The last book I read is “The patience stone” by Atiq Rahimi, the Afghan-born French based writer and director. It is definitely not the novel we hear most about these days, but the symbolic and emotional dimensions that it carries are very powerful. I read it on a single mundane tube journey to my university (it’s very short) for it captivated my attention in an unusual way. The story is about a Muslim woman taking care of her bed-bound husband who has been in coma for a very long time after being shot in the neck. She repeats rituals given to her by the Mollah of her city with the optimism that it will save him from a condition doctors gave up on long ago. Her whole life became restricted to the repetitive act of talking to him all day long about what goes on in her mind. Soon enough, she starts pouring her heart out with everything she never liked about the way he treated her during the whole era of their marriage (he abused her physically and emotionally). Slowly, she starts telling him about her own secrets, that I will not reveal to avoid spoiling anyone who intends to read it. What I found most interesting in the book, is that the author makes an analogy between the husband who slowly starts to represent a symbolic stone to which the woman pours her heart out about every single one of her feelings. The analogy made is with الكعبة (the Kaaba in Meqqa) which is metaphorically considered to hold the feelings of every single prayer it listened to. The book conveys the idea of the stone “carrying the world’s problems” until it no longer can, which would refer to the end of the world.
What I liked most about this story is the fact that it had a powerful message hidden in a narrative that conveyed symbols in an unusual way. I would have never thought of this analogy by simply reading about a woman talking daily to her husband about what goes on in her mind. However, the way the author placed this image, gradually leading the reader to this discovery was to me a very original and unexpected literary achievement. Reading this novel was a way of questioning tradition in a particular way. Without ever feeling that the author targeted directly this issue, I was guided to find the wrongdoings that should have never existed and the rights that the main character craved all along her life. “The stone of patience” is one of those books that enables you to see fiction as a tool for better understanding the hidden dimensions of reality. The writing style of the author can seem to be confusing or even bothersome at first, as it consists of a mix of precise description and very short sentences, sometimes even a single word that tells you more than you thought you could know…However, the more you read, the more you realize that it is what makes the narrative so captivating as it fills the story with an interesting punctuating rhythm.
If you are looking for a special story that truly challenges the widespread assumption that fiction cannot effectively address important social matters, this is the right book!