Off Our Heads by Matthew Leeming

Matthew Leeming

Off Our Heads


I AM STAYING at the Kabul Intercontinental, which I can safely say is the worst hotel in the world. Two guests have recently drowned in the swimming pool. There is no cold water. let alone hot. Electricity is intermittent. The lifts don't work, so I must get to my room by the service staircase and the kitchen. The only reason I stay here is that the bookshop, is excellent and sells Tajik vodka, which gives one a very specialised and unpleasant form of hangover, like a new and even more unpleasant form of consciousness. Journalists stay here because it is expensive and this, they feel, goes some way towards punishing their employers for their discomfort.

Most people here are a bit off their heads. I am currently obsessed with the idea of commissioning a new translation of the evitaph on Babur's tomb. Babur is an antihero of mine. He conquered India and then, when he'd got it, hated it; he was a world-class butcher, yet

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