The Darling of Kandahar
In 2007, a Canadian soldier stationed in Kandahar sent a letter to Maclean’s magazine thanking the editors for the cover of their annual University Student Edition, which featured a young Canadian woman of Romanian descent, who became the new “pin-up” girl for the soldier and his comrades. Headlines flashed “The Darling of Kandahar” inspiring Romanian-Canadian writer Felicia Mihali’s first novel in English. The soldier, Sergeant Christos Karigiannis, died a short time after he wrote the letter.
It was the sudden, wrenching turn in the story that held her, Felicia Mihali recently told Maclean’s. “It became a strange, dark matter with his death, and then his funeral was in Laval, near where I live.” Mihali imagines the relationship between the two, renamed Yannis and Irina, as it might have developed in a brief e-mail correspondence. Irina is 24, attending university and becomes a minor celebrity in Montreal following the photo shoot. Yannis, stationed in Kandahar, shares with her his beliefs about the Taliban, on Afghan history, on the behavior of the troops, on ordinary people, on life and death. Both are immigrants, both in their individual realities, alone. Gradually, with the tension of the war in Afghanistan as the backdrop, they fall in love.
Born in Romania, Felicia Mihali has lived in Montreal since 2000. After studies in French, Mandarin and Dutch, she specialized in Postcolonial Literature, Art History and English Literature. She is co-founded of the webzine Terra Nova, and has published seven novels in French with the literary house XYZ Éditeur since 2002. The Darling of Kandahar is the first of her novels to be written in English.
When Felicia Mihali's first novel appeared in French in 2002, it was compared to Marie-Claire Blais's masterpiece, A Season in the Life of Emmanuel. Making her English-language début with The Darling of Kandahar, Mihali now joins Nancy Huston as one of the few writers working in English as well as French.