I was introduced to the fiction of Atiq Rahimi over three years ago. One evening after work while working my way through the assorted novels and anthologies of the international authors shelf at my public library I found a copy of his 2010 novel The Patience Stone. Set in pre-Taliban Afghanistan during that country’s civil war, Rahimi’s short novel revolves around an Afghan woman caring for her comatose husband as fighting rages around them. As the evening wears on, her one-sided conversation with him becomes more like a fevered confession as she reveals her darkest secrets. Looking back, I remember enjoying The Patience Stone. I was impressed with Rahimi’s ability to tell such a story laconically, but with intensity. And while that story might have seemed simple in the beginning, as that story unfolded layers of complexity bubbled to the surface.
Earlier this week I stopped by the library after work and took a swing through the fiction section in hopes of finding a few books for the European Reading Challenge. After seeing a book sitting on a shelf entitled A Thousand Rooms of Dream and Fear how could I not investigate? Once I learned it was written by Atiq Rahimi, the author of The Patience Stone I could not resist.
Published in 2011, just like Rahimi’s earlier novel The Patience Stone, A Thousand Rooms of Dream and Fear also takes place in Afghanistan. This time, it’s 1979, not long after pro-Soviet elements have seized power in a coup and are now terrorizing the citizens of Kabul. After savagely beaten by soldiers for violating curfew, a young college student named Farhad has been taken in by a mysterious women and slowly nursed back to health. His recovery takes him through alternating states of lucidity and feverish hallucination. Confined to a stranger’s house and dwelling in this twilight zone bordering the real and the imagined, Farhad fears he’s died and now awaiting God’s judgment at the hands of his avenging angels.
I wasn’t disappointed with A Thousand Rooms of Dream and Fear. But I didn’t like it as much as The Patience Stone, even though it possesses some of the same qualities of and similarities to Rahimi’s earlier novel. What’s really cool is it’s inspired me to read more books set in or about Afghanistan. So don’t be surprised when you see more of these kind of books featured on this blog.