Chapter 8 Writing Trauma, Writing Modern: Nadeem Aslam’s The Wasted Vigil and Atiq Rahimi’s The Patience Stone

In: Topography of Trauma: Fissures, Disruptions and Transfigurations

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Post-9/11 literature is a contested field. Once represented in fiction, trauma and suffering in post-9/11 Afghanistan are necessarily experienced individually and collectively across the globe. Local languages of victims and the cultural baggage behind those languages are translated, in most cases, into global languages of the literary market and professional psychiatry so that trauma and suffering are intelligible to a global readership. Such cultural translation often involves commodification of trauma and suffering as well as silencing of experiences irrelevant to narratives sanctioned by the dominant discourse of the global market. Novelists – especially those neither white middle-class nor native speakers of ‘global’ languages like English and French – are invariably caught in a dilemma of prioritising or sacrificing readability. Nadeem Aslam’s The Wasted Vigil (2008) and Atiq Rahimi’s The Patience Stone (Syngué sabour, 2008) seek to resolve this dilemma by their ecclesiastic use of modernist techniques. This chapter explores literary representation of trauma in the context of post-9/11 Afghanistan through analysis of these two texts. Set in post-9/11 Afghanistan, both novels choose to represent the protagonists’ trauma and its locality or time-specific nature paradoxically by appropriating European modernists’ textual strategies. In The Wasted Vigil, Aslam creates disruptions and displacements in the text like Joseph Conrad, T. S. Eliot and others to represent the kind of trauma and suffering rarely narrated. In The Patience Stone, Atiq Rahimi achieves this by his mixing-up of interior and exterior monologues and use of fragmented prose à la Imagists. By updating European modernist strategies, those writers extend the scope of post-9/11 literature and the possibility of literary representation of trauma and suffering.


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