Earth and Ashes – Book Review

Over the four years Murad has worked at the mine, you haven’t had a single chance to visit him. It’s been four years since he entrusted his young wife and his son Yassin to you and left for the mine to earn his living.

The truth is, Murad wanted to flee the village and its inhabitants. He wanted to go far away. So he left…Thank God he left. – from Earth and Ashes, page 12 –

Dastaguir, an Afghan man, is traveling to see his son who years earlier left his village to work in the mines. Dastaguir’s young grandson, Yassin, accompanies him. As they sit waiting for a ride to the mine, dust billows around them and the reader learns that Yassin is newly deaf after a Russian attack on Dastaguir’s village has left its mark.

Written in the second person point of view, Earth and Ashes is a poignant, heartbreaking novella about grief and the family bonds between father and son. Rahimi has distilled down centuries of Afghan history into this short tale about a father’s journey to deliver the devastating news of war to a son who he has not seen for years. The prose is stark, yet surprisingly poetic. Rahimi’s economical delivery of the story makes its impact dramatic. Squeezed into 67 short pages, Earth and Ashes covers large themes such as loss, identity, and the heavy weight of grief.

Rahimi’s ability to develop complete and empathetic characters using very few words speaks volumes about his talent. He captures the innocence of childhood brilliantly in his portrayal of Yassin who does not understand his own deafness, but instead believes the Russian bombs have stolen the voices of those around him.

“They must’ve come and taken the voice of the shopkeeper and the voice of the guard…Grandfather, have the Russians come and taken away everyone’s voice? What do they do with all the voices? Why did you let them take away your voice? If you hadn’t, would they’ve killed you? Grandma didn’t give them her voice and she’s dead. If she were here, she’d tell me the story of Baba Kharkash…No, if she were here, she’d have no voice…” – from Earth and Ashes, page 32 –

Readers might be interested to learn that Earth and Ashes has been adapted to film which was in the Official Selection at Cannes in 2004 and went on to win several prizes.

Rahimi’s slim novella packs a big punch. Readers who enjoy literary fiction and works in translation, will want to pick up a copy of this book.

Highly recommended.

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    • EL Fay on August 20, 2010 at 17:21

    Thanks! I’ll definitely be reading this one.

  1. Absolutely beautiful and tough to read, I’m sure — I may want to pick this one up!

  2. I hope to read this one soon. It sounds like a thought provoking book.

    • Trisha on August 21, 2010 at 05:56

    I love those quotes! Thanks for the suggestion.

    • Amy on August 22, 2010 at 05:49

    This sounds really interesting, it’s on my wish list!

  3. I am adding this book to my wish list. It sounds wonderful, and like something that I would really like a lot! Great review!

    • Wendy on August 23, 2010 at 07:31

    El Fay: You’re welcome – looking forward to hearing your thoughts on it.

    Coffee and a Book Chick: I hope you’ll get a chance to read this one and share your thoughts on it…

    Kathy: It packs a punch for such a slim book.

    Trisha: you’re welcome!

    Amy: I’ll look for your review some day!

    Zibilee: Thank you! I think you’d like this one!

    • Sandra on November 2, 2010 at 12:28

    I’ve just read and posted about this book for the November Novella Challenge. I rated it at four and a half stars too funny enough. I didn’t know it had been filmed but it’s such a powerful story I’m sure it made a good one. I’ll add your link to my post if you don’t mind. A nice review it is too. I have another of his books and will reading it soon.

    • Wendy on January 23, 2011 at 20:54

    Sandra: Forgive my late response to your comment – I just read A Thousand Rooms of Dreams and Fear by Rahimi – and it is just as good as this one! Glad to hear you are enjoying his work!

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