Excerpted from A Thousand Rooms of Dream and Fear by Atiq Rahimi. Copyright © 2011 by Atiq Rahimi. Excerpted by permission of Other Press, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
1. The translator, in her note, remarks that the title's phrase "a thousand rooms" is a direct translation of a Dari expression that can also mean "labyrinth." Why would Rahimi title his story this way when the narrative is largely relegated to one room? What might the "thousand rooms" be? If Mahnaz's home is a kind of labyrinth to Farhad, would you say that Farhad manages to make it through the maze?
2. In what ways do both "dreams" and "fear" enter Mahnaz's house and Farhad's mind? How does their interplay shape Farhad's perceptions as he slips in and out of consciousness?
3. Candles and images of light and darkness run throughout the novel--how does Farhad understand these images, and why is that significant?
4. On page 63, Farhad theorizes that his father left his mother because she "lost her fear of having sex?" What does this say about the role of women in this society? What kind of expectations does Rahimi imply a man in Kabul has of his wife?
5. Many of the characters in the book struggle from a kind of voicelessness. Mahnaz's veil covers her face, concealing her emotions. Moheb literally can't speak, due to the torture he's endured. Even Farhad often finds himself unable to articulate his emotions, questions, and feelings to Mahnaz. Why do you suppose Rahimi focuses so much on what his characters can't say? How does this inform the progression of the narrative?
6. In addition to 'voicelessness,' how do instances of deafness, blindness, paralysis, and impotence affect the story?
7. What role do carpets play in the book? Why might Farhad perceive them as both good and evil?
8. In some ways, Rahimi symbolically illustrates a marriage between Farhad and Mahnaz. How and why do you suppose he does this? What might it mean that Farhad, like his father, leaves his 'wife and child (Yahya)' for Pakistan? Why would Rahimi draw that parallel?
9. Farhad has no awareness of the passage to and from Mahnaz's home, as the first time he is unconscious, and the second time he is wrapped in a carpet. Why might Rahimi make this choice?
10. What is the significance of the story of Joseph, recounted near the end of the novel? The mosque's cleric says, "Consider the plight of Joseph....never forget that women are the temptation of the devil!" (pg. 139) But Farhad's interpretation is much different. What does he mean when he says "I take my rest in the strength of Zulaikha's love"? (pg 141)