Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Kite Runner

Khaled Hosseini's The Kite Runner tells the life story of Amir, who grows up in Afghanistan. His closest companion, although not his friend, Amir is careful to state, is the servant's son, Hassan. Although Hassan is a (almost mythically) loyal and true friend, Amir in his immaturity and jealousy treats him very badly. Amir moves with his father to the United States when the revolution begins, but he returns to a much changed Afghanistan to attempt to right some of the wrongs from his youth.

I found Hooseini's prose simple and dull, but his storytelling is compelling, and the Kite Runner is a real page-turner. His descriptions of a peaceful Afghanistan (and the later dramatic transformation under Taliban rule) dispells some of the rhetoric that the country was a just a massive shit-hole anyway before we bombed the hell of out if, which is the only story that we seem to hear in the US. Another book that I love very much for such enlightening information is Tony Kushner's brilliant 2002 play Homebody/Kabul, which is, of course, best seen on stage, but a good read as well. The Homebody says, in the absolutely magnificent opening monologue which I saw at the Steppenwolf starring Amy Morton several years ago:
I did know, well, I have learnt since through research that Kabul, which is the ancient capital of Afghanistan, and where once the summer pavilion of Amir Abdur Rahman stood shaded beneath two splendid old chinar trees, beloved of the Moghuls, Kabul, substantial portions of which are now great heaps of rubble, was it was claimed by the Moghul Emperor Babur founded by none other than Cain himself. Biblical Cain. Who is said to be buried in Kabul, in the gardens south of Bala-Hissar in the cemetery known as Shohada-I-Salehin. I should like to see that. The Grave of Cain. Murder's Grave. Would you eat a potato plucked from that soil?

Anyway, all of which is to say that naturally Afghanistan is simply not a dispensable country, it's got it's own beautiful, rich history and is populated by its own fair share of brilliant people. There's just that weird Buzkashi thing...

Be warned, The Kite Runner is pretty depressing book, with themes of shame, silence, the seemingly innate hatefulness of children, man's inhumanity to man - I actually had to stop reading it for a while because I got so depressed. Whether there are any brief glimpses of hope is really up to you. I found very few.

2 comments:

Kathy said...

I think your reaction to Kite Runner is a lot like mine. I thought the prose was just wretched and actually couldn't make myself finish reading it. I listened to it instead which was only minimally less painful. A very compelling, and as you say, depressing story.

I'll check out Homebody...hadn't ever heard of it...

Tim T69 said...

I too am struggling with "The Kite Runer". Listening to the book I'm now just beyond the DEPRESSING and IRRITATING decline between the two young men. Poor Hassan - all that he was told about Amir by his violaters came to be. I am happy that I know more about the rich, beautiful history of Afghanistan prior to the fall of the monarchy but I've decided that I'm going to stop listening to this book. Perhaps I will find a PBS feature on Afghanistan to learn more - and begin to take some small action to help the less fortunate in the world instead of reading depressing stories about them and doing nothing.