Category Archives: Afghanistan

A Thousand Rooms of Dream and Fear by Atiq Rahimi

A Thousand Rooms of Dream and Fear by Atiq Rahimi Title: A Thousand Rooms of Dream and Fear
Author: Atiq Rahimi
Publisher: Other Press
ISBN: 9781590513613
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 176
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5/5

So reading, “A Thousand Rooms of Dream and Fear” by Atiq Rahimi was a part of my reading project – “Around the World Reading”. The series of books that I plan to read first are either based in Afghanistan or written by Afghan origin writers, this being one of them. I had read “The Patience Stone” by Atiq Rahimi last year and loved it. This year it was this one, another novella by Rahimi, set in Afghanistan.

“A Thousand Rooms of Dream and Fear” is set in 1978-1979, Kabul, Afghanistan. It is just on the brink of the Soviet War in Afghanistan. The novella is written from a stream-of-consciousness perspective and yet it is just not the narrator’s version or his take on things. There are more layers to the story.

A man is found outside a woman’s house – beaten and bruised. The woman takes him into her house. She has a child and another man whose identity is not revealed for a while. The entire drama unfolds in the lady’s house and in the mind of the narrator.

The stream of consciousness is strong throughout the novella. The past and present intertwine beautifully in Rahimi’s words. The plot is threadbare and yet holds so much action in it for a novella. The reader wants to know more and is at the same time satisfied with what is served.

“A Thousand Rooms of Dream and Fear” is complex most times. It will not be an easy read. The story elucidates the concepts of freedom, hope, and love. It might take you some time to get into the book, but once you do, it will want and demand complete attention. I highly recommend this read if you want to know more about Afghanistan’s political landscape.

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Book Review: The Photographer: Into War-Torn Afghanistan with Doctors without Borders by Emmanuel Guibert

The Photographer by Emmanuel Guibert Title: The Photographer: Into War-Torn Afghanistan with Doctors without Borders
Authors: Emmanuel Guibert, Didier Lefevre, Frederic Lemercier
Publisher: First Second Books
ISBN: 978-1596433755
Genre: Graphic Novel, Memoirs
Pages: 288
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

I have always been a fan of Graphic novels. From the time I started figuring them out or rather discovering them. It was with Sandman I think and what a place to begin. At that time, I used to think that graphic novels only felt good when narrating a fictitious tale. I was so wrong and so mistaken. Over the last couple of years, I have read some brilliant non-fiction graphic novels – from Joe Sacco’s Palestine to Burma Chronicles by Guy Delisle, these guys know how to wrench your heart through the form of drawings and words in blurbs.

The Photographer - Image 1

This is what intrigued me about the first book in the “A Year of Reading the World” challenge which I have undertaken (inspired from the blog of the same name, started by Ann Morgan) – and the country to start with was Afghanistan. I did not want to start with the usual Khaled Hosseini (I love the guy’s writing but I wanted to discover something new). I had already read, “The Patience Stone” by Atiq Rahimi and loved it and yet I wanted something new. I then saw a title which intrigued me and that was “The Photographer” by Emmanuel Guibert.

Now let me tell you something about the book. This is not your regular graphic novel. It is definitely more and in the way that a reader would love to explore more books of this nature (if they exist). The book is a graphic novel mixed with pictures as taken by the said photographer in the title – Didier Lefevre.

The Photographer - Image 2

Didier left Paris at the end of July 1986 to go to Afghanistan. It was his first project as a photojournalist, documenting the journey of Doctors without Borders into war-torn Afghanistan. That was the time; the Soviets were fighting the Afghan Mujahedeen. This was the time the US of A was supporting Afghanistan, unaware of how it would backfire years later. The book though is not about that. The book is about the war and help and moments of respite as seen through Lefevre’s lens.

“The Photographer” is all about the perception and unbiased (mostly) perspective of a man with a camera and the need to capture it all. The book is created and compiled by Guibert along with Didier’s photographs. The war-torn Afghanistan as seen by Didier makes a perfect setting alongside its history. The people, the places, and their stories are beautifully captured and Guibert does justice to every single word and illustration – to go with the photograph. This book is a great beginning to how it all started – to how a country was ravaged, torn and how some selfless doctors also tried to save it. Most of all, it is about a photographer and how is life changed completely.

Next Up in this Challenge: Albania: The Palace of Dreams by Ismail Kadare

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Book Review: The Patience Stone by Atiq Rahimi; Translated from the French by Polly McLean

The Patience Stone by Atiq Rahimi Title: The Patience Stone
Author: Atiq Rahimi
Translator: Polly McLean
Publisher: Vintage Books
ISBN: 9780099539544
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 136
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5/5

I first heard of Atiq Rahimi while going through the “A Year of Reading the World” blog. I hadn’t heard of him earlier and I am glad I did now. “The Patience Stone” was a revelation of sorts. I could not for one stop reading it. Neither could I stop talking about it to people I knew or didn’t know. There are some books that evoke all possible emotions in you and this is one of them. It is short and sparse in its prose but does a fantastic job of communicating what it has to.

Atiq was born in Afghanistan in 1962 and then had to flee to France in 1984. Since then he has been in exile. He has returned to his country a couple of times, however he lives in France. May be because the expression of the novel was in French, Rahimi could write what he had to without any censorship. Why the need to censor this book? You will soon know.

“The Patience Stone” is set somewhere in Afghanistan or elsewhere in the world. An unnamed woman is in her house with her husband (unnamed) who is in a state of comatose. The city is in a state of war. Her children are all she has and she waits patiently for her husband to get out of the coma. She does all she can – from praying to reciting the 99 names of Allah, to patiently waiting like a wife should, till the time she starts talking and he becomes her patient stone – her sang-e sabur – who will listen to her pains, her joys, her frustrations, her existence as a woman in a world of men who only know war, her fears, and her deepest desires and secrets. She does this – waiting for him to explode (as per the myth) and for her to be free.

As she confides in him, the exterior and the interior of the novel changes drastically. The war intensifies. Rahimi does a great job of the war being seen only through the eyes of the woman and doesn’t narrate the conditions of war as is. That to me was a superlative aspect of the book. What also is refreshing that Rahimi’s character isn’t subdued nor is she looking for validation. She is as is – human, intense and without any apologies.

The stream of consciousness narrative takes getting used to, however as a reader once you are in it, you will only keep turning the pages and go back to take in some more all over again. “The Patience Stone” is one of those few books, according to me, that not only defy society and its ways, but also is quite direct about it. The woman lashes out at war, at its aftermath, at what it does to women, but above everything else, she speaks of freedom, even if the opening for it is through voice, through speech and the need to be heard. That is the essence of the book and runs deep at every single level – from her desires to her suppressed feelings. You would not have read anything like “The Patience Stone” before. Read it. You will thank me.

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