Sunday, April 7, 2013

What women need: The Patience Stone

Until Khaled Hosseini, Afghanistan stories were not at the top of bestsellers lists. After him it seems everyone is trying to get a piece of this cake. But not everyone is Khaled Hosseini.
Atiq Rahimi is not a new author, in fact he's also a filmmaker and a prolific artist but until now he never got enough attention for his own work. Until he scored an introduction by the great Hosseini himself for this novel. If Khaled says this man is great, then he is. The faceless women of Afghanistan are finally getting their voice heard with the help of - men.
In Persian folklore, Syngue Sabour is the name of a magical black stone, a patience stone, which absorbs the plight of those who confide in it. It is believed that the day it explodes, after having received too much hardship and pain, will be the day of the Apocalypse. But here, the Syngue Sabour is not a stone but rather a man lying brain-dead with a bullet lodged in his neck. His wife is with him, sitting by his side, taking care of him and still resenting him for having sacrificed her to the war, for not being able to resist the call to arms, for wanting to be a hero, and in the end, after all was said and done, for being incapacitated in a small skirmish. But even though she is angry at him, she talks to him and finally tells him so many different things that she never told him when he was aware of her words and could even answer. She shares her secrets and desires and becomes more and more bold. Not only towards him but towards the outside world too. While in the streets rival factions clash and soldiers are looting and killing around her, she tells him the stories of her life that he never heard, tales of sex and love and anger and grudge. The latter two she holds for him because he mistreated her and never respected her. Her tale is shocking and unsettling as is the unfolding outside the window where war is taking place. Rahimi speaks of this war
and the horrors that take place outside this woman's home and inside it, with an almost bored, used-to-it tone. Because you cannot escape war seeping in through the walls, no matter how thick they are.

Of course it has already been turned into a movie and submitted as
Afghanistan's official entry for Academy award for foreign language film 2012.
The ending is as shocking as Afghanistan can be to any of us, I guess. But despite that, the story itself falls short. Why? Because it isn't deep enough, the story has great potential but the woman is not relatable nor is she believable, to be very honest. Her female voice is more than obviously provided by a man. The roots of her story seem shaky, the tree of her life not very convincing and her attitude a little out there and very inconsistent. I've read, heard and seen many stories of Afghan women and perhaps that was the problem. Yes, the hate and the love which she simultaneously felt for her husband were believable but I couldn't believe her actions.

Although the movie could probably be way better than the book, it shows that the director is actually the author himself. Perhaps he felt this way his story could be more accurately portrayed but this way he only made sure that the movie was just as equally unsatisfying as the book itself. The film was submitted as Afghanistan's entry for Best Foreign Language movie but was not nominated. During the movie I found myself thinking just how much successful would this story be, had it been told as a theater play. Who knows, maybe that's the author's next branch for this story. But given some bold and outrageous topics and words spoken, Afghanistan is surely not going to be keen on letting anything like this happen. Movies (and books) as such always bring up the question of how the religious leaders and strict believers will take it and whether there will even be any repercussions.
I am sure Afghanistan hides many, (probably too) many amazing women's stories but not everyone knows how to write them. Not all Afghan men, for example, who live in France or USA and remember the oppression. Why? Because not everyone is Khaled Hosseini.

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