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The Patience Stone by Atiq Rahimi

The Patience Stone (2008)

by Atiq Rahimi

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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English (22)  French (4)  Catalan (2)  Spanish (2)  Dutch (2)  Danish (1)  Norwegian (1)  All languages (34)
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Disappointing read. I expected so much out of this book, with such a plot, but it is entirely wasted. It was over before I could connect with the woman. It failed to make any impact on me. Reading this felt utterly pointless. ( )
  petrificius | Apr 12, 2016 |
The entire story takes place in one room of a small house in Afghanistan. The husband has been wounded by a gunshot in his neck and he now lays comatose on the floor with his wife tending to his medical needs. As she comes to realize that he will never awaken she begins to tell him her deepest secrets and feelings. She had been told that there is a large black stone called the "sang-e saboor", or patience stone, to which the devout Afghan Muslims can tell all of their troubles and anguish and the stone will absorb all of their troubles. When it can hold no more it will explode and that will be Armageddon. The wife sees her husband as her own personal patience stone and, at first, tenderly tells him how much she needs him but soon her thoughts turn to the suppression of all Afghan women and the hatred she feels for his treatment of her. All the while the war continues outside of the small house bringing occasional terrifying moments when soldiers enter the woman's home.

I wanted to like this book so much more than I did as it sounded so interesting and it won a prestigious literary award in the author's adopted homeland of France. I'm sure the author wished to express an Afghani woman's frustrations, in this case mostly sexual frustrations, but I was disgusted by a great deal of the woman's actions. I do believe that the woman was slowly losing her grip on reality by the book's end (and what an ambiguous ending it was) so some of it may be understandable. It would have earned a '1' star rating from me but I do applaud the author for shedding light on some women's plight in an oppressive culture.
( )
  Ellen_R | Jan 15, 2016 |
This very short book would have been a definite four star read if the ending had not been so mystical. I found it in the course of searching for any new writing by the author of The Kite Runner. (He wrote the introduction to this selection.) It is the story of a Muslim woman, probably in Afghanistan, who is tending her comatose husband who is suffering from a bullet wound received as a jihad fighter. She is in their home in a deserted village and surrounded by fighting. Even though there is never any response, she talks to him constantly as she changes his feeding bag and bathes him and changes his clothes. The entire novel is her "confession" of their life together. She tells him things that she would never say if he were well. The reader gets a picture of the oppression she has suffered and the confusion she experiences, as she alternates between prayer and anger at her religion and her station in life. ( )
  TheresaCIncinnati | Aug 17, 2015 |
The Persian legend of the sang-e sabur, the Patience Stone, is that it absorbs all confessions until it bursts and frees you from all your torments. An Afghan woman sits beside her wounded, comatose husband and slowly begins to tell him her secret resentments and confessions. With each thing she reveals, she feels freer.

It seems clear to me that Rahimi means this, as Khaled Hosseini says in the introduction, to be a voice for marginalized Afghan women...or, in fact, for all women who have been suppressed and silenced. The universality of the narrator's feelings is a matter for each woman to decide for herself but I think there's no question this story will evoke a reaction: outrage, affront, discomfort, empathy, whatever...depending upon the moral/social/religious makeup (and, perhaps, the gender) of the reader.

What keeps it from a topmost rating is that there's an air of staginess about the story. Everything from the detailed descriptions of the set, to the noises heard offstage that give the actor something to which they respond, to the paced dialog feels as if it was written as a script rather than a novel.

Yet, well worth reading. The Prix Goncourt committee agreed, if their taste tends to coincide with yours. Personally, I found it a single-sitting read. ( )
  TadAD | Mar 9, 2015 |
This novella is set in a room in a house, in a town under siege in Afghanistan. A woman is tending her husband who appears to be in some kind of open eyed coma, the result of his war experience. The bulk of the story is the woman talking to the man, tending him, sometimes withdrawing care as her courage to speak words that she has kept inside increases. She uses these words increasingly as a weapon as the days go by. She has two young daughters in the house, the oldest about 3-5, who she pays little attention too, and who are eventually taken to stay with an aunt.

For such a short novella (136 pages) it has a heft to it. The woman has been married to this man for ten years, but they have only been together for 3 years. She was engaged to him by an arrangement between their parents while he was at war. She ‘married’ him in absentia. It is unclear whether the 3 years together were the final three consecutive years, or whether they totalled to three years over the last 5-6.

There is so much that I can’t write here as the possibility for spoilers is immense, and very much about interpretation.

I think this story could be read on many levels. It is a woman who finds her tongue. Says and does things she would never have been able to say and do were her husband fully alive. We have no idea of his conscious state beyond that his eyes are open and he is breathing. There is quite a powerful story of abuse and sexuality unravelling, hers and the stories of those around her.

There is an incursion into this space by two young men, whom she tells she is a whore in order to prevent them raping her. However the younger of the two keeps returning, and persuades her to have sex with him over time, he is too young to understand why the older man does not rape her, because raping a whore would sully himself, and would not be a conquest. The younger man is a virgin until she has sex with him. She does this several times, in front of the silent man.

In our reading group, everyone, as did I, accepted this story as a personal story about these characters, but as I have been thinking about it I am wondering whether it is a kind of metaphor of the story of Afghanistan and its history. I need to think on that more.

One or two in our reading group felt the sexual aspect of the novel was gratuitous. In the context it was in I did not. Others felt that as the writer was male, although the story was more about the woman, that it played more to a male fantasy. Again, I didn’t get this feeling. The writer is an Afghan who was raised mostly in France.

Not a comfortable read by any means, but a thought provoking one. ( )
  Caroline_McElwee | Feb 4, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 22 (next | show all)
Although Rahimi creates a specific person, he never attempts to create much empathy. The woman pays a terrible price for self-revelation and the reader gains no more insight than might be gleaned from a garbled nightmare inspired by a late night-news item about the atrocities in Afghanistan.
added by lkernagh | editThe Independent, Alev Adil (Feb 26, 2010)
It explores fundamental questions: love, sex, marriage, war and the repression entailed by a demanding religion. Rahimi gives his heroine a voice to speak the woes and indignities suffered by tens of thousands of women in the Muslim world, who have been marginalised, maltreated, and condemned to silence and endurance.
added by lkernagh | editThe Scotsman, Allan Massie (Feb 6, 2010)

» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Atiq Rahimiprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Estany, ImmaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Polly McLeanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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From the body by the body with the body
Since the body and until the body.
-Antonin Artaud
This tale, written in memory of N.A. - an Afghan poet savagely murdered by her husband - is dedicated to M.D.
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The room is small. Rectangular.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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In Persian folklore, Syngue Sabour is the name of a magical black stone, a patience stone, which absorbs the plight of those who confide in it. It is believed that the day it explodes, after having received too much hardship and pain, will be the day of the Apocalypse. But here, the Syngue Sabour is not a stone but rather a man lying brain-dead with a bullet lodged in his neck. His wife is with him, sitting by his side. But she resents him for having sacrificed her to the war, for never being able to resist the call to arms, for wanting to be a hero, and in the end, after all was said and done, for being incapacitated in a small skirmish.… (more)

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