Category Archives: Around the World Reading

77 by Guillermo Saccomanno. Translated from the Spanish by Andrea G. Labinger

77 by Guillermo Saccomanno Title: 77
Author: Guillermo Saccomanno
Translated from the Spanish by Andrea G. Labinger
Publisher: Open Letter
ISBN: 978-1940953892
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 220
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5 stars

Books written to defy, to present various points of view, and above all to show us that we can and should raise voices against powers are books that I love to read. It makes me feel stronger, it makes me want to protest, and more than anything else it makes me feel that I have companions and not alone in the world when it comes to issues close to my heart. 77 is one such book that held me by my throat and being and I just had to finish it in almost three sittings or so. The book still lingers in my memory, and I know that it will for a long time to come.

 So, what is the book about?

 The book is set in Buenos Aires, 1977. A time that is considered to be a part of the darkest days of the Videla dictatorship, from the time he seized power in 1976. At the heart of the book is Gómez, a gay high-school literature teacher, trying very hard to keep a low profile as his friends and students begin to disappear. This is the time when questioning is forbidden, and people aren’t allowed to live the way they wish to.

 Things also start spiralling when he gives shelter to two dissidents in his house, and to make things worst he is having an affair with a homophobic cop who is loyal to the government and no one else. The book is told in flashbacks – from 2007 to 1977 – jumping back and forth.

 I was stunned reading this novel. I didn’t know what to feel for some time and then I realized that I was scared. Scared of such a regime being thrust upon us (though it seems that day isn’t very far) and how we would react or live in that case. Living under a dictatorship isn’t easy. At the same time, it isn’t very hard for people to get used to it, which is most fearful.

Saccomanno’s writing is fluid and clear. In most parts, I thought of it to be autobiographical and I don’t think I was far from the truth. The moral, social, and intellectual dilemmas that present themselves make the book so haunting and real. Is literature dead? Is sexual preference dead? Is raising your voice dead? What is alive anymore?

 77 is a book not just about a year – about people, their opinions, the regime that wants a mental shutdown of its people, a state that will have nothing but totalitarianism at the helm of things. 77, to me was more than just a book. It is about a literary soul that is trapped and is the story of one man trying to make sense in a world of madness and inhumanity, lurking in almost every corner. It is a book that shows you what shouldn’t be repeated. We can only hope and pray.

 

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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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Around the World Reading

So, it had been a while since I chanced upon this website:

http://ayearofreadingtheworld.com/

This site is owned and run by Ann Morgan (@annmorgan30 on Twitter), a freelance writer and sub-editor. She took on the project of reading books around the world. A book for each country in the world. So there were 196 books for 196 independent countries.

I read the posts on her site and could not help but take on the same project. She made it easier for me by providing me with a list. The question now is whether to read everything listed by her or read what she picked or create my own list.

I think I will do a bit of all. The list will be perfect. Another reading challenge.

Here are the books I plan to read from the countries starting with “A”. This list is from Afghanistan for now:

Afghanistan: The Original List

• The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini (This will be a reread)
• A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
• Waiting for the Taliban by Anna Badkhen
• The Photographer by Emmanuel Guibert (This will be a reread)
• Behind the Burqa by Batya Swift Yasgur
• The Patience Stone by Atiq Rahimi (This one will be a reread)
• A Thousand Rooms of Dream and Fear by Atiq Rahimi

Afghanistan: My List

• And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini (This will be a reread)
• The Watch by Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya (This will be a reread)
• The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis
• The Buddhas of Bamiyan by Llewelyn Morgan
• The Wasted Vigil by Nadeem Aslam (This will be reread)
• The Honey Thief by Najaf Mazari

The challenge will start from today and I am super excited. Starting with “A Thousand Rooms of Dream and Fear” by Atiq Rahimi.