The Kite Runner

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“A devastating, masterful and painfully honest story” – DAILY TELEGRAPH

“Shattering ….. Devastating and inspiring” – OBSERVER

“Balances socio-political commentary with an emotionally powerful narrative” – INK

“Hosseini is a truly gifted teller of tales…….he’s not afraid to every string in your heart to make it sing” – THE TIMES

These were just some of the words that have been used to describe what I call a modern – day classic. There is just one word I have for the Kite Runner – masterpiece.
The book released in year 2003 and remains on the top ten bestseller lists even today.

Set against the backdrop of a war-torn Afghanistan, the story has all the ingredients to make for an interesting read. It describes the physical, mental and emotional journey of a young Afghan boy who flees his country as it is invaded by the Russians, settles and tries to make a life in the land of dreams – the USA. However, fate calls him back to his homeland to achieve something only Afghanistan can give him – redemption.

What makes this book different is the style of writing which is forceful and fearless. The bold use of imagery which conjures horrific pictures in the minds of readers gives this book a unique appeal.

You cannot help but identify with the characters in this novel. You may have never encountered the situations they are trapped in, yet there is a connection. A connection which lingers well after you put the book away. A connection you are reminded of every time you read about the situation in Afghanistan.

Yes, the book is dark. As it moves from one loss to another in the lives of people living in a ravaged country or explores the internal dilemma of the central character, it hurts you. Yet, therein lies the power of this book. It manages to invoke a strong feeling in you. It makes you think about the plight of millions of innocent people struggling to survive every single day. It makes you appreciate what has been given to you by the supreme power that governs us all.

The main characters in this novel are two boys: Amir& Hassan. Amir is the son of a rich Pashtun while Hassan was his loyal servant cum playmate & was a Hazara boy. They would spend days together playing & most importantly flying kites. The annual Kite flying tournament was most important to Amir so that he could impress his father and be the centre of all attention.
Being a Hazara (a member of a low-caste) Hassan is often jeered at and this discrimination culminates into him being raped by the boys belonging to a local street-gang. Though Amir witnesses the incident, he does not have the courage to bring it up & his relationship with Hassan changes forever.

In 1975, the Russians invaded Afghanistan. The book describes the anguish that Amir faced through this period when his father & he fled to America in a painful and forceful manner. It causes you to feel the turmoil of the situation & imagine how you would feel if you were in their position.

The rest of the book explores Amir’s journey in the USA and how he makes a small life for himself and his father.
The most important part of the book is Amir’s return to Afghanistan in 2001. It marks a journey of redemption of what Amir calls “unatoned sins”. He returned in response to Rahim Khan’s (a friend of his father) call from Pakistan. Upon reaching his destination, he discovers that Hassan & his wife have been murdered by the Taliban and it in now his task to rescue their orphaned child. Weighed down by his guilt of an uncaring attitude towards Hassan in the last few weeks of their togetherness, Amir embarks upon an impossible journey through Afghanistan to find Hassan’s son. He emerges victorious in the end and is able to redeem himself in his own eyes for his sins.

The characters of this book are very realistic. Amir, the central character, seems to be a man who is unfulfilled and weighed down by guilt till the very end of the novel. He feels it is somehow his fault that he could not help Hassan on that fateful afternoon. Amir strikes you as a regular man caught in a storm. Yet, he displays utmost courage in the second half of the book when he skilfully rescues Hassan’s son. Subtly & skilfully, the author adds bits of strength to Amir’s character in this part of the book.

Hassan’s character – loyal, submissive, full of love for his master, brings tears to your eyes. His immense sense of sacrifice and utmost devotion to do anything desired by Amir causes you to love him. Hassan not only evokes love but also sadness. It forces you to wonder what this innocent little boy did wrong to deserve such a fate. His character, I feel, is the most unfortunate in the book as he is constantly discriminated against throughout his life. All his attempts towards building a normal life for himself are thwarted by external factors well beyond his control for no fault of his.

The author successfully brings out the panic and lawlessness in Afghanistan.
In a letter Hassan says – “Alas the Afghanistan of our youth is long dead. Kindness is gone from the land and you cannot escape the killings. Always the killings. In Kabul, fear is everywhere, in the streets, in the stadium, in the markets; it is a part of our lives here. The savages who rule our watan don’t care about human decency.”

The author uses such forceful language that the reader is alert at all times. He describes executions, killings, massacres, abductions, poverty, hunger, helplessness, lawlessness all in one breath.

He uses words to create a picture of the horrors inflicted on the innocent civilians in the minds of every reader. He gives a meticulous analysis of every element in scene yet he leaves some particulars to imagination so that the reader is forced to think and imagine the situation.
While describing an execution he says – “Two Talibs with Kalashnikovs slung across their shoulders helped the blindfolded man form the first truck and two others helped the burqa- clad woman. The woman’s knees buckled under her and she slumped to the ground. When they tried to lift her again, she screamed and kicked. I will, as long as I draw breath, forget the sound of that scream. It was the cry of a wild animal trying to pry its mangled leg free from the bear trap.”
This sort of a description just leaves one stumped, at a loss for words. The grief hits you, it troubles you, it hurts you at every stage in this book.

The author shows fearlessness as he opens a Pandora box of the secrets of Afghanistan. He dwells on plight of a population caught in armed conflict and he demonstrates how each day is a struggle to stay alive. His powerful use of words coupled with imagery leaves an impact on the reader. This novel is a modern classic, one that shall be read and re-read for generations to come.

Mitali Nikore

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