Atiq Rahimi (author); A THOUSAND ROOMS OF DREAM AND FEAR; Other Press (Middle Readers: Fiction) $15.95 ISBN: 9781590513613
Byline: Michael Beeman
Twenty-one-year-old Farhad finds his life upended when he breaks a seemingly minor law in 1979 Kabul. The indiscretion that launches Farhad's nightmare is terrifying for its banality: returning from a going-away celebration with a friend who is fleeing Kabul, Farhad forgets the password he must recite to the soldiers of the newly-empowered Marxist People's Party who stop him. Savagely beaten, left to die in a gutter, mind whirling with pain and the effects of alcohol, Farhad must navigate an unfamiliar place that might be his home city, the land of the dead, or a sinister in-between.
In his half-dreaming, half-awake state, Farhad is taken in by a woman whose orphaned son has mistaken him for a father recently executed by the new government. Unsure of his own mind, Farhad plays this role, hoping merely to survive to see the morning's light, and places himself in this strange woman's hands. Farhad accepts this situation, explaining, "I'd rather I were having a nightmare than living my life."
Atiq Rahimi's slim novel is surreal and bleak, a glimpse into the nightmare that was the socialist experiment in 1979 Afghanistan, the beginnings of a decade-long Soviet occupation. Kabul is a city at the intersection of past and present, where the feared djinns from Farhad's childhood nightmares now wear...