Two Christmas presents

To receive lots of books for Christmas was a great joy – especially since my pile of books to read had shrunk to an all-time low and the holidays promised some free time to read. Which means that I can already write about two of these thoughtful gifts.
Book number one is The Patience Stone by Atiq Rahimi. Polly McLean translated it from French (original title: Sang-e Saboor). The story is set in Afghanistan – a chamber drama in the true sense of the word, since most of the plot takes place in one room. And if something happens elsewhere, it still feels as if everything focuses around the ill man in that very room. I felt acutely with his wife, who is trying to structure her day around nursing her husband, without neglecting her two small children, who are too young to understand what’s going on with their father. They worry about him eating a fly – unaware of the wider consequences of his unconsciousness.
For the woman, he is the ‚patience stone‘ who listens to her – her sorrows and her confessions. She takes the reader on the journey of her marriage. The atmosphere in the book reminded me of Death and the Maiden by Ariel Dorfman and I would really like to see it as a theatre production.

Book number two nurtured my current fascination with the writer and illustrator Judith Kerr. A Small Person Far Away is the third book of her trilogy about emigrating from Germany. Anna’s story is very moving, because she is always very present and acutely feels what’s happening to her in every moment – be it in England with her husband Richard or in Germany, where she goes on a very painful trip down memory lane. During a visit to her parent’s former house in the Grunewald district of Berlin, she suddenly feels like the young German girl she used to be – albeit momentarily. Confronted with her mother’s suicide attempt, Anna revisits their joint past as refugees in London, the hard times they shared and their sense of loss – a loss of a home and of a father and husband. Yet the sense of hope prevails. Of the people Anna meets in Berlin, I liked Hildy best. While reading, I thought of places and what makes a home, especially when Anna muses about her husband’s „unburdened“ nature and her sense of „where she belonged“. My fascination continues …

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