The Patience Stone

The Patience Stone

By Atiq Rahimi

Chatto & Windus – £12.99

The Patience Stone evolves around one woman, one man and one room, which is omnipotently fine; but it’s abundant, ideological trajectory thereof, is something of a (poignant) problem – if indeed, so it be termed.

The author of The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini, has described this book as: ‘’deceptively simple’’ and ‘’written in a spare, poetic style […] part allegory, part a tale of retribution,’’ which to a degree, it most certainly is. Yet for as simple as it is, it’s hard to know where the author Atiq Rahimi is fundamentally coming from.

Set in Afghanistan, the book essentially revolves around a young woman who simultaneously cares for – worries and sexually fantasises about – and blames her husband, who lies in a bed in a coma: ‘’At the time, I didn’t even question your absence. It seemed so normal! You were at the front. You were fighting for freedom, for Allah! And that made everything okay. It gave me hope, made me proud […].’’

It is needless to say, a book that touches on a number of inflammatory issues such as love and war, marriage and dependence, sex and Allah – absolutely not to be confused with sex with Allah – but upon conclusion, leaves the reader both confounded and confused: ‘’Your mother, with her enormous bust, coming to our place to ask for the hand of my younger sister. It wasn’t her turn to get married. It was my turn. So your mother simply said, ‘’No problem, we’ll take her instead!,’’ pointing her fleshy finger at me as I poured the tea.’’

Set within parameters, where the passage of time is habitually measured in a combination of the slow drip which keeps her husband alive, and the regular call to prayer from the streets outside; one cannot help but be feel subliminally cajoled into a wanton, literary catharsis – which looms relatively large throughout.

Reminiscent of some of the French cinema of the early sixties – which too can end abruptly and vaguely – it’s no surprise this novel was originally written in the French language in 2008.

For as Syngue Sabour, it subsequently went on to win the Goncourt Prize.

David Marx


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