Saturday, April 24, 2010
The Patience Stone
Over the course of three days (though it takes only a few hours; it's very short), I read The Patience Stone, by Afghan author Atiq Rahimi. The story is simultaneously realistic, a piece of absurdist theater, a monologue, and a parable. Some moves seem false, but only, I think, if the reader requires this to be one particular type of tale, when in fact it's several types of tales. It's even a meta-tale. The "patience stone" is a fabled stone that absorbs everyone's sorrows and that will, at the end of the world, explode. The reader becomes a "patience stone" as we're forced to listen to a woman pour out her previously unspoken sorrows to her husband, who lies unconscious with a bullet lodged in his neck. The entire book takes place in one room and, as if we were watching a play, we are never allowed to see beyond this room, though we hear sounds from beyond it. Certainly the story takes place in Afghanistan in a time of war, but it might be Iraq or another Muslim nation just as easily. (Though a few minor details probably fix it in Afghanistan, the country is never stated.) The author is male, but he effectively "vents" a host of female grievances and leaves us with a full picture of the possible roles for women in this society (all of which are viewed in the protagonist or through women she mentions).