Dari and English language translation and interpretation professional with more than 20 years’ experience. He is a consultant translator for BBC Monitoring and has worked as an interpreter for United Nations special envoys in politically and militarily sensitive environments in South Asia. He also works as a legal interpreter at solicitors’ offices, tribunals, immigration detention centres and police contexts in the UK.
Negeen Kargar – Translator
Negeen is a translator, writer, and research scientist. She has translated and interpreted for the Guardian, Channel 4 and BBC Radio, and is an associate member of the Royal Society of Chemistry.
Patrick Spaven – Monitoring and Evaluation
Patrick is Technical Lead at Global MEL Contract, Conflict Stability and Security Fund. He is also an independent consultant and practitioner in monitoring, evaluation and learning (MEL) and Theory of Change (ToC), and Visiting Fellow at Manchester University. He works mainly in international development and in building MEL systems in governments, organisations, grant funds and programmes.
Untold is a Community Interest Company (company number 12654173). Prospero World (UK registered charity number 1163952) receives charitable donations in support of our work through its fiscal sponsorship programme, and receives tax efficient donations from UK donors on our behalf.