The Kite Runner by Afghan-American writer Khaled Hosseini tells the fictional tale of two unknowing half-brothers growing up in Afghanistan. Born of the same father yet both growing up motherless, Hosseini gives us one brother betraying the other to the brutal attack of a childhood bully. The father proves guilty of the crime of “stealing the truth ” of the identity of the two brothers, owing to the dictates of a stringently ancestral legacy likely still alive today. The tale leads us to a sticky sense of redemption for these Afghan characters experienced against a background taken through the turn to the twenty-first century.
The story at first strikes me as an education in Afghan culture for an American audience, teaching us about a male dominated culture steeped in armed conflict dating back to the time of Alexander the Great. The modern history dates back for the country called Afghanistan today was relatively peaceful through the early 1970s, which is when the children characters begin experiencing childhood together in the era before heavy armed conflict between Afghanistan and the Soviet Union of that era.
One large theme of this book stakes the reader to the feeling of the caste society of rich and poor in Afghanistan. We see well-to-do Pashtun born Amir, receiving the luxury of education, luxury, servants, and the craving of affection from his father, Baba. We also see Amir bonding with Hassan, a Hazara, spending his day after servanthood “kite fighting” in the hitherto peaceful city of Kabul. The two are close, though one treats the other as a superior given the Afghan culture that they were gifted.
Amir and Hassan suffer a serious childhood split, following a tournament kite fight in which Amir had finally won the affection of Baba. The split came when Hassan, in retrieving the kite, encountered the childhood bully Assef. Assef seriously assaults Amir in a grotesquely graphic way, wherein Amir should have intervened yet did not. Hassan shares this story with his servant guardian, and the two (Hassan and the guardian) leave the service of Baba and Amir as a consequence. Hassan would never see Amir or Baba again, and it isn’t until after Baba dies in America with Hassan that we learn Hassan’s true lineage.
Hassan had grown up the poor servant of an Afghan culture who could not receive basic education or healthcare. As part of that reality, Hassan grew up with a cleft lip until near the time of his split with Amir. It was shortly before the kite fight beating that Baba had paid to have Hassan’s lip repaired “as a birthday present.”
More than a decade after Baba’s death in America, after Amir had taken Soraya as his wife with the blessing of Soraya’s family as well as Baba, Hassan’s guardian had made contact with Amir with regards to a mission of redemption. Through that mission, Amir goes back to Afghanistan and among several things learns that Hassan has died. We see the rise of the Taliban, the deterioration of Afghanistan from the country experienced in Amir’s childhood, and the discovery of Sohrab, Hassan’s son, in an orphanage. The Taliban had killed Hassan and his wife.
Assef, the childhood bully that inserted himself between Hassan and Amir, was now a member of the Taliban. Assef stood between Amir and his access to Hassan, as in Assef had inflicted the same treatment on Hassan’s child, as an adult, that he had inflicted upon Hassan as a child. The redemption story for The Kite Runner involved Assef beating Amir within an inch of his life, thus assuaging Amir of guilt over Hassan. Amir escaped Assef with Sohrab, adopts Sohrab with Soraya, and then briefly comments on an Afghanistan and United States following the events of 9/11.
I rate this book highly for the cultural education, the familial themes, the ability to feel things with the characters, and the overall authenticity with which the full package of this was delivered. My sense is that this book would make Hosseini unpopular in certain Afghan circles, so it is in recognition for speaking a hard perspective that I also recognize this book. My rating of this book is 4-stars our of 5.
Matt – Sunday, June 25, 2017