Sunday, May 28, 2006

The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini

At the beginning of this month something peculiar happened. The internet service provider ran away with his entourage leaving behind woeful customers, I being one of them. On my part I tried to track him down and make him answerable but after a few unsuccessful attempts I gave up and decided to put my energies else where – what else, but at finding a new service provider. At first I felt really sorry to have lost my internet world but soon pulled myself together and decided that this was a fine chance to try and rake up another world. So I read. I finished reading The Kite Runner. It is easily the best book that I have read in the recent past.

Authored by Khaled Hosseini, the narrative is set in Afghanistan
and the US. It is a story about the relationship between two "friends" belonging to two different ethnic communities of Afghanistan - one dominant, the other, marginalised. Their relationship becomes yet more complex because one is the master, the other his “servant”. Not only that, the political milieu adds some more complexities to the relationship. The master is the "hero" of the story because his character simply fulfills what it takes to be a “hero” in a narrative. The character who captures the heart of the reader is undoubtedly Hassan, the Hazara boy, the “servant”. The essence of his being is carried throughout the story. The character of Hassan is immensely moving and it is very easy to respect him and be totally fond of him. I found that I developed a love-hate relationship with the hero of the story! One can’t hate him for too long because of his honesty. Also because of other things, let me elaborate a little later.

It is also a story about the relationship between a father and a son – a father who had rather not want a son the way he (son) was and a son who wanted to win his father’s appreciation, yet not be like him. How and in what direction the relationship changes over time has also been brought forth remarkably well.

At the backdrop of the story, the political situation of Afghanistan moves, chronicling over 30 years till about 2002 - from the last few years of the (40-year old stable) reign of Zahir Shah (that began in 1933) to the internal coup that overthrew him to the Communists and then to the dark period brought about by The Taliban. Some of the story is also based in the US where the father and son had to take political asylum in 1980 following the “Roussi” invasion. A part of the story is also told in retrospect.

My thoughts come back to the hero. I am quite convinced that his character is influenced to some extent by the author’s own. Khaled Hosseini was born in Afghanistan and his family moved to the US in 1980. The hero is a soft-spoken literary sort, quite unlike the typical repulsive “masculine” male. He likes to read poetry, wins every poetry competition, loves to fly kites, loves to write, detests any Afghan sport that has to do with killing and does not retaliate at the neighborhood bullies. The most beautiful aspect of his personality is that even in his childhood, although he notices he is unlike the rough and tough kinds, he is most unwilling to change, he is just so secure with the way he is. At a point in his adulthood he is faced with situations where he has the option to either accept or reject his lady love when questions of her chastity etc. come up. Without any effort at any kind of debate within himself or otherwise, he promptly chooses to be by her side. In doing so he does not regard himself a martyr of sorts; he simply puts it saying that to judge a woman by patriarchal standards is something he was never socialized into – for he was never exposed to the “double standards” of men in his childhood, neither in his youth. His mother died at childbirth and father never married.

The narrative brings forth the sheer craftsmanship of the writer – the language has an irresistible flow – and conveying such complexities in simple language is an art I think and Khaled Hosseini in his debut novel, is a prototype of this thought. The words and phrases in native language finely blend with the English language – another very attractive element of the narrative.

Once begun, it is difficult to put down the book. In that, it has an element of understated mystery. Also it leaves you for some days with very warm thoughts. The Kite Runner is in my list of favorites and recommended reads :-)

18 comments:

hamo said...

hi - yes i thought it was brilliant!

Navjot Kashyap said...

Read yur comment on my blog. Nice to read your review :-)

Meera said...

Great review. The book sounds so amazing. I am definetly adding it in my "must read books". Thanks for sharing.

Black's said...

Wow!! It's a great book...
I will find it.....

Thanks for sharing.....

Amin.

Prmod Bafna said...

Quite an extensive review that! I'll be sure to read it :p Thanks :))

ambrosia said...

Hi!
Thank you Hamo, Navjot Kashyap and Pramod Bafna for stopping by!

Meera, I have a feeling that you will like it very much and Black you too since you spent some good time in Afghanistan. The book has left me with a typcial feeling which comes after having read something so good - will I ever get anything as good! :-)

Azahar Machwe said...

"The hero is a soft-spoken literary sort, quite unlike the typical repulsive “masculine” male."
What is, pray tell, a 'typical repulsive "masculine" male'?

Do I smell some stereotyping going on?
:D

ambrosia said...

"Masculinity" is not associated with a male body, it is rather associated with a set of traits that makes people violent and unduly aggressive. A model of violent masculinity is being promoted in the world today and that is posing a severe threat to humankind. It is happening as part and parcel of this wonderful process of "development", an oft repeated process that we have come to swear by without really understanding the full implications.

Azahar Machwe said...

Pray explain in detail :) with example if possible...

ambrosia said...

Thank you. I think making such explanations is beyond the scope of this blog. Thankfully lots of writings are available. Please look.

Claudia said...

Hola dear heart!!!! So glad you are fine, and that you took that trip and met more wonderful people. You have an aura that attracts the best kind of people, and I am so happy for you, for all that you have accomplished.
Write to me when you have the time. I have missed you, and I am enjoying every second I have here with my loved ones, because I am coming to India of course, and you kow girl, cherish your health, because when you don't have it, you don't have anything.
Love you and God bless you always here, and in Heaven.

Azahar Machwe said...

Please give some references of above mentioned 'writings' since my current circumstances preclude 'looking' for the same.

filial connections said...

I finally finished the book. And i must say it was a good read. The writer has a nice style of writing, simple and refreshing. Only somehow i thought he did not lead one logically from the stage when amir had a love-hate relationship with his father to when they became friends in the US. theres a gap somewhere there in the writer's flow.... And i was wondering why you thought that amir was secure the way he was in his childhood and therefore he did not change. I got the feeling the root cause of Amir's struggles with his conscience was the fact that he was such an insecure child. Even when he did not change he felt guilty because he felt short of his father's expectations. Its a good book, will look forward to more from Khalid.

Anil P said...

I couldn't agree more. It sure makes for rivetting reading. The one point that I found jarring came near the end of the book when he comes face to face with his childhood nemesis during his search for the boy. It sounded very contrived, almost as if he was striving for that typically good versus bad battle that happens in movies, more so because that Taliban character instructs the guards to stay away and let the survivor walk away. Otherwise, until that point it made for a real good read.

ambrosia said...

Thank you Claudia, you are such a dear! Will look so much forward to your visit. Thank you FC and Anil P for stopping by.

FC I too did note that the writer did not document the transition of the relationship b/w father and son. But I read it as leaving it to the imagination of the reader and honestly to me, it did not come across as a break in the flow. I felt that Amir was quite secure about his brand of "maleness", what he felt guilty about was how he could not accept Hassan as a "friend" to the outside world because of class and caste differences. Think and tell me. Btw, you are requested to keep the book in circulation, there is a long queue and you know that!

Anil, you gave me the opportunity to share that I was expecting his childhood nemesis to show up at some point but literally held my breath when he turned out to be the leader of the Taliban!!! And what a meeting! This would be the high point of the fim if it is ever made :-) Ha ha, I agree with you at one level it did sound very contrived, a filmi moment but believe me I got a sence of "getting back at him" when it happened. Probably because I got so involved with the narrative. All that violence which led him to becoming "one eyed" also comes across as "fixed"!! Nevertheless a revetting read. Thanks for the visit.

Zebul Nisa said...

A brilliant review. Ambroisa jan bravo. The Kite Runner is a story enchanting, captivating, having the expanse of an epic and the gripping excitement of a short story. The characters rise from the narrative as real with all their complexities. The ending reminds me of a short story by Munshi Premchand titled Bade Bhai Saheb when the tension and distance of age between the two brothers melts away when the dominating ever preaching but unsuccessful elder brother spots a loose kite hovering overhead, suddenly his mask comes off and forgetting the lengthy preaching session he runs after the kite, younger brother trailing him.

Here the mask which Sohrab was wearing for so many years comes off just a tiny bit, with the hint of a smile when Amir proposes to run the kite for him. This is a tinu promise of normalisation of relations and redemption at last.

Sigma said...

Hi. Read your comment on my blog; thanks for visitng.
Your review is an interesting read. I just scanned through some of your other posts as well, and I think your style of writing is wonderful!

ambrosia said...

To Zebul Nisa: Salaam! Aap kuch jani-pehchani si maloom hoti hain :-). Tippney aur tareef key liyae shukriya! You are right, the ending, while it does a full circle also leaves the reader with the mystery of a short story. The parallel that you draw with Munshi Premchand's story is absolutely wonderful - it makes me think that some things in our culture have an inherrent capability to dissolve any difference and make us beings of innocence!! I guess that is the basic fabric we are made up of.

To Sigma: Thank you so much for the visit and for the encouraging words. I think your travel memoirs are lovely :-)