Atiq Rahimi: Three

November 4, 2021

The beautiful preface written by Rahimi for this special edition that holds three of his most well-known novels already made me want to stand up and applaud.

“By writing, I allowed myself to grieve, renouncing revenge; by writing I set sail into history, denouncing terror.”

Atiq Rahimi might be more renowned as a filmmaker, having won awards as a director at Cannes and other film festivals; but he is hands down the best Afghan writer I have read so far. For his literary work, he has been awarded the Prix Goncourt.

Earth and Ashes
“Have the Russians come and taken away everyone’s voice? What do they do with all the voices? Why did you let them take away your voice?”

These lines do not pierce the heart so much until you realize that they are spoken by a young child who was made deaf by the bombings, and he wonders where all the voices have gone.

A Thousand Rooms of Dream and Fear
There is an unbelievable sustained tension from beginning to end, and it is yet another evidence of the unique and gripping way Rahimi unravels a story.

The Patience Stone
I am almost a hundred percent sure that Elias Khoury’s Gate of the Sun was an inspiration. I have listed the many reasons why in my book journal, but I will spare people the detailed geeking out unless asked. Although it has stark similarities, Rahimi turns his whole piece into something entirely different — a cry about womanhood imprisoned in such a context, and a cry for womanhood in such a culture. In fact, it is written in memory of Nadia Anjuman, an Afghan poet savagely murdered by her husband. It is a work for which Afghans accused Rahimi of treason; but it is a homage to women, the victims of what he describes as a “cult of fear”. 

All three, tragedies. All three, realities. But all three, transmuted into great art. 

This book makes tangible a power that only the interdependence of life and art can yield. 

Gaston Bachelard: The Poetics of Space

April 7, 2021

Inside these pages is a realm where a poet is described as someone who speaks on the threshold of being, where poetry is a commitment of the soul, where an artist is a producer of light, where imagination is believed to augment the values of reality, where art is a phenomenon of the soul and an increase of life, a sort of competition of surprises that stimulates our consciousness and keeps it from becoming somnolent, where art’s intention is to redeem an impassioned soul, and where spaces must be loved.

It reads like a much-needed daydream; a daydream that pulled me away from distressing pandemic thoughts and spirited my mind away to an elevated plane. It addresses the musician, the reader, and the many aspects of my being. It beckons each of us to become poets, or at least, to listen more to poets. The world seemed to gleam whenever I looked up from the pages, and after making me sigh over its most elegant passages, it vivified my feelings toward words, my surroundings, light, shade, silence, and toward spaces internal and external, physical and metaphysical. It called my attention to the beautiful immensity of all these! My copy will continue to be revisited whenever the mind’s eye needs to retrieve lost sparkle.

_ _ _

The Poetics of Space is usually classified as a book about architecture, but it felt like so much more to me. I initially thought that describing it as such unfairly truncates it. It was only through subsequent readings that I understood how much it truly is about architecture, and how works like these continue to exert influence on one’s sensibilities long after turning the last page!

While reading Kazuo Ishiguro’s An Artist of the Floating World, Mathias Enard’s Tell Them of Battles, Kings & Elephants, and Jan Morris’ Venice, I noticed that I had suddenly become instinctively aware of the architecture and how spaces are respected in the books! I even realized that my favorite writers are those who are attentive to spaces. The Poetics of Space is turning out to be a magnifying lens for architecture in the real world and in literature, giving reading and living experiences more depth.

It is, essentially, a book about architecture, and to have thought that this description was insufficient only reveals that it is actually my understanding of architecture that is limited. Wasn’t Elif Shafak hinting at this in The Architect’s Apprentice? “For the eye that could see, architecture was everywhere.”

Architecture — when vouchsafed to the right mind, heart, and soul — is music, poetry, and many things in between.