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Book of the week: The Patience stone by Atiq Rahimi

Updated: Mar 20, 2019

For today's Book of the Week, the Book Office is taking you to the privacy of an Afghan home, in which a woman attempts to keep her unconscious husband alive, telling him the secrets she never dared sharing before. Atiq Rahimi's Goncourt-winning novel, The Patience Stone, was published by Penguin and translated by Polly McLean.

'You know, that stone you put in front of you... and tell all your problems to, all your struggles, all your pain, all your woes... to which you confess everything in your heart, everything you don't dare tell anyone...' She checks the drip. 'You talk to it, you talk to it. And the stone listens, absorbing all your words, all your secrets, until one fine day it explodes. Shatters into tiny pieces.'

'Do you know what? ... I think I have found that magic stone... my own magic stone.'

A young woman prays at her husband's bedside as he lies in a coma with a bullet in his neck. From outside come the sounds of tanks, gunshots, screaming and, most terrifying of all, silence. Inside, her two frightened daughters call to her from the hallway.

As she tries to keep her husband alive, the woman rages against men, war, culture, and God. As her mind appears to unravel, she becomes intensely clear-sighted. Now is her chance - her first ever - to speak without being censored. Her husband's body reminds her of the legend of the patience stone, a stone that hears all confessions until it explodes, and finally, spurred to new heights of daring, she spills out her most explosive secret.


Born in Afghanistan, Atiq Rahimi fled to France in 1984. A writer, film and documentary maker, the film of his first novel, Earth and Ashes, was in the Official Selection at Cannes, 2004. His novel, The Patience Stone, won the prestigious Prix Goncourt, and has been made into a film. His work is published in the UK with the support of PEN International. In recent years, he has returned to Afghanistan many times to set up a Writers' House in Kabul and offer support and training to young writers and film-makers.

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