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Authors: Atiq Rahimi

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BOOK: A Thousand Rooms of Dream and Fear
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Hash fumes and mocking laughter spiral above my head. Someone in another group calls out,
'
From the ranks encircled of noble men: he who
resists . . .'

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

'...
Joseph said to his father: O Father, I dreamt that the sun, the moon and eleven stars prostrated themselves before me.'

 

 

 

'
. . . In the tale of Joseph and his brothers can be found many signs of divine wisdom to aid those in search of truth . . .'

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

'. . . With Joseph intent on escape and Zulaikha intent on holding him fast,
they both ran towards the door when suddenly Zulaikha's husband appeared. She cried out to Potiphar: Tell me how you will punish one who wishes to bring harm to your household! Does this crime not merit imprisonment or torture!'

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Thousand Rooms of Dream and Fear
is set at a time of acute political upheaval in Afghanistan. In 1973 Mohammed Daoud Khan engineered a coup that overthrew the constitutional monarchy and inaugurated the short-lived Republic of Afghanistan (1973-1978). However, Daoud Khan's rule was marked by corruption and instability and, when the formerly faction-ridden leftist parties overcame their differences to oppose his regime, political chaos and violent state repression ensued.

 

The Soviet Union became increasingly concerned at Amin's burgeoning power and his anti-Islamic stance; they were convinced the latter was exacerbating political unrest, particularly in the countryside, and they allegedly advised Taraki to get rid of Amin. But the attempt to have Amin assassinated was a failure, and instead Amin seized power on 14 September 1979. Taraki was killed in the violence (supposedly smothered to death with a pillow). Although his death was first announced in the
Kabul Times
on 10 October, there were conflicting reports of the actual date he was murdered.

Though the narrator of
A Thousand Rooms of Dream and Fear
makes few overt references to the political situation in his country, it informs the whole novel. It is also assumed that the reader will understand the powerful social prohibitions that Farhad is breaking by being alone with a woman who no longer has a husband, and that Mahnaz is challenging by allowing her hair to be seen uncovered.

 

The title
The phrase 'a thousand rooms' is a direct translation of a Dari expression that can also mean 'labyrinth'.

 

The epigraph
Shams-e Tabrizi was a thirteenth-century Sufi mystic who was the close companion of the great Persian poet Mawlana Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi (1207-1273), usually known as Rumi in the West. Shams was responsible for initiating Rumi into Islamic mysticism. After Shams's sudden disappearance in 1248, Rumi's grief and deep devotion to his friend found expression in his
Diwan-e Shams-e Tabrizi [The Book of Shams of Tabriz)
in which, as a sign of his love, Rumi attributed his own words to Shams. Poetry, especially that written by Rumi, has the highest possible status and importance for the people of Afghanistan.

Babur
The descendent of Timur (Tamerlane the Great) founder of the Timurid dynasty, Zahiruddin Mohammed Babur (1483-1530) made Kabul the capital of his empire. He was famous for the beautiful gardens and vineyards he planted throughout Kabul, many of which remained until the city descended into chaos during the civil war. After capturing much of present-day Afghanistan, Babur turned his attention to India, where he established the Mughal dynasty. But he never lost his affection for Kabul, and his body is buried there, in Babur's Gardens.

Bagh-e-Bala
The summer palace of Abdur Rahman Khan (Amir of Afghanistan from 1880-1901) was set on a hill to the north of the city, with a magnificent view over Kabul. In 1979 it was a place where young people would go to drink and hang out.

Barzakh
The period between death and final judgement when the fate of the soul remains undecided.

Book of the Dead
Abu Hamid Muhammad ibn Muhammad al-Ghazali (1058-1111) was one of the greatest Islamic theologians and philosophers of the Middle Ages. He was known in the West as Algazel. A Sufi mystic, his great work
The Revival of the Rehgious Sciences
made Sufism an acceptable part of orthodox Islam. Published in forty volumes, the final part,
On the Remembrance of Death and the Afterlife,
is commonly known as the 'Book of the Dead'.

Dervish
A Sufi ascetic and mystic. Traditionally, dervishes practice austerity and live a life of poverty and prayer, much like Christian mendicant monks. Like monks, some live in orders and others are solitary. The great Sufi mystic poet Rumi was the founder of the most famous order of dervishes, the Mevlavi, well-known for their 'whirling' dance, through which they attain ecstasy and spiritual insight.

Hafiz Mohammed Shams al-Din Hafiz
, or Hafiz of Shiraz (1325/6-1389/90) was one of the greatest lyric poets of Persia. A Sufi mystic, he had a profound influence on poetry in Persian and Arabic, especially for his mastery of the
ghazal.
Goethe was very affected by Hafiz's poetry. Hafiz was famous for his poems extolling alcohol as a means of attaining spiritual insight.

Haft Paikar
A book written by Nazemi Ghanjavi (c. 1141-1209) who is widely regarded as the greatest romantic epic poet in Persian literature, who introduced colloquial language and a degree of realism to the Persian epic and whose works form an integral part of the culture of Iran and Afghanistan.
Haft Paikai [Seven Portraits)
is the story of the Sassanid king, Bahram-e Gur, who discovers a mysterious room in his palace that contains the portraits of seven beautiful princesses. He goes in search of the princesses, each of whom represents one of the seven virtues.

Khosraw el Sheerin
(see
Haft Paikir)
A book by Nazemi Ghanjavi. Sheerin (?-628) was the Christian wife of the Persian Shah, Khosraw II. She was first immortalised in Persian poetry by Firdausi in his epic, the
Shahnama.
Around 1180, Nazemi retold the story, emphasising Sheerin's love for the master builder, Farhad. Khosraw was so jealous of their love that he tricked Farhad into constructing a tunnel under Mount Beysitoun; he then lied to Farhad, telling him Sheerin was dead, a He that caused Farhad to fall from the mountain to his death. As a result of Nazemi's work, Sheerin and Farhad became symbols of pure, unrequited love. Their plight is recounted in many poems, including Goethe's
Westoestlicher Divan.

Nafil
Practising Muslims are obliged to pray five times a day. These prayers are called: 'Fajr' (at dawn); 'Dhuhr' (at mid-day); 'Asr' (in the afternoon); 'Maghrib' (at sunset); 'Isha' (at night). 'Nafil' is the name for an additional, non-obligatory prayer, which can take place at any time.

Nakir
One of the two angels who are assigned to interrogate the dead before judgement day.

Ninety-nine names of God
Also known as the ninety-nine attributes of God (Asma' Allah al-Husna). According to Islamic tradition, Allah has ninety-nine names, each one representing one of his divine qualities. Repeating the names of God is a sacred practice, much as Roman Catholics will recite a litany of the names of saints. In this novel, Farhad recites the names Al-Ba'ith, meaning 'the resurrector', Al-Jabbar, meaning 'the irresistible, the powerful' and Al-Mumit, meaning 'the bringer of death, the destroyer'.

Munkar
One of the two angels who are assigned to interrogate the dead before judgement day.

Pul-e-Charkhi
Literally, 'the bridge that spins around'. A large pentagon-shaped prison near Kabul with a fearsome reputation for torture and murder. It was built in the 1970s during the regime of Mohammed Daoud Khan and is still in use today.

Shah-Do-Shamshira Mosque
One of the most important shrines in Kabul, marking the burial sight of an Islamic commander who was said to have fallen in battle against Hindu forces, even though he had continued fighting with a sword in each hand after his head had been cut off.

Tomb of Sayed Jamaluddin
A striking landmark in the grounds of Kabul University with huge black marble columns. The campus of Kabul University was built in 1964 with the assistance of the US under Mohammed Daoud Khan.

 

BOOK: A Thousand Rooms of Dream and Fear
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