Wednesday, April 30, 2008


The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini).

If the first casualty of the War on Terror (as with any war) is truth, Hosseini’s best-sellers The Kite Runner (2003) and A Thousand Splendid Suns (2007) are a terrific read if you want an insider’s view of the situation in Afghanistan. Remember the dictum ascribed to Zwi Werblowsky (Martin Buber Professor Emeritus of Comparative Religion at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem): ‘There are some things about a given religion which can only be understood from inside and some things about the same religion which can only be understood from outside.’ Hosseini gives us an insider’s insights into the lives of Muslim families in Afghanistan (and should help soften some of our bigotry about Islam).

Here we’ll look briefly at The Kite Runner. However, as the Chilean writer, Isabel Allende says, A Thousand Splendid Suns is ‘unforgettable’. For a review of that book visit here and for a summary of the Taliban’s less-than-creative (!) ways of taking the fun out of life start here.

Khaled Hosseini was born in Kabul (1965) and with his family sought political asylum in the U.S. in 1980. He is now a medico and an envoy for the UNHCR, deeply involved in the plight of refugees throughout the world.

Last time I looked there were 2348 customer reviews on for The Kite Runner. It was Hosseini’s debut novel, and offers dramatic insights into Afghanistan’s political turmoil, from the last days of the monarchy to the collapse of the Taliban regime. All that is backdrop to the story of two boys - Amir, the privileged son of a wealthy businessman, and Hassan, the son of Amir's father's servant (who are ethnic Hazaras). The boys are inseparable; they compete in kite-running competitions, and share dreams and stories, until something unspeakable happens, severing the relationship. After Amir and his father flee to America, the guilt and shame of that event still haunts Amir, who later returns to his war-torn country to rescue Hassan’s son after the Taliban murdered his parents.

Many of the great themes of literature and life are here: guilt and redemption, character and country, betrayal and loyalty, courage and cowardice and hope, war and terror and tragedy, children who are motherless and/or fatherless, bullying, rape, and the persecution of minorities...

We have to remind ourselves that this is a (haunting) morality tale – a novel, not a memoir. The plot twists are quite amazing (if sometimes implausible). When we meet ordinary people like these who are swept up in the turmoil of history, it ‘gives pause’ to our simplistic views about (a) how to relate to refugees, and (b) the kaleidoscopic varieties of belief inhabiting all major religions, in this case Islam.

The Kite Runner
was also produced as an audiobook read by the author, and was adapted into a film of the same name released in December, 2007. Hosseini’s official website is here.

Rowland Croucher
April 2008.

No comments: