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December 2001

I became what I am today at the age of twelve, on a frigid overcast day in the winter of 1975. I remember the precise moment, crouching behind a crumbling mud wall, peeking into the alley near the frozen creek. That was a long time ago, but it's wrong what they say about the past, I've learned, about how you can bury it. Because the past claws its way out. Looking back now, I realize I have been peeking into that deserted alley for the last twenty-six years.
-The Kite Runner


It took me quite awhile to figure out what book this one reminded me of, and then came a scene -- one you knew all along had to come -- where the none-too-heroic narrator of the story confronts his childhood nemesis and it came: The Power of One. Like Bryce Courtenay's young protagonist, Khaled Hosseini's Amir grows up in a place that is by turns magical and tragically flawed--Afghanistan in the 60s and 70s in this case. In particular, it is the wretched treatment of the Shi'ite Hazara minority that leaves its spiritual marks on Amir and physical marks on his friend, a servant's son, Hassan. Even after Amir and his much-loved but emotionally distant father escape to America, after the Soviet-backed coup, his life remains entwined with that of Hassan in ways and for reasons that he never could have imagined growing up in their comfortable upper class home in Kabul. In its way, their tragedy parallels that of their nation.

Mr. Hosseini offers an especially compelling portrait of Afghan life before it got caught between the pincers of the Cold War and before the Taliban came to power, first welcomed as saviors and then mere contributors to the cycle of violence. His is a lament for a lost world of moderate Islamic life that Tamim Ansary likewise wrote movingly about in West of Kabul, East of New York. The book would be worthwhile if only for this reminder of what the Islamic world was like, even in its most primitive corners, just thirty years ago. But the story of Amir and Hassan, even if he lays it on a bit thick and perhaps throws in one last crisis too many, also captures the reader and the whole is told in a narrative style that makes it seem almost a modern myth. It's an ineffably sad story but one that ultimately affords enough redemption to raise our hopes. Afghanistan will never be what it once was, and Mr. Hosseini suggests that is ultimately for the good, but it needn't be godforsaken.


(Reviewed:)

Grade: (B+)

  

Websites:

Khaled Hosseini Links:

    -BOOK SITE: The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini)
    -Khaled Hosseini (Wikipedia)
    -Barnes & Noble.com - Khaled Hosseini - Books: Meet the Writers
    -FILMOGRAPHY: Khaled Hosseini (IMDB.com)
    -EXCERPT: Excerpt from 'The Kite Runner' By Khaled Hosseini
    -AUDIO INTERVIEW: Khaled Hosseini (Amazon.com, April 2007)
    -PODCAST: Khaled Hoseeini (Diane Rehm, 5/22/07)
    -PODCAST: Khaled Hosseini (Leonard Lopate Show, June 2007, NPR)
    -INTERVIEW: Q&A: Author of "The Kite Runner" revisits Afghanistan in new novel (Haley Edwards, 6/01/07, Seattle Times)
    -ARTICLE: Literary lions poised to roar (Sue Gilmore, 3/25/07, Contra Costa Times)
    -AUDIO INTERVIEW: An Afghan Story: Khaled Hosseini and 'Kite Runner' (Fresh Air from WHYY, August 11, 2005)
    -AUDIO INTERVIEW: 'The Kite Runner' (Liane Hansen, July 27, 2003, Weekend Edition)
    -INTERVIEW: with Khaled Hosseini (Razeshta Sethna, November 2003, Newsline)
KH: I wanted to write about Afghanistan before the Soviet war because that is largely a forgotten period in modern Afghan history. For many people in the west, Afghanistan is synonymous with the Soviet war and the Taliban. I wanted to remind people that Afghans had managed to live in peaceful anonymity for decades, that the history of the Afghans in the twentieth century has been largely pacific and harmonious.

Q: What are your recollections of the last days of the Afghan monarchy and the subsequent invasion of the Soviet forces?

A: Kabul was a thriving cosmopolitan city with its vibrant artistic, intellectual and cultural life. There were poets, musicians, and writers. There was also an influx of western culture, art, and literature in the '60s and '70s. My family left Afghanistan in 1976, well before the Communist coup and the Soviet invasion. We certainly thought we would be going back. But when we saw those Soviet tanks rolling into Afghanistan, the prospect for return looked very dim. Few of us, I have to say, envisioned that nearly a quarter century of bloodletting would follow.

Q: Is Amir's youth synonymous with your adolescence?

A: I experienced Kabul with my brother the way Amir and Hassan do: long school days in the summer, kite fighting in the winter time, westerns with John Wayne at Cinema Park, big parties at our house in Wazir Akbar Khan, picnics in Paghman. I have very fond memories of my childhood in Afghanistan, largely because my memories, unlike those of the current generation of Afghans, are untainted by the spectre of war, landmines, and famine.

    -INTERVIEW: 5 questions for Khaled Hosseini (Carol Memmott, 5/02/07, USA TODAY)
    -READING GROUP GUIDE: The Kite Runner (Penguin Books)
    -ARCHIVES: "Khaled Hosseini (Find Articles)
    -REVIEW ARCHIVES: of The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini (Reviews of Books)
    -REVIEW: of The Kite Runner (Edward Hower, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of The Kite Runner (David Kipen, SF Chronicle)
    -REVIEW: of The Kite Runner (Amelia Hill, The Observer)
    -REVIEW: of The Kite Runner (Kim Bunce, The Observer)
    -REVIEW: of The Kite Runner (Stephen M. Deusner, Book Reporter)
    -REVIEW: of The Kite Runner (Sue Bond, Asian Review of Books)
    -REVIEW: of The Kite Runner (KENNETH CHAMPEON, Book Page)
    -REVIEW: of The Kite Runner (Sudheer Apte, Desi Journal)
    -REVIEW: of The Kite Runner (BookBrowse)
    -REVIEW: of The Kite Runner (Kurshid Assenjee, Open Democracy)
    -REVIEW: of The Kite Runner (Afghanland.com)
    -REVIEW: of The Kite Runner (Margaret K., Dexter, Teen Ink)
    -REVIEW: of The Kite Runner (Bob Corbett, Webster.edu)
    -REVIEW: of A Thousand Splendid Suns (Jane Ciabattari, LA The Times)
    -REVIEW: of A Thousand Splendid Suns (John Freeman, Minneapolis Star Tribune)
    -REVIEW: of A Thousand Splendid Suns (Natasha Walter, The Guardian )
    -REVIEW: of A Thousand Splendid Suns (Ashley Simpson Shires, Special To The Rocky Mountain News)
    -REVIEW: of A Thousand Splendid Suns (Hamida Ghafour, New Statesman)
    -REVIEW: of A Thousand Splendid Suns (MICHIKO KAKUTANI, NY Times)
    -REVIEW: of A Thousand Splendid Suns (Alan Marshall, Daily Telegraph)
    -REVIEW: of A Thousand Splendid Suns (Joan Smith, Times of London)
    -REVIEW: of A Thousand Splendid Suns (Katherine TomlinsonRichmond.com)
    -REVIEW: of A Thousand Splendid Suns (Susanna Bullock, St. Louis POST-DISPATCH)
    -REVIEW: of A Thousand Splendid Suns (Chandrahas Choudhury, The Observer)
    -REVIEW: of A Thousand Splendid Suns (Anne Marlowe, Weekly Standard)

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