Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Kite Runner..

"There are a lot of children in Afghanistan, but no childhood."

This led me to think whether I should be reading anything at all on Afghanistan or not - and the opportune time came in the form of fictional "The Kite Runner", a book a friend of mine suggested as a must read. I am not a big fan of Afghan writers, nor have I read anything on Afghans (most of the info I have on Afghans comes solely from "Kabul Express"). But having finished the book now, I must say it is a gem.

The Kite Runner tells the story of Amir, a well-to-do boy from the Kabul, who is haunted by the guilt of betraying his childhood friend Hassan, the son of his father's Hazara servant. (The Hazara are an ethnic group who are predominantly Shia Muslims and speak the Hazaragi dialect of the Persian language) The story is set against a backdrop of tumultuous events, from the fall of the monarchy in Afghanistan through the Soviet invasion, the mass exodus of refugees to Pakistan and the United States, and the Taliban regime.

But political events are only a part of this story. A more personal plot, arising from Amir's close friendship with Hassan, the son of his father's servant, turns out to be the thread that ties the book together. The fragility of this relationship, symbolized by the kites the boys fly together, is tested as they watch their old way of life disappear.

Some of the plot's turns and twists may be somewhat implausible, but Hosseini has created characters that seem so real that one almost forgets that The Kite Runner is a novel and not a memoir. At a time when Afghanistan has been thrust into the forefront of America's collective consciousness ("people sipping lattes at Starbucks were talking about the battle for Kunduz"), Hosseini offers an honest, sometimes tragic, sometimes funny, but always heartfelt view of a fascinating land. Perhaps the only true flaw in this extraordinary novel is that it ends all too soon.

The Kite Runner is the first novel by Afghanistani American author. Published in 2003, it is the first novel published in English by an author from Afghanistan. The novel was the third best seller for 2005 in the United States (leaving behind works to the likes of Da Vinci Code, The World is Flat, 1776, Angels & Demons, etc.). It was also voted 2006's reading group book of the year.

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