O’Hagan discusses travelling to Afghanistan to research The Illuminations.
I’m not especially courageous. I’m not a warrior. I’m a guy who sits in a room with a keyboard in front of me. But if I was going to write about a conflict situation, I had to go and taste it … taste the heat, the dust, the sense of starkness that I knew existed.
He says his “moment of truth” came when visiting an Afghan school.
What I saw, after years of supposed enlightenment and struggle and loss of British, Canadian, and American lives, was a girls’ school where the drinking water had been poisoned by extremist fanatics. In 2013, years into a supposedly emancipating war, we had failed to protect a school of girls from the Taliban.