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Khaled Hosseini was born in 1965, in Kabul, Afghanistan. His father was a diplomat with the Afghan Foreign Ministry and his mother taught Farsi and History in Kabul. During his medical practice, Hosseini began writing his first novel, The Kite Runner. It was published in 2003 and has since become an international bestseller. He now lives in northern California.
The Kite Runner is set in a war-torn Afghanistan, against a backdrop of tumultuous events, from the fall of Afghanistan's monarchy through the Soviet invasion. It portrays the fearful evacuation of families due to the rise of the Taliban regime. The milieu accentuates the fear, betrayal and multitude of emotions in the story.
The story revolves around the lives of a well to-do Pashtun boy Amir, his father, and Hassan, who is the son of his servant and also his best friend. The plot has several layers, each more intense than the other. On the one hand is Amir's insecurity of being his father's incapable son, and his growth from a young boy to a married man. On the other, is his attachment to Hassan, after whose death, life becomes a mere redemption. With a successive layer of the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban, the narrative becomes more potent. The story is embellished with elements of complex friendship, betrayal, and drama. It becomes clear that the central character of the book is indeed Amir's kite runner, Hassan. He runs for Amir's trophy kite saying, "For you, a thousand times over", and encounters rape to protect the kite. Amir witnesses the rape, but says nothing. To ensure Hassan is made to leave, and digest his cowardice, Amir plants a watch in his mattress accusing him of theft. Hassan leaves and Amir turns a new leaf.
Amir is the narrator and protagonist of the story. Though he is sensitive, insecure and passive as a child, he grows to be a conscientious adult, aware of his mistakes in the past. He is willing to make things right following the news of his best friend Hassan's death. The story follows his thoughts and actions closely. It is through Amir that we are exposed to his indefatigable ties of friendship with Hassan.
In several ways, Hassan carries the story on his shoulders, even after his demise. It is his eternal loyalty to Amir, as a friend and servant that evokes Amir, and steers the latter half of the story. His consent to be raped rather than to give away Amir's kite is the most taunting memory from their childhood. Amir's betrayal as his friend and half brother agitates him further.
Thus, we journey from the mind of a young boy, stuck in the middle of a country's turbulence, to the life of a young, established writer, whose past is unfulfilled. "There is a way to be good again", Amir is told on hearing that Hassan was killed. Amir's awareness of his loyal, loving friend Hassan withstanding even rape as a child, to protect his interests evokes him. Through the book we see how Amir begins to take initiative to procure Hassan's estranged son, Sohrab.
All the knots begin to tie up when Amir goes in search of Sohrab. He meets Assef, who had raped Hassan as a child, and fights him to rescue Sohrab from his tyranny. Even here, he uses the slingshot to wound Assef and escape. On returning to America, Amir expresses his desire to adopt Sohrab as his son. Soraya, Amir's wife would now have a complete family. The novel even ends with Amir, running Sohrab's kite saying, "for you, a thousand times over". The story comes one full circle.
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini stirs a plethora of emotions with each read. Every event in the book has undercurrents, and repercussions, much like in real life. The language used in the book paints pictures to the reader, aiding smooth transition into the setting and lives of Amir and Hassan. More often than not, one finds a situation in the story to identify with. Here lies the efficacy of the book. Hosseini guides us to through stages of Amir's life uncovering the complexities of family, and close relationships. Unlike other books in the genre, this tells the tale of a friendship, through betrayal and realisation; both in their extremes. The story occupies a special place in my heart as it has helped me perceive the extent to which imagination can conquer reality.