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The Kite Runner

by Khaled Hosseini

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini X
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
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  • First Published:
    Jun 2003, 368 pages
    Paperback:
    Apr 2004, 384 pages

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Asad Koraganie

Tuesday September 23, 2003 – 13:19 (1:19 PM)

I just finished reading the Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. The 324 page hardcover book, took me over four days or more to finish. I found it to be reckless with facts but a good Bollywood pleasing story.

The book can hold its own and yes, it makes me proud to see a novel about the city of my childhood by some one who actually came from there. It may not be the perfect study in the city geography, but it is OK and forgivable. It hold your attention for long periods, even when he sidesteps and intermingles plots within plots, or goes on a rampage of decorating scenes and creating ambiance.

In an interview with the BBC he states that his aim in writing his book in English was to introduce Afghanistan to those who did not have a good “picture” (understanding?) of Afghanistan. This, however, is a great responsibility to bear. One should be very careful in painting the picture he is presenting. Afghanistan is not a homogeneous Nation-State. A writer who is claiming to introduce this country to the world, must be able to show the full view of the entire quilt of the Afghan society or avoid the introduction of the ethnic puzzle altogether. Otherwise a skewed view will emerge as in “The Kite Runner.”

The Kite Runner, begins as an ordinary everyday novel, but progresses to become a full fledged Indian (Bollywood) movie script.

A stereotype of Kabulis, before the flood of the refuges in 1980s, was that every one came from Shar-i-Nau and all were members of the aristocracy. It showed that most Kabulis were not comfortable in who they were, they had to glue themselves to someone better (!) as to get things started on the right footing. Mr. Hosseini revives that stereotype once again by placing the residence of his protagonist, Amir, in Kart-e Wazir Akbar Khan (a community in Kabul for the nouveau riche) and makes his grand father an educated and prominent judge who had been hunting buddies with the King’s father. This is the Afghan way of legitimizing his position and assure his footing with non-Afghan readers. If he is to build his story, he needs some cushion. Since Justice in Afghanistan was based on the Islamic Shari’a and Hanafi (Sunni) Jurisprudence, judges in those years were, exclusively, Sunni Mullahs (with some seminary training). There were no judges with modern education appointed to the bench until the 1960s. The protagonist hints of the existence of a secular justice system in Afghanistan of his grandfather and not a highly corrupt mullah driven one.

Mr. Hosseini’s Kabul of the 1960s should not be much different from mine. I do remember a whole lot about life in that city. I remember Hazara domestics, porters, shopkeepers, small business owners, Pashtun beggars and Tajik water carriers (saqaw), wood cutters (chobe shikan), janitors (chaprasi) and Naddaf (cotton wool workers) as I remember businessmen, doctors, engineers, lawyers, University professors, intellectuals and high government officials from every ethnicity. Not all Hazaras were domestics and all Pashtuns beggars and all Tajiks naddafs. The book, seems to emphasize the rigidity of social cast system and the existence of ethnic hatred in Afghanistan. While there were obvious road blocks on the path of certain people’s advancement, there were no social cast system in Afghanistan. Hazaras were not the, slave like, servant cast of the Afghan society. There were hatred toward Hazaras, Pashtuns and Tajiks by each of the ethnic groups, as there were camaraderie and friendship among them. People of various ethnic groups coexisted with relatively few problems. The same people who were responsible for economic and social road blocks, were fanning the flames of the ethnic hatred as well. The genocide committed by the Trio of Satanic-Brotherhood (Ahmad Shah Massoud, Abdur-Rasul Sayyaf, Burhanuddin Rabbani) and the Taliban were the direct results of those policies.

There is a famous saying among Hazaras that “Blinds too notice when porridge is salty!” We all know that Hazaras are famous for their loyalty, honesty, work ethics and quick learning. He did not have to adopt Ali by the judge to guarantee his loyalty, but he goes and does exactly that, trying to builds a false image of magnanimity for the Pashtun, but then he fails to continue with the thought process. The Judge turns his adopted son into the personal servant of his biological one. Since the overwhelming sentiment is toward the natural servitude of the Hazara, it does not occur to him to have Ali educated and thus moved out of the predicament he is to encounter. What would he do with an educated Hazara?

As all Indian movies plots, once he begins victimizing the Hazara, he seems unable to stop it. <<edited for potential plot spoilers>>. Is this a metaphor for the Pashtun-Hazara relationship?

His Hindi movie theme continues, to make it more dramatic, he forgets to keep up with facts. For instance, soldiers whose tour of duty was no more than two years, remembered Hasan’s mothers who had ran away ten years earlier. Ali, an Hazara who grew up in a Pashtun household spoke Hazaragi and sang Hazaragi songs! Who did he learn his language skills from? Who did he practice it with? Where did he learn the songs? He marries one Hazara girl, she leaves him due to his impotence, he marries another w... like Hazara girl. She bore him a son, he doesn’t ask how? Is it because, after all, he is an Hazara and those things are quite common among them? The man who has actually fathered this boy is the “bear killing superman” Agha, the Pashtun lord of the house. He is ashamed of his doing, he loves his illegitimate son, but forgets to send him to school and educate him, even though, education was free and compulsory in those days. He goes further than his judge father and turns his one biological son into the personal servant of the other biological son. This is done to show that having a drop of Hazara blood disqualifies a person from everything but domestic service.

One should not forget that Hazaras who are portrayed as self admitting and accepting victims of atrocities, are in fact, the losers in the civil war of the 1890s. The war that took, not only, their positions, their independence, but their human dignity as well. There has been other civil wars around the world, where the victor and the vanquished have kept their dignity and their humanity. It is only in Afghanistan, where the victor gets all the spoils of the war and the vanquished loses everything including their human dignity. It wasn’t enough that they were massacred, their land was confiscated and given to Pashtun nomads, their surviving women and children sold to slavery, they had to become less than human as well. This has been advertised so heavily that it has become part of the national psyche of the Afghans. Mr. Hosseini, having been raised in that society, tries to prove that Hazaras are made to serve and they are too happy to fulfill their destiny. This is not story telling, this is not novel writing, this is character assassination on a national level.

Asad Koraganie


Farhan Ghazali

Unimaginative and cheesy
A shamelessly sentimental novel that tries a bit too hard to induce tears and tug at the readers' heartstrings. The book has the plot and feel of an emotional bollywood presentation. This is the story of two boys who grew up together as master and servant. The master could be cruel and harsh to the servant but the servant always took everything in his stride even when things got out of hand, so to speak. The servant's loyalty goes beyond the believable and right into the incredulous.

There are certain redeeming passages in the book and some insights into human psychology but they are few and far between.

Among quality English language fiction, this novel doesn't stand a chance but gains some respect if one is compassionate enough to put it in the perspective that it was penned by someone who comes from a country where there is hardly any work being done on furthering what little literary tradition the country had in the first place.

Though written originally in English, it reads like a translation. Some readers might argue that this distinction in language is what makes the novel stand out from the millions of others written by native English speakers but then it does feel at times that the author is trying very hard to write fluent, flowery prose.

In the end, the Afghani words grate on the readers' ears and fail to evoke the Afghani atmosphere which the author obviously attempted.

I think this novel could be divided into three distinct parts: the first part deals with the growing up years of the two boys in Afghanistan; the second is about the protagonist's life in the U.S.; and the third sees him returning back to his country to see his friend and uncle who is terminally ill.

For me, the third part was the most effective. The author did manage to evoke Afghanistan as a war-torn country with little or no hope in people's hearts.

In the end, everything is wrapped up a bit too neatly. And everyone got his due with utmost justice. [spoilers removed - bb]

Having said all that, at the very least, the novel was an easy, quick read.

My suggestion: Mr. Hosseini should read a lot more American fiction.
Josh

Why read this?
The Kite Runner Is a story about a young boy growing to be a man, and the unnatural challenges he faces along the way. The frustrating and sad read leaves the reader asking, “Why?”. That was the question I found myself asking the most. Whether it was why the character was placed as he was, or whether it was because the events in the book left me wanting to throw the book down my hallway.

The early events are a true account of loyalty, friendship, and troubles. But as the book progresses, it appears to be continuing down the latter path! Instances are not what they seem at first, and parts that seem uplifting and hopeful for the main character turn out to be angering or saddening parts.

On the plus side, it is an interesting read and gives us a slight insight on Afghani tradition. The characters also are very well made up in their certain characteristics. While reading the book I grew to get a feel for each of the characters and their ways. Not many books can get firm grasp on characters.

The final conclusion? No. 1 of 5 stars. The book has too many depressing areas and subjects. You find yourself just begging the author to make the story a bit uplifting at points; just even one single event to make you like the main character or the storyline. As for the Afghani insights, I've learned more from a half an hour show on the discovery channel; and that wasn’t depressing to watch.

The only objection I have to allowing The Kite Runner in high schools, is because of the depressing matters, and the angering instances. I do not think it should be banned because of that one instance though. Even though i despise the book, I do not feel that it has a reason to be banned from high schools. If a student is not strong enough to handle the “situations”, its pretty sad. The areas that were “explicit” were not even that much explicit. Very slightly disturbing. I found I was more disturbed with the main character and author for what he was doing than I was with the instance that was being portrayed.
brent honnerlaw

it says nothing, means nothing
Eric Clark

The author came down to Fitch High School to speak and I fell asleep. If the book was a true story it would be a lot better.

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