#312 ~ A Thousand Rooms of Dreams and Fear

A Thousand Rooms of Dream and Fear by Atiq Rahimi

Published by: Other Press

Published on: January 11, 2011

Page Count: 176

Genre: Fiction

My Reading Format: Hardcover provided by the publisher

Available Formats: Hardcover, eBook

My Review

When Jenn and Nicole announced their Book Club, I was excited to participate. Their first selection was A Thousand Rooms of Dreams and Fear by Atiq Rahimi and published by Other Press. The cover is beautiful and the premise, a young man on the run from the Afghani government in 1979 was even more intriguing. It is a short book, but don’t let that fool you. It is a deep and intense reading experience.

When we first meet Farhad, he believes he is dying in his room and he cannot get his family to hear or help him. His mind runs to his fears of the afterlife and he tries to dispel the ghosts he believes are torturing him by using the superstitious prayers his grandfather taught him. What he doesn’t remember was the beating he received the night before, out on the streets. Slowly, his situation and his unfamiliar location become clear to him. Then, new fears and worries take hold.

There was definitely something lost in the translation with Rahimi’s novel. First, I’m not from the same or even similar cultures or religious traditions, so I could almost feel subtext and dialog fly over my head. Also, I believe there was a lot of beauty in the author’s writing that is missed by English speaking readers. There was something about the structure that made me feel that way. It’s not that I took issue with the translators themselves. There are just some differences in languages that can’t be translated.

For all the cultural distance, I could very much relate to Farhad on a personal level. His gut reaction to imminent death is the strongest example. My religious views have been in conflict since I moved away from home, if not even before. With the current exception of attending Mass (mostly) weekly and seeing to my daughters’ religious education, there’s nothing else there. Despite the fact that I can’t much be motivated to do much more than provide my children some semblance of religious tradition within my day to day life, I would worry about going to hell if I thought the end was nigh. We’re worlds apart, Farhad and me, but his experience shed light on my own soul.

A Thousand Rooms of Dreams and Fear is a book I may not have otherwise read had it not been for Book Club. I am glad that I had the opportunity to read outside of my ordinary selections. I read it at the perfect time in my life, making it a rewarding read. I don’t know that this is a novel for everyone, but it certainly made an impact on me.


  • At 2011.02.15 08:14, Sandy said:

    That is the beauty of book clubs. I’m not sure I would read this book, unless I got into a mood where I wanted to work a little bit. I appreciate the impact it had on your psyche though. Sometimes these books come into our lives at the perfect time.

    • At 2011.02.15 09:45, bookspersonally said:

      Sounds like a beautiful book, interesting to consider the impact of translation on the feeling of a story. So great when a theme or idea in a book hits you right when you need it.

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        • At 2011.02.15 18:09, bermudaonion (Kathy) said:

          I read another book by the same author, so I know exactly what you mean. It was almost like the reader was kept at a distance. I wasn’t sure it was the translation or the nature of their culture.

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          • At 2011.02.25 21:12, Paula schuck said:

            This is a nice blog. One of the coolest blog names I have run into also


            • At 2011.03.03 10:47, S. Krishna said:

              I definitely want to read this book, so thanks for the review! I completely agree that often, the beauty of the prose is lost in translation in books like this. Sad, but it seems like there is no avoiding it!

              • At 2011.03.03 12:33, Jennifer said:

                Swapna, while some of the beauty is lost, I think it’s better to have the opportunity to read it translated than not at all. I think you’ll find this interesting.

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