“The Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini

This book just broke my heart. It tore it out and broke it straight and square. I think there are books that you read and you know that you will never be the same after. There is a reason why “The Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini is a modern classic. What a story.

“The Kite Runner” is a complex story with several different lines but it mostly centers on the relationship of an Afghan family – a father Baba and a boy Amir. Amir lost his mother when she gave birth to him and all he remembers is living with his father, their servant Ali and his boy Hassan who is about the same age as Amir. Amir wants to be admired by his father who seems to consider him a weakling interested in books rather than in “man’s things”. He is also jealous of a servant’s boy Hassan whom his father also seems to favor. One winter evening, when flying kits in the city championship with Hassan, Amir wins the competition while Hassan runs for the opponent’s kite and gets raped by a gang of other senior Afghan boys. Too weak to step in, Amir watches the scene through the cracks in the fence. From this point and as the war breaks out in Afghanistan, fate leads the boys apart only to bind them together later in life.

I feel like I already said too much in the previous paragraph for the plot, but there is definitely so much more. I found the book to be very complex – while the main theme was focused on the father-son relationship, there is also war in Afghanistan and allusions to how it affected Afghans and specifically children, there is rape and sexual abuse, there is gender inequality in traditional society, there is grief, there is a clash between tradition and modernity. As I said, what a story!

***

“I changed my mind and asked for a bigger and fancier kite, Baba would buy it for me –but then, he’d buy it for Hassan too. Sometimes I wished he wouldn’t do that. Wished he’d let me be the favourite.”

***

“One time, a bratty Hindi kid whose family had recently moved into the neighborhood told us that in his hometown, kite fighting had strict rules and regulations. “You have to play in a boxed area and you have to stand at a right angle to the wind,” he said proudly. “And you can’t use aluminum to make your glass string.” Hassan and I looked at each other. Cracked up. The Hindi would soon learn what the British learned earlier in the century, and what the Russians would eventually learn by the late 1980s: that Afghans are independent people. Afghans cherish customs but abhor rules. And so it was with kite fighting. The rules were simple: No rules. Fly your kite. Cut the opponents. Good luck”.

***

“As words from the Koran reverberated through the room, I thought of the old story of Baba wrestling a black bear in Baluchistan. Baba had wrestled bears his whole life. Losing his wife. Raising his son by himself. Leaving his beloved homeland, his watan. Poverty. Indignity. In the end, a bear had come that he couldn’t best. But even then, he had lost on his own terms.”

***

“The Kite Runner” is definitely not a light read. It is heavy but beautiful. It will break your heart but make you stronger. And it is so well written.

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