Earth and Ashes

Earth and Ashes

eBook - 2010
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"You know, father, sorrow can turn to water and spill from your eyes, or it can sharpen your tongue into a sword, or it can become a time bomb that, one day, will explode and destroy you"

Earth and Ashes is the spare, powerful story of an Afghan man, Dastaguir, trying desperately to reach his son Murad, who has left his village to earn a living working at a mine. In the meantime the village has been bombed by the Russian army, and Dastaguir, with his newly-deaf grandson Yassin in tow, must reach Murad to tell him of the carnage. The old man is beset on all sides by sorrow, that of his grandson, who cannot understand, that of his son, who does not yet know, and his own, made even crueler by the message he must deliver.

Atiq Rahimi, whose reputation for writing war stories of immense drama and intimacy began with this, his first novel, has managed to condense centuries of Afghan history into a short tale of three very different generations. But he has also created a universal story about fathers and sons, and the terrible strain inflicted on those bonds of family during the unpredictable carnage of war.
Publisher: New York : Other Press, 2010.
Edition: Other press ed.
ISBN: 9781590513927
Characteristics: 1 online resource (67 p.)
Additional Contributors: Göknar, Erdağ M.


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Dec 30, 2016

A very short, but very enjoyable read. (I started it at bedtime last night, and finished it during lunch today.) An Afghani village is destroyed by the Soviet army in retaliation for the (apparent) assassination of some of their troops. Dastaguir and his grandson, Yassin, are the only survivors of his clan; they set out to find Yassin's father (Dastaguir's son), to tell him of the tragedy.
Yassin has lost his hearing from the bombing; the way in which Rahimi describes how Yassin views this is especially well-written. ("The bomb was huge. It brought silence. The tanks took away people's voices and left." Then, "What do they do with all the voices? Why did you let them take away your voice? If you hadn't would they have killed you? Grandmother didn't give them her voice and she's dead." And "Grandfather, do I have a voice? [...] So why am I alive?"
The story is told in the second person, so instead of hearing how some man named Dastaguir is dealing with events, the reader is placed into the situation himself - "you" see this, "you" hear that, "you" tell people the story of your village being destroyed, and it makes the devastation so much more personal; your grandson is deaf, and you're coming to tell his father (your son) that his wife and mother and entire family are dead. So much of what we hear about what's going on in the Middle East is impersonal, statistics about how many died, what town was taken, what new strategies our troops are using to win over the locals. Even though this book was written (in 2000) about the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, it personalizes the events that happened then, and what's happening now.

Dec 28, 2011

A short book that is important in that it speaks for those that be cannot speak for themselves. The brutalization of civilians combined with the non-accountability of foreign militaries as well as violent internal forces compels the world to remember times like these. The author holds the door open just a sliver so we may be able to see the tragic past of the Afghanis.

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