A Thousand Rooms of Dream and Fear by Atiq Rahimi

Monday, June 27, 2011

Title: A Thousand Rooms of Dream and Fear
Author: Atiq Rahimi
Genre: Contemporary fiction, multicultural fiction
Publisher: Chatto and Windus, 2006
Source: Received for review from NetGalley

Farhad is caught out after curfew in Afghanistan in 1979. Rescued by Mahnaz, a young widow, Farhad goes through "a thousand rooms of dream and fear" as he hallucinates, suffers, and tries to make sense of what has happened to him.

This was a raw, edgy little novel. I didn't particularly enjoy reading it, but it stayed with me, even inspiring a frightening little dream where I dragged myself through the dirt to avoid the flare bombs of an infuriated drug lord whose son I had inadvertently married (I have weird dreams).

The book begins with Farhad's confusion. The whole story is told within his mind, which is muddled from alcohol and a severe beating. "Have I got my eyes shut or is it dark? I can't tell," he begins. Every image confuses him as his grandfather's Islamic teachings, ghost stories from childhood, images of his family, and muddled memories from his beating crowd his mind. This can be frustrating at first, as we as readers also experience Farhad's confusion, but I found that this gave the story strength and power as I was forced to journey through the convolutions of Farhad's experience.

One interesting aspect of the story was Farhad's attraction to Mahnaz. He is torn between desiring her, this woman with him in such a forbidden situation, and seeing her as a mother figure, especially as she breast-feeds her brother, broken and disabled from his own war experiences. The short hours he spends in her home become the pinnacle of love in his mind, an experience heightened by his traumatic experience.

This isn't a novel I want to revisit, but I think it was worth the time spent reading it. Rahimi demonstrates the insanity of Afghanistan's oppression and a few days of one man's life upheaval. Don't expect to enjoy this novel, but do expect to learn something.

3 stars

Warnings for the sensitive reader: Violence, language


  1. This does sound interesting, but like it has a narrative structure that was hard to follow. It's a good find from Net Galley though!

  2. Sounds like an interesting insight into Afghanistan's life. Great review!

  3. Tiny Library - It was good that I got it from Net Galley because I don't think I would have read it otherwise. Not my favorite book ever, but certainly worth the read.

    Pepca - Thanks! It was interesting, although not my favorite book of all time.


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