A Thousand Rooms of Dream and Fear by Atiq Rahimi
Published by: Other Press
Published on: January 11, 2011
Page Count: 176
My Reading Format: Hardcover provided by the publisher
Available Formats: Hardcover, eBook
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.