by Khaled Hossein
reviewed by Sanskar Jhajharia
The unforgettable, heartbreaking story of the unlikely friendship between a wealthy boy and the son of his father’s servant, The Kite Runner is a beautifully crafted novel set in a country that is in the process of being destroyed. It is about the power of reading, the price of betrayal, and the possibility of redemption; and an exploration of the power of fathers over sons—their love, their sacrifices, their lies. A sweeping story of family, love, and friendship told against the devastating backdrop of the history of Afghanistan over the last thirty years, The Kite Runner is an unusual and powerful novel that has become a beloved, one-of-a-kind classic.
A gripping and emotional story of betrayal and redemption, The Kite Runner had me thrilled and moved, both at the same time. It tells the story of Amir and Hassan, the closest of friends, as good as brothers, and also experts in the art of kite flying. The two young boys live in Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, and this year they are going to try harder than ever to win the local kite-fighting tournament—a popular Afghan pastime, and this is Amir’s one hope of winning his father’s love. But just like the kites battling in the sky, war comes to Afghanistan, and the country becomes an extremely dangerous place.
In war, people are often forced to make great sacrifices, and the young Amir himself commits an act of betrayal, towards his best friend Hassan no less, which will haunt him for the rest of his life. Amir and his father are forced to flee Afghanistan for America, and The Kite Runner becomes the story of Amir’s quest for redemption – righting the wrongs he committed all those years ago as a boy in Kabul.
I have never been to Afghanistan before (I imagine very few of us have) but this book paints such a vivid mental image of life in Kabul during the early 70s (before the Soviet deployment of their Army there) that I feel as if I have some kind of first-hand experience. I am not saying it is an accurate picture of the real Kabul at the time, just that the image and the imaginary atmosphere seems very real.
The story is fast-paced and hardly ever dull. Hosseini’s writing finds a great balance between being clear and yet powerful, and not only is the story itself brilliantly constructed, but the book also explores the very art of storytelling. Amir himself becomes a writer, and he reflects on his experiences in the story as though his life itself were a piece of fiction (which of course it is!).
But I think the best bit about The Kite Runner is its sense of fate and justice, of good overcoming evil in the end, despite all odds. Without giving away the ending, Amir ends up back in Afghanistan and makes a very different set of sacrifices in order to set things straight. The final chapter of the book is perhaps my favourite, and one that I have found moving even when rereading it. The message behind the very ending could be interpreted differently by different readers, but personally I feel that it offers a small sense of hope for both the future of its characters, and perhaps for war-torn Afghanistan as well.
The ambiguity of Amir’s behaviour is also fascinating – while he deeply loves Hassan, he treats him with great cruelty. In a way, Hossein’s depiction of Amir recognises the casual cruelty of children who soak up the attitudes of the society in which they live, regardless of their own experiences. The danger of prejudiced attitudes towards minorities continues to feel very real, even far from Afghanistan.
The one reason why this book stands so close to my heart is because of the intricacies of human relations it explores- be it two friends or that of a father-son or even that of a husband-wife. This is a book which one can easily give his 14 year old kid because of the lucidity with which deep emotions have been dealt with. Another striking aspect of Hossein’s writing is the way he has presented the most important parts of the narrative leaving it upto the readers to decipher what the characters ought to be feeling. Finally if is something that I will always remember from this piece would be phrase “Zendagi Migzara” which translates from Afghani as “Life goes on”.
Character Development: 9/10
Emotional Connect: 10/10
Flow of Narrative: 8/10
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