A Thousand Rooms of Dream and Fear by Atiq Rahimi (Other Press, first U.S. edition January 11, 2011; originally published in 2002, first English edition 2006 — translated from Dari by Sarah Maguire and Yama Yari), 176 pages
Farhad is in and out of consciousness after getting beat up, but he can’t remember why. All he remembers initially is the jackboots, and he’s not sure if it actually happened or is symbolic, or a dream…. His surroundings are completely unfamiliar.
The story doesn’t exactly tell you, but it’s set in a tumultuous time in Afghanistan’s history, 1979, between coups and the Soviet invasion. It’s abundantly clear, though, that the current government is ruling with an iron fist and fear.
The first thing I noticed was the format. The narrative comes in short, disconnected bursts. This was jarring and off-putting, especially at first. However, it’s quite effective at conveying the on-again, off-again wakefulness and consciousness.
I think overall I appreciated this book more than I actually enjoyed it. It wasn’t a fun book to read, for me.
A few things I value about A Thousand Rooms of Dream and Fear:
1. How relatable [I’ve been using that word too much lately. Must work on this.] Farhad’s belief, unbelief, questions and doubts about his faith are.
2. Connection — how he connects to Mahnaz and Yahya
3. Its depiction of the plight of women.
The biggest drawback of the book is the crassness. Sure, it helps illuminate the character — which was quite well done, especially when I consider how short this book is — but I just don’t appreciate it. It’s a very male book, and I’ve come to realize in the past year that I really don’t appreciate this quality in a book.
Still, I’m glad I read it. I didn’t read enough books in translation last year, and that’s something I hope to change this year. It illuminated a period of history that I knew too little about.
I keep going back and forth in my head between 2 and 3 stars. ★★★☆☆
About the author
Atiq Rahimi was born in Kabul; he was 17 when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. He is the author of Earth and Ashes and The Patience Stone. He filmed an adaptation of Earth and Ashes, which has won several awards. Since 2002 Rahimi has returned to Afghanistan several times to set up a writer’s house in Kabul and to offer support and training to young writers and filmmakers.
Other reviews (Other people seem to have liked it more than I did)
My Books. My Life.
Devourer of Books
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