Tuesday, 23 August 2011

The Kite Runner - There is a Way to Be Good Again

I don't even know how to start writing about Khaled Hosseini's first novel, The Kite Runner. Years ago I read his second novel, A Thousand Splendid Suns. I was impressed by the shaking story of two Afghan women, whose destinies intercross in the violent reality of Afghanistan. The double standard for men and women is most evident in Hosseini's second novel, and as a woman, I was deeply shocked and startled by the Muslim culture and its attitude towards the so called gentle sex.

The author is Afghan himself, but he immigrated as a child from the turbulent environment. First the communists and then the talibans, performed unimaginable terrorist acts in the country. I would not go into detail; we all watch TV. I would simply say that the story feels much more real, much more compassionate, and much more touching through the eyes of a local, who has seen the terror, escaped it, and now describes it from the point-of-view of one of the most democratic countries in the world.

While A Thousands Splendid Suns is a "women's" novel, The Kite Runner is a "men's" novel. In both, though the Afghan terror meets the American dream in stories that reveal the most extreme human characteristics. Unbelievable violence is followed by great compassion; terror is opposed to love; betrayal receives loyalty; hatred is overruled by love. Hosseini is amazing in portraying the problems of his own country and the inner contradictions of the human soul. These qualities transform him in one of the best and most influential contemporary authors I have read lately.

The Kite Runner is a novel about children and adults. It can be read as a criticism against violence in Afghanistan and as an ode for the everlasting friendship and loyalty. Amir and Hassan are raised together but their lives are completely different; Amir is a rich Pashtun, the high class in Afghanistan, who suffers from his father neglection and spends his entire childhood trying to impress him and deserve his love. Hassan is his best friend and his servant; he is a Hazzar though, which means his social status is much lower than Amir's. When the communists and subsequently the Talibans come to power, the Hazzars are subjected to persecutions, murders, violence, and extreme terror.

Amir and Hassan are more than friends; they are brothers. Their childhood is marked by Hassan's immense loyalty and Amir's regular harassments and provocations. Yet, they are inseparable; they play together, they run together, they read together, Amir participates in the kite tournament and Hassan is the best kite runner in Kabul. All is good until an act of violence against Hassan and an even more terrible act of betrayal from Amir. The political situation forces him and his father to immigrate to the USA. However, nearly 16 years later, Amir has to return to his home country and to atone his sins against his best friend. The situation has changed; Afghanistan is now more brutal and more dangerous than the young boy remembered it. But he has lived with the guilt of betraying Hassan and upon returning to his home country, Amir realizes he has to sacrifice a lot to help those that need him.

The Kite Runner is the most real, the most inspiring, the most touching novel I have read in years. I loved Hassan for his loyalty and bravery, for his friendship and protection for Amir, even though he was the one needing protection. I mostly loved him for his ability to forgive betrayal, to accept human flaws, to understand and to accept. I loved Amir, even though he was the weaker and the more afraid. The author says several times: "Fathers were rarity in Afghanistan". Indeed, Amir had a father but not a father figure. His constant struggle to feel worthy, his fear of punishment and danger, and his need of protection forced him to abandon Hassan. But should we judge him so severely? He was only a child. And in Afghanistan, there were more children but less childhood. This is Hosseini's second theme - the immerse suffering of the most innocent ones in a political regime that deprives them from their childhood, from their friends, from their families.

Mostly, though, The Kite Runner is a novel about redemption. We all make mistakes, some more terrible than others. But there is a way to be good again. It is never too late to act accordingly, to protect the ones we love, to confront our enemies, and to forgive our friends. The strongest are not the ones that don't make mistakes; the strongest are the ones that face them, accept them, and then have the courage to change them. It is never never too late to be good. Thank you Khaled Hosseini for reminding me that. Thank you for showing me the terrors of your own country. Than you for giving me hope that it takes only 1 person to change someone's destiny. Thank you for making me cry and then thank you for making me smile at the end. One smile doesn't mark the end of suffering and the beginning of happiness but it is a strong start.


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  2. I read the book several years before seeing the film but as far as I could recall the film stayed true to the book, only a few slight changes and worth watching.

    That region of the world is meant to be very beautiful but not tourist friendly at the moment. It is a shame what they did to the buddhas of Bamiyan.