Earth and Ashes
Erdağ M. Göknar
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
"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.
maternal cousin, weeping, picked through the rubble for a piece of clothing or a scarf to use as a burial shroud. Your brother-in-law, lying next to a dead cow in the demolished barn, laughed as he suckled milk from its stiffened udder . . . But you had Yassin. He couldn't hear your sobs, but he could see your grief. With whom did you sit? Whom did you comfort? You wanted to run from everybody. You were like an owl perched high on a ruin, or in an abandoned cemetery. If it weren't for Murad, if
and blacker . . . The men coming down the hillside have faces that are even more tired and even more black. You don't want to look at these faces, the way you did when you first arrived at the mine. What if Murad were among them? You head towards the gate of the mine. You have only taken a few steps when a shout stops you: 'Father!' The voice is unfamiliar, thank God. You recognize the foreman's servant hurrying stealthily to your side. 'Father! What I say stays between us. They told Murad
like a newborn baby. You'd like to live again, if only for a day, an hour, a minute, a second. You think for a moment about the time Murad left the village, when he walked out through the door. You too should have left the village with your wife and children and your grandchildren and gone to another village. You should've gone to Pul-i-Khumri. Never mind if you'd had no land, no crops, no work. May the land rot in Hell! You would have followed Murad. You would have worked in the mines,
it and looks sympathetically at Yassin, then at you, then at the empty cup ... He prefers silence. Like a ghost, he withdraws into the shop. His hand reaches for a small bowl on one of the wooden shelves. He fills it with tea and hands it to you. 'Take a mouthful of tea, good brother. You're exhausted. You still have plenty of time. I know all the vehicles that go to the mine. If one comes, I'll tell you.' You glance over at the guard's hut and, after a moment's hesitation, take the bowl of
and pull out another, cleaner one, which you give to your grandson, Yassin, who is sitting next to you, his head resting on your tired arm. The child takes it in his small, dirty hands and brings it to his mouth. His front teeth haven't come through yet. He tries to bite with his canines. His hollow, chapped cheeks twitch. His narrow eyes become narrower. The apple is sour. He wrinkles up his small nose and gasps. With your back to the autumn sun, you are squatting against the iron railings of