Thursday, March 05, 2009

The Kite Runner

'The Kite Runner', written by Khaled Hosseini, is a novel based on Afghanistan, describing the plight of the Afghans over a quarter of a century. The readers see that plight through the eyes of Amir, the narrator. Amir is the son of a rich and very respected man of Kabul in the 1970s. But, as Amir grows up, he doesn't live up to the expectations of his father. It becomes clear that he has not inherited any of his father's talents and interests but is completely like his mother, who had died while giving birth to him. On the other hand, there is Hassan, their servant's boy who had not got the joy of seeing his mother either. Hassan's father had served Amir's family for forty years. Hassan was mainly Amir's playmate and did Amir's chores. Although Amir and Hassan were the best of friends, Amir noticed that Hassan was more courageous than him, too loyal to describe in words and was somehow loved by his father greatly, probably even more than his father loved him. So, Amir was desperate to win the local kite-fighting tournament in the winter of 1975 to prove a point to his father, to prove that he was worthy of being his father's son.

A kite runner , by the way, is someone who tries to run and gather the kites that fall from the sky after being snapped. Running along with many other boys and beating them all in the chase for the fallen kites and finally holding the kite triumphantly, also happens to be a very important part of the tournament. The one who gets the last kite to have fallen at the end of the kite-fighting, is considered to be almost equal to the one who wins the kite-fighting tournament. Now, Amir won the tournament and as the last kite fell, Hassan ran through the streets of Kabul to fetch it for Amir so that would get the double honour of both winning as well as possessing the last fallen kite. But, what happened to Hassan on that day is the event around which the entire novel revolves. He was sexually assaulted by three other boys. Although Amir went looking for Hassan and finally found him completely cornered by those three boys and on the verge of facing some painful, humiliating moments, Amir did not protest. He just runs away like a coward, being too scared of the other boys. But, when Hassan came home that night, the kite was still with him and he handed it over to Amir...

After that, Amir and his father were forced to flee to America when the Russians invaded Afghanistan. We see how Amir completes his studies there, gets married and gradually manages to bury his guilt about Hassan in the peaceful life that he leads there. But, what he does not get there is redemption. And,so, when Rahim Khan, their old and very close family friend calls him up to say that he is dying in Peshawar, Amir goes to Peshawar to see him. It is then that a whole lot of secrets about Hassan and his life after the Russian invasion are revealed to Amir and it is then that Amir decides to search for Sohrab, Hassan's now orphan kid. I will not give away the end of the story here, in case some of you have not read it. But, the story is so purely beautiful. I don't remember having liked a story so much after reading the Harry Potter books. And, now, this one is right up there with Harry Potter, being my most favourite book. It describes the relationship between two people, one belonging to the Pashtun tribe of the Afghans and the other to the Hazara tribe, one the cowardly master and the other , the ever-loyal servant and friend. As the story nears its end though, one does not find Amir a coward anymore. The Amir-Hassan persona seems to mingle in the end , with the words, " For you a thousand times over", being spoken by Amir just as they had been uttered by Hassan on that winter day when he had run that kite for Amir and the ending could not have been more perfect in this heart-wrenching tale.

Speaking of heart-wrenching, the novel also has another aspect. The readers learn about Amir, Hassan and Sohrab through the years when Afghanistan passes from one ruling hand to another. When Amir describes his and his father's journey to Pakistan in a fuel tank while fleeing from Afghanistan, the suffocation, the sufferings of the people crowded in the tank, the pitch blackness, I just felt that I could not read any more of that. Amir's American life, is , of course, way better and at one point, I didn't feel as though I was reading the same book. It was as though I had suddenly shifted to some other book. Yes, it becomes a bit boring also with the narrations about Amir's falling in love, every detail about his marriage, details of his wife's past life, about their not having children and about deciding not to adopt any children. But, when Amir again enters Pakistan and then, Afghanistan, I feel that the author was probably trying to keep the readers relaxed so that they would be able to overcome the shock of reading about Russian-invaded Afghanistan and fully absorb the bigger shock of reading about Taliban ruled Afghanistan. How can someone be so brutal and inflict such suffering on fellow humans and on those little children? Their terror becomes clear when the author says that although there are lots of children in Afghanistan, there is no childhood. Fathers are a rare commodity there. There are many more such heart-wrenching sentences in the book , describing a nation completely devastated, with the worst sufferers being the children. So, I feel that we are all very lucky. We get three good meals every day, have sufficient clothing and a concrete roof above our heads. Besides these, we have plenty of other things and yet, we waste everything. We have experienced all the joys of childhood while millions of Afghan children haven't and yet, we complain about the most minor things. After reading the novel, this situation seems very unfair and justice doesn't seem to be even-handed at all...

10 comments:

newsgroups said...

Hi,

Yes, it seems so unequal. But I think complaining is such connected to humans, that it will never stop. How rich people are. So I think you best can see it only as a reminder to enjoy your life, but don’t get feeling guilty.

But those children, who haven’t had a warm, save and peaceful environment to grow up in: I think it will be a problem that will last for a long time. Those children will grow up with difficulties: they might get problems with trusting people and building up good relationships. They might have get used to the ‘fight for your right’-attitude. The society will suffer from those problems. And it will lower the speed of the nation-rebuilding. And that is so sad!

While reading your sayings about the slow speed of the book in the American years of Amir, I wondered how it comes still that you have ranked the book so high?
For me, such a boring piece, would rank the book at once at a much lower level.
Was it that the rest of the story was so good, that it completely overruled this boring part?
Or was the part not boring, only written at a smaller speed but still interestingly written?

It’s the book of the movie, isn’t it? I remember that last year (or some years ago, I might have lost count), a movie with the same title came out. It gave quite some publicity, because of the war running in Afghanistan at the same time.

And last but not least; how did you do on your exams? I am sure you are glad that they are over now, and that you can enjoy your freedom and relax totally. Do you have vacation now?
If so, enjoy your days! And I hope you get good grades.

Greetings!

nanny

Kanchan said...

Hi,

The title of your post - The Kite Runner made me want to read it instantly. I have read and loved both of Khaled Husseini's books - The Kite Runner and A thousand splendid suns. Yes, when you read about what is happening in Afghanistan you really want to thank God for the things we do have and take for granted. Didn't we all feel the same way during the attacks in Gaza? Children are innocent victims of wars waged by adults. If only everyone realized that life is short and precious. On our death bed we are not going to think about the boundaries we expanded but about the people we've loved and those who have loved us in return.
As an individual the chances of changing this situation are slight and at times I feel helpless. Yet I firmly believe that a good deed a day, lots of social service and charity done regularly goes a long way towards making a meaningful contribution.
About the US part of Amir's life - it may be Husseini's attempt at bringing in lighter moments to his novel but unfortunately that's the way things are. The Afghans were forced to flee their country to keep their family alive. Here in Dubai too there are so many people from Afghanistan and their stories are very heart wrenching.

Dhrubo said...

Did you not think that the first 100 pages were so brilliant that they could only be matched by the closing words of the book?

Woodsmoke said...

First of all, belated happy birthday. What did you do?
After all, one doesn't turn seventeen every day!
Wonderful that you read the book. I enjoyed it tremendously as well. So much so that I am teaching the book in one of my classes.
My one complaint from Hosseini would be that the book could have been shorter or tighter. Like you I agree that the America portion is not done as well as the rest of the story.
Finally, one complaint from you, the reviewer, is that I think you give away a couple of very crucial turning points of the story. But no harm done, you are doing a good job when it comes to selling the book as well. :)

B. O'Hemian said...

Belated Happy Birthday :) I didn't have any clue when that was, otherwise would have called you.

Coming back to the post, that's a nice review. I haven't read the book, but your review makes me think about it. Good job :)

Kanchan said...

Hi again,
Your observations on the American bit of kite runner stayed on with me and so I ran a search on Hosseini and it turns out that the US is where his family sought asylum in 1980. On wikipedia they have mentioned the things that inspired him while writing this book. It's an interesting read.
BTW congratulations on turning 17. You write very well for someone that young. Well done!

Sauron said...

Since everyone's wishing you... belated happy b'day... Strange coincidence, I was discussing the book with a friend yesterday, and cribbing because someone flicked my copy before I could begin reading it. :|

But thanks to your review, I think I'll beg/borrow/steal and read... :D

Butterfly said...

@Nanny
No, I am not really feeling guilty but am, as you said, trying to view it as a reminder to enjoy the rest of my life.:-)

Well, I ranked the book so highly because the parts other than the American part were great and completely overshadowed the faults of the American fault. Had the American part been the main part of some other story or had it been a story itself, it would not have been boring. But, as a part of 'The Kite Runner', it was very boring. It doesn't quite match up to the other phases of the story.

My exams were good but, I don't want to expect much until the results are declared on the coming Friday.:-)

@Kanchan
Unfortunately, when the time for such social service for the children comes, no one seems to possess money.:-(

Hosseini does give us lighter moments in the novel through the American part, and maybe, they are otherwise not so bad and are also quite touching but as compared to the other phases of the novel, it seems so boring , no matter how much we try to view it as interesting. And, since you have mentioned about the information on Wikipedia, I'll read it too.

Thanks for appreciating my writing and fro the birthday wishes!:-)

@Dhrubo
I agree totally sir!:-)

@Woodsmoke
Thank You and I have already told you what I did. And, turning seventeen has given me an immense feeling of having grown up.:-)

Amader koto mil! Amra dujonei boitar byapare eki jinish pochhondo aar apochhondo korechhi.:-D

I am so sorry for giving away the crucial points. I know you warned me about this once before and I should have taken more care this time. But, I am sure you'll see that I have been very careful not to make such mistakes in my latest post.

@Subhadipda
Thanks for the wishes. My birthday was on 3rd March.:-)
I am sure you'll like the book when you read it.

@Sauron
Well, thanks a lot for the birthday wishes.:-)
Yeah, you had better read the book somehow, anyhow!:-D

newsgroups said...

I discussed this book with my sister yesterday. She told me that she had read the next book of the same writer too: Thousand splendid suns (or something like that).
She found that book even better than the ‘The Kite Runner’. So I think that you might like it too.
Greetings!

Woodsmoke said...

I just finished reading A Thousand Splendid Suns. Again by Hosseini. And it's written from a female perspective. My advice to Mr. Hosseini, not that he is even aware of the fact that I exist, but still:
Sir, please stick to writing from a male perspective. The switch is not verry convincing.