BookDragon Books for the Diverse Reader

The Patience Stone by Atiq Rahimi, translated by Polly McLean with an introduction by Khaled Hosseini

Patience StoneWinner of Le Prix Goncourt 2008, considered France’s highest literary honor, this disturbingly powerful slim volume gives voice to the too-many silenced women living “[s]omewhere in Afghanistan or elsewhere.” Written almost like a dramatic play script complete with what read like stage directions – not surprising since Atiq Rahimi also happens to be an award-winning filmmaker – The Patience Stone would surely make for a powerful production. For now, you’ll have to settle for the haunting 142 pages, but mark my words … it’s coming to a stage or screen near you.

“Outside of a few urban pockets,” writes Khaled Hosseini of now legendary Kite Runner-fame in the book’s introduction, “the ironclad rule of patriarchal, tribal law has long denied women their right to work, education, adequate health care, and personal independence – all of this made infinitely worse by three decades of war, displacement, and anarchy … For far too long, Afghan women have been faceless and voiceless. Until now. With The Patience Stone, Atiq Rahimi gives face and voice to one unforgettable woman – and, one could argue, offer her as a proxy for the grievances of millions.”

In a small, bare – “[s]tifling, despite the paleness of the turquoise walls – room,  a man lies on the floor on a red mattress, facing a photo of a much younger version of himself on the wall. Comatose with a bullet lodged in his throat but miraculously still alive, he is diligently attended to by his wife who feeds and cleans him, regularly administering drops into his unseeing eyes. Outside are reminders of war … gunshots, yelling, constant danger.

Frustrated and alone, the woman starts revealing long-held secrets to her silent husband … for the first time, she is the one able to speak freely. Remembering a story her beloved father-in-law told her, the woman refers to her unmoving husband as her “sang-e-saboor,” a magic stone that “you put in front of you … tell all your problems to, all your struggles, all your pain, all your woes … to which you confess everything in your heart, everything you don’t dare tell anyone.”

To her captive audience, she confesses her hatred of the endless, worthless war, her admiration for her patient storytelling father-in-law, her frustration over her abusive marriage, her disappointment with her oppressed sexuality, and so much more. When nameless soldiers appear at the door, she saves herself by announcing that she is a whore, knowing that the devoutly religious men (at least outwardly) will leave her untouched because she is considered dirty … until one of them returns with a nervous request of “How … m-m-much?”

Readers: Adult

Published: 2010


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