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Earth and Ashes [Hardcover]

Atiq Rahimi

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Book Description

Aug. 24 2010
 
"You know, father, sorrow can turn to water and spill from your eyes, or it can sharpen your tongue into a sword, or it can become a time bomb that, one day, will explode and destroy you"
 
Earth and Ashes is the spare, powerful story of an Afghan man, Dastaguir, trying desperately to reach his son Murad, who has left his village to earn a living working at a mine. In the meantime the village has been bombed by the Russian army, and Dastaguir, with his newly-deaf grandson Yassin in tow, must reach Murad to tell him of the carnage. The old man is beset on all sides by sorrow, that of his grandson, who cannot understand, that of his son, who does not yet know, and his own, made even crueler by the message he must deliver.
 
Atiq Rahimi, whose reputation for writing war stories of immense drama and intimacy began with this, his first novel, has managed to condense centuries of Afghan history into a short tale of three very different generations. But he has also created a universal story about fathers and sons, and the terrible strain inflicted on those bonds of family during the unpredictable carnage of war.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 96 pages
  • Publisher: Other Press (Aug. 24 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590513452
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590513453
  • Product Dimensions: 1.3 x 13.3 x 20.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 204 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #813,818 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

“Anyone seeking to understand why Afghanistan is difficult and what decades of violence have done to its people should read Atiq Rahimi. He is a superb guide to a hard and complex land.” —Ryan Crocker, former US ambassador to Pakistan and Iraq, and US envoy to Afghanistan
 
“The blasted dreamscape of Rahimi’s story and his tightly controlled prose make this a sobering literary testament to the horrors of war.” —Publishers Weekly
 
“It has the feel of a book of great antiquity and authority; you could more readily level the Afghan mountains than damage the dreaming culture that Earth and Ashes both embodies and silently trusts.” —London Times
 
“With this novel Rahimi picks up a shard of broken glass and sees the whole truth of his devastated country.” —Der Spiegel (Germany)

About the Author

Born in Kabul in 1962, Atiq Rahimi was seventeen years old when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. He fled to Pakistan during the war and eventually applied and was granted political asylum in France in 1984. Studying at the Sorbonne, he received a doctorate in audio-visual communications. After the fall of the Taliban in 2002, Rahimi returned to Afghanistan where he filmed an adaptation of Earth and Ashes. There he has become renowned as a maker of documentary and feature films, and as a writer. The film of Earth and Ashes was in the Official Selection at Cannes in 2004 and won a number of prizes. Since 2001 Rahimi has returned to Afghanistan a number of times to set up a Writers' House in Kabul and offer support and training to young. His novel The Patience Stone (Other Press) won the Prix Goncourt in 2008.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.4 out of 5 stars  9 reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "These days the dead are more fortunate than the living. What are we to do? We're on the eve of destruction." Oct. 8 2010
By Mary Whipple - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
(4.5 stars) Earth and Ashes packs more feeling and more power into its few pages than most other books do in hundreds of pages, and few, if any, readers will emerge from it unscathed. Author Atiq Rahimi has recreated the Afghanistan he remembers when it was occupied by the Russians (1979 - 1989). He was seventeen at the time, and life has not improved much for the populace since then. Rahimi's bleak picture of the farming village of Abqul includes the occupiers' casual murder of individuals, the decimation of families, the annihilation of villages, and ultimately the obliteration of whole cultures going back to ancient times. Without preamble or any lengthy setting of the scene, the author introduces a main character who is faced with a family crisis from which he may never recover, then tells that story in plain, direct, and straightforward language which gains impact from its very simplicity.

Dastaguir, accompanied by his small grandson, is walking toward the coal mines of Karkar. The Russians "didn't spare a single life...The village was reduced to dust." All his family members are dead. Though little Yassin has escaped the fires, he is now totally and suddenly deaf, and does not understand why jujube stones which used to click against each when he played with them, are now silent, why Dastaguir will not answer him when he speaks to him, and why the world is suddenly so quiet. Dastaguir and Yassin are looking for Dastaguir's surviving son Murad, Yassin's father, who fled the village to work in the mines four years ago. Dastaguir needs Murad to reconnect with his son, especially now that Yassin is so desperately in need of help.

Talking to himself constantly through the miles, he takes a distanced view of himself, referring always to himself as "you." He imagines meeting with Murad and has nightmares which combine ancient stories with the events of his village. And when a shopkeeper tries to be friendly, Dastaguir has to remind himself that "You wanted to talk to anyone about anything. Now, here is someone who'll listen to what lies in your heart, whose look alone is a comfort. Say something!" Throughout the novella, the author calls to mind the Persian epic The Book of Kings by Ferdusi, which "interweaves Persian myths, legends, and historical events to tell the history of Iran and its neighbors from the creation of the world to the Arab conquest in the seventh century." Three characters in that book loosely parallel characters and actions in this novella.

For a novel in which the "actions" are mostly "reactions to" past events, the author manages to inspire powerful emotional moments. The reader cares for Dastaguir because he reacts with universal human feelings-he gets annoyed at Yassin, and he agonizes over what and how much to tell Murad. With these characters and Yassin inspiring sympathy, the reader is impacted even more fully by the bleakness of the ending-and the continuing hopelessness which we know has continued among the populace during the present war in Afghanistan. Mary Whipple

The Patience Stone
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Earth and Ashes Dec 15 2009
By Stephen Balbach - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
For the fans of McCarthy's The Road, this is the book they should be reading and which should have won the accolades. It's gritty, real and important - and no baby eating Zombies! Written in the Persian language variant of Afghanistan known as Darsi in 2000 (pre-911), it was translated into English in 2002. It's a simple short novella about a tragic event, the kind that happens every day in Afghanistan. Through the eyes of an old man and his young grandson we experience the trauma of war and the angst of modernity pulling the past into the present. The ancient code of honor which holds society together is falling apart and what is left to replace it is deaf to us, an unknown. Although written before 9-11 about the Soviet invasion, it could just as easily be about present day events. Because it is written by a native Afghani in the native language, his sympathy for his culture, the small details and mannerisms, are all enlightening and curious. Afghanistan is such a mystery, a land of contradictions, this short novella goes a long way in revealing some deeper truths.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Earth and Ashes was heavenly Oct. 25 2010
By deedee - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The book was beautifully covered and in perfect condition.
The story was mystical and unlike anything else I have read about Afghanistan.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Land of "Why"s Oct. 4 2009
By tk - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Atiq Rahimi, as prove all his other works, masters in making the reader get to the life in Afghanistan in a very short span of time with the help of very limited though extremely strong words... This very short book of his gets you in it immediately and in almost an hour, you are through with it, though to be haunted of "why"s that your entire life, you will never be able to answer just will never be the humanity nor the history....
4.0 out of 5 stars I thought it was interesting Oct. 29 2013
By Coleen Brown - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
It is mind provoking but a little disappointing at the end. Rahimi's books all are different and intriguing. I will read his other books.

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