Earth and Ashes Hardcover – Aug 24 2010
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“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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
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
The story was mystical and unlike anything else I have read about Afghanistan.