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THIS powerful first novel, by an Afghan physician now living in California, tells a story of fierce cruelty and fierce yet redeeming love. Both transform the life of Amir, Khaled Hosseini's privileged young narrator, who comes of age during the last peaceful days of the monarchy, just before his country's revolution and its invasion by Russian forces.
But political events, even as dramatic as the ones that are presented in ''The Kite Runner,'' are only a part of this story. A more personal plot, arising from Amir's close friendship with Hassan, the son of his father's servant, turns out to be the thread that ties the book together. The fragility of this relationship, symbolized by the kites the boys fly together, is tested as they watch their old way of life disappear.
Amir is served breakfast every morning by Hassan; then he is driven to school in the gleaming family Mustang while his friend stays home to clean the house. Yet Hassan bears Amir no resentment and is, in fact, a loyal companion to the lonely boy, whose mother is dead and whose father, a rich businessman, is often preoccupied. Hassan protects the sensitive Amir from sadistic neighborhood bullies; in turn, Amir fascinates Hassan by reading him heroic Afghan folk tales. Then, during a kite-flying tournament that should be the triumph of Amir's young life, Hassan is brutalized by some upper-class teenagers. Amir's failure to defend his friend will haunt him for the rest of his life.
Hosseini's depiction of pre-revolutionary Afghanistan is rich in warmth and humor but also tense with the friction between the nation's different ethnic groups. Amir's father, or Baba, personifies all that is reckless, courageous and arrogant in his dominant Pashtun tribe. He loves nothing better than watching the Afghan national pastime, buzkashi, in which galloping horsemen bloody one another as they compete to spear the carcass of a goat. Yet he is generous and tolerant enough to respect his son's artistic yearnings and to treat the lowly Hassan with great kindness, even arranging for an operation to mend the child's harelip.
As civil war begins to ravage the country, the teenage Amir and his father must flee for their lives. In California, Baba works at a gas station to put his son through school; on weekends he sells secondhand goods at swap meets. Here too Hosseini provides lively descriptions, showing former professors and doctors socializing as they haggle with their customers over black velvet portraits of Elvis.
Despite their poverty, these exiled Afghans manage to keep alive their ancient standards of honor and pride. And even as Amir grows to manhood, settling comfortably into America and a happy marriage, his past shame continues to haunt him. He worries about Hassan and wonders what has happened to him back in Afghanistan.
The novel's canvas turns dark when Hosseini describes the suffering of his country under the tyranny of the Taliban, whom Amir encounters when he finally returns home, hoping to help Hassan and his family. The final third of the book is full of haunting images: a man, desperate to feed his children, trying to sell his artificial leg in the market; an adulterous couple stoned to death in a stadium during the halftime of a football match; a rouged young boy forced into prostitution, dancing the sort of steps once performed by an organ grinder's monkey.
When Amir meets his old nemesis, now a powerful Taliban official, the book descends into some plot twists better suited to a folk tale than a modern novel. But in the end we're won over by Amir's compassion and his determination to atone for his youthful cowardice.
In ''The Kite Runner,'' Khaled Hosseini gives us a vivid and engaging story that reminds us how long his people have been struggling to triumph over the forces of violence -- forces that continue to threaten them even today.
Edward Hower's latest novel is ''A Garden of Demons.'' A former Fulbright lecturer in India, he teaches in the writing department of Ithaca College.
We agree with this review, it's sort of a short summary. The reviewer thinks it's a beautiful story and so do we. There aren't any negative things about the book in this review.
An Afghan hounded by his past.
Khaled Hosseini's shattering debut work, The Kite Runner, is the first novel to fictionalise the Afghan culture for a Western readership
The Kite Runner
In this, apparently the first Afghan novel to be written in English, two motherless boys who learn to crawl and walk side by side, are destined to destroy each other across the gulf of their tribal difference in a country of dried mulberries, sour oranges, rich pomegranates and honey.
It's a Shakespearean beginning to an epic tale that spans lives lived across two continents amid political upheavals, where dreams wilt before they bud and where a search for a child finally makes a coward into a man. The Kite Runner is the shattering first novel by Khaled Hosseini, an Afghan doctor who received political asylum in 1980 as civil conflict devastated his homeland.
Whatever the truth of the claim to be the first English-language Afghan novel, Hosseini is certainly the first Afghan novelist to fictionalise his culture for a Western readership, melding the personal struggle of ordinary people into the terrible historical sweep of a devastated country in a rich and soul-searching narrative.
Over the last three decades, Afghanistan has been ceaselessly battered by Communist rule, Soviet occupation, the Mujahideen and a democracy that became a rule of terror. It is a history that can intimidate and exhaust an outsider's attempts to understand, but Hosseini extrudes it simply and quietly into an intimate account of love, honour, guilt, fear and redemption that needs no dry history book or atlas to grip and absorb.
Amir is a privileged member of the dominant Pashtun tribe growing up in affluent Kabul in the Seventies. Hassan is his devoted servant and a member of the oppressed Hazara tribe whose first word was the name of his boy-master. The book focuses on the friendship between the two children and the cruel and shameful sacrifice the rich boy makes of his humble, adoring alter ego to buy the love of his own distant father. 'I ran because I was a coward,' Amir realises, as he bolts from the scene that severs his friendship with Hassan, shatters his childhood and haunts him for the rest of his life. 'I actually aspired to cowardice.'
The book charts Amir's attempts to flee culpability for this act of betrayal, seeking asylum from his hellish homeland in California and a new life buried deep in black velvet portraits of Elvis. Amir's story is simultaneously devastating and inspiring. His world is a patchwork of the beautiful and horrific, and the book a sharp, unforgettable taste of the trauma and tumult experienced by Afghanis as their country buckled.
The Kite Runner is about the price of peace, both personal and political, and what we knowingly destroy in our hope of achieving that, be it friends, democracy or ourselves.
In this review the opinion of the reviewer was more clear than in the first one. The reviewer describes the themes of the book and he picked out he important things of the book. We agree with this reviewer, we also got a lot of respect for Khaled Hosseini and his story about his youth.
Pulled by the past
An immigrant returns to Kabul in Bay Area author's first novel
San Francisco ChronicleJune 8, 2003 04:00 AM Copyright San Francisco Chronicle. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.Behind the title of first novelist Khaled Hosseini's "The Kite Runner" lurks a metaphor so apt and evocative that even the author never fully exploits its power. For the benefit of readers who didn't grow up in Afghanistan -- as Hosseini and his alter ego Amir did -- a kite runner is a sort of spotter in the ancient sport of kite fighting. In a kite fight, competitors coat their kite strings in glue and ground glass, the better to cut their rivals' moorings. While the fighter's kite is swooping and feinting in an effort to rule the skies, his kite-running partner is racing to own the streets, chasing down all their opponents' unmoored, sinking trophies.
It's a fresh, arresting, immediately visual image, and Hosseini uses it well enough as a symbol for Amir's privileged Afghan childhood in the 1970s, when he and his faithful servant, Hassan, had the run of Kabul's streets. Near the novel's end, when the adult Amir returns in secret to Taliban-controlled, sniper-infested Kabul in search of Hassan's lost son, the contrast with his cosseted, kite-flying youth could scarcely be more pronounced, or more effective.
But Hosseini could have deepened the symbolism even further if he hadn't ignored what, in essence, a kite fight really is: a proxy war. Here's Afghanistan, jerked around like a kite for most of its 20th century history by the British, the Soviets, the Taliban and us, played off against its neighbors by distant forces pulling all the strings, and Hosseini never once makes the connection. It's just too tempting a trick to leave on the table.
Of course, it's Hosseini's metaphor and he can do with it -- or not do with it -- as he pleases. Considering how traditionally and transparently he tells the rest of Amir's story, though, Hosseini wouldn't seem the type to go burying half-concealed ideas for readers to tease out. More likely, he instinctively hooked a great image but, alas, doesn't yet have the technique to bring it in for a landing. It's a small failing, symptomatic of this middlebrow but proficient, timely novel from an undeniably talented new San Francisco writer.
Hosseini's antihero Amir narrates the book from the Bernal Heights home he shares with his wife, Soraya. Like Hosseini, Amir's a writer, modestly celebrated for literary novels with such pretentious-sounding titles as "A Season of Ashes."
But Amir's childhood in Kabul still haunts him, specifically his mysterious inability to earn the love of his philanthropically generous but emotionally withholding father, and his guilt about failing to protect his angelic half- caste old kite runner, Hassan, from a savage assault. When Amir receives a deathbed summons from his father's business partner in Pakistan, he sees a chance to redeem himself from the secrets that have left him psychically stranded between Afghanistan and the United States.
Unfortunately, we know all this because Amir tells us, and not just once. Listen to him here, on the verge of his rescue mission over the Khyber Pass: "I was afraid the appeal of my life in America would draw me back, that I would wade back into that great, big river and let myself forget, let the things I had learned these last few days sink to the bottom. I was afraid that I'd let the waters carry me away from what I had to do. From Hassan. From the past that had come calling. And from this one last chance at redemption."
One might excuse all this melodramatic breathlessness as the reflexive self- examination of a character who, after all, writes novels with titles like "A Season of Ashes." But Amir's not the only one given to overly explicit musings.
Opinion 3: We don't agree with the opinion of this reviewer, he is way more negative then the first two. He thinks Hosseini could have deepened the symbolism of the book even further. But we think the book is okay like it is now.
Setting Place: The story takes place for most part in Afghanistan, in and around Kabul. Later on the setting moves to the United States/ America, in San Francisco, California. Then Amir goes back to Pakistan and Taliban ruled Afghanistan. The story ends in the United States. The place is important for the story because you can imagine how it was in Afghanistan before the occupation. Many people fled to America to build a new life. Time:
The time is not that important. Only the cold war. Amir en Baba need to run to Pakistan and then to America.
Amir: Amir is in his childhood 12 years old and lives in Kabul,Afghanistan. He is a Pashtun, that are the better and richer people in Afghanistan. Later he is 38 years old and lives in America. Amir is the half-brother of Hassan, but he doesn't know that yet. He finds out much later in the book. Amir is a writer he loves to tell stories and when he is a grown up he writes a book. He wants his father to love him for who he is. Because his father rather wanted to see other qualities like Hassan has in Amir.
Hassan: Hassan is the best friend of Amir in his childhood. Amir never told him that but Hassan knew they were. Hassan is a Hazzara which means he is almost worth nothing in the believe in Kabul. He has a china doll face and green eyes. Hassan has a father called Ali, who later turned out to be not his father but Baba was his father, he never knew that. Hassan always fights for Amir. Hassan would do anything that Amir asks him to do. He is the slave of Amir. Later he gets married and have a son called Sohrab. He and his wife get murdered by the Taliban and Sohrab goes to a orphanage.
Assef: Assef is the bully of the neighbourhood. He has blond hair and blue eyes so he is very beautiful. He is the one that rapes Hassan. Later in the orphanage he also rapes Sohrab, the son of Hassan. But Amir and Sohrab fight to him and they could escape. Assef becomes part of the Taliban. And is very extreme he believes in the ideas of Hitler.
Baba: Baba is the father of Amir and Hassan. Baba has a good running business which no one thought he could do that. His best friend is Rahim Khan. He stands for the rights of human and does not discriminate. He says that the only sin you can make is theft. When you kill someone you steel his life, you steel someone's son, father or husband. Baba wants Amir to be more like Hassan. Because Amir reads poetry just like his mother but Hassan can fight and do boys stuff. At the end of the book Baba dies because of lung cancer.
Ali: Ali is a childhood friend of Baba, he is also the servant of Baba. He has a son Hassan, who later turned out to be not his son. He had Polio so he is cripple. The children in town laugh at him and call him names. He was killed by a landmine.
Rahim Khan: Rahim Khan is the best friend of Baba and also his business partner. Rahim Kahn supports Amir in Writing because Baba doesn's, he buys a book where he can writes his stories in for Amir. Rahim Khan is the one who calls Amir and also the one who tells Amir that Hassan was his half-brother. He tells him to come and get the son of Hassan. At the end of the story he disappears and leaves a letter for Amir.
Soraya: Soraya is an Afghan woman who lives in America with Amir. She is the wife of Amir. She has a father who is a general. But in there culture she is not clean. When they lived in Afghanistan she ran away with here boyfriend and had sex before marriage. Her father brought here back, but after that nobody wanted her anymore, except for Amir offcourse. She cannot have children but later they adopt Sohrab.
Sohrab: Sohrab is the son of Hassan he is just like he's father in many ways. They look quite the same and Sohrab can also shoot very good with a sling-shot. He is also raped By Assef and was traumatized. He tried to kill himself by cutting his wrists. He is adopted by Amir and Soraya.
Introduction: The story begins in America when Amir is called bij Rahim Khan. That is the moment that there is action in the story. Amir tells about his history, his childhood with Hassan.
Initial incident: Hassan gets raped by Assef. Amir sees it but won't do a thing. Amir wants Hassan to go away. And hides the watch he had on his birthday. Hassan and Ali move away. The war starts and Baba and Amir run to Pakistan, later to America
Rising action: Rahim Khan calls Amir and tells him to go to Pakistan to get his redemption from the past. The son of Hassan needs to be safed.
Climax: Amir is in Kabul and saves Sohrab the son of Ali. He fights with Assef. Sohrab shot in the eye of Assef.
Falling action: Amir and Sohrab are back in Pakistan and they need to get back to America, but Sohrab has no visa. Soraya the wife of Amir she has here connections and she can adopt Sohrab.
On a sunny day in 2001 Amir calls from Rahim Khan, the best friend of his father. The book is about a boy named Amir. He lives with his father, Baba and their servants Ali and Hassan. Saunaubar, Amir's mother was deceased when he was born. Amir is a Pashtun, a Soenni muslim. Hassan's mother, Sanaubar, has run off with another man. Hassan is a Hazara, a Shia muslim. Mahmood is also a good friend of Baba. Mahmood is a pilot and has a German woman and a son named Assef.
One day Hassan and Amir are on their way to the pomegranate tree. Under this tree Amir reads stories to Hassan. Later closed Assef, and his friends Kamal and Wali their in. Assef says that Hitler was a good man and that he also had to do with the Hazaras what he did to the Jews also. Hassan tied Assef and his friends with a slingshot. One day in 1974, just after Ramadan, Hassan's birthday. He does not get gifts like toys, but an operation on his cleft lip. Dr Baba. Kumar surgeon invited to come and make an appointment for the surgery.
Amir loves the winter in Kabul. Every year, Kite and Amir did run tournaments held each year. He wanted to be the first to fall more into the eyes of his father. Amir and Hassan went to the bazaar to buy material to make a kite. Baba saw that they were making a kite and said it might not be good enough for the competition. He took along to Saifo, the best kite maker in Kabul, Baba bought a kite for Amir and Hassan. The next day it's snowing outside and Amir doubt for kiting. As Hassan says "there is no monster, it's a beautiful day" Amir decides to go kiting. During kiting . his hands bleeding completely. After a while he is still in the final with a boy. Amir manages to keep the kite to cut and he wants the match. Amir still wanted the blue kite in the air. Hassan ran after the kite because he knows where the kites fall. Everyone congratulated Amir. Amir went searching for Hassan. He asked the people on the street if they had seen him. Omar, a son of one of the friends of his father, Hassan said that in the direction of the market went. At the bazaar Amir asked a man if he had seen Hassan. The man had seen him and told that he said: "For you a thousand time over." Amir suddenly heard voices and noises. He recognized the voice of Hassan. He saw the three boys, Assef, Wali and Kamal with Hassan. The boys like the kite but Hassan would not given it. He said that Amir won the game fair. Assef said that nothing in the world is fair. Wali and Kamal pushing Hassan to the ground and Assef raped him. Amir continues to see and do or say nothing at all. Eventually he runs away to the bazaar. He let Hassan down. Later Hassan runs in a hard way to Amir with the kite in his hand.
His father is very proud of him. Hassan feeling pretty good and not so he would only sleep. Ali thinks that something is and asks Hassan to Amir. Amir would have been possible with his father and do things. They go to Jalalabad, the cousin live there, his wife and two daughters (twins) and Karima Fazila. Amir is carsick and throws up on Fazila back in the car. When they come home, Hassan and Amir didn't talk to each other.
A few days later Hassan asks Amir if he's coming to the bakery. Amir says he doesn't want it so Hassan asks what he has done wrong. Amir asks his father if they start taking new servants, Baba is angry, saying: 'Hassan's not going anywhere. He is staying right here with us, where he belongs. This is his home and we're his family".
Amir get for his birthday a stingray and wrist watch from his father. Rahim Khan gives him a notebook to write his stories. Amir write a story about the life of Hassan. Hassan loved it and later said that Amir would be a great writer. Amir could not live with his guilt that he had done nothing when Hassan was raped, but also because he felt that Hassan get sometimes more attention than him. When Ali and Hassan went to the bazaar Amir put his new watch and some money under the mattress of Hassan.
He told Baba that his watch was missing. eventually they find it under the mattress of Hassan. Amir hopes that Baba accused Hassan of theft from their home and move. But that is not the case. Baba forgives Hassan. From self-esteem Ali and Hassan go away. Baba does everything to let them stay, but nothing can stop them. They go to Hazarajat to Ali's cousin. After the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, early 1980, flights Amir and his father to Peshwar, Pakistan.
On the way into the tank they're all acquaintances, including Kamal and his father. The mother was shot dead by Kamal and Kamal has a trauma left over so he can not talk. Kamal is dead the next morning. His father can not take it anymore and shoots himself with a bullet in his mouth.
Amir and Baba flight from Pakistan to the United States in 1980. Amir builds a new life, but he fails to mention Hassan. Amir goes to school to become a writer and Baba find work at a gas station. Amir gets a Ford from his father. Baba is very ill. The doctors discovered that he has lung cancer. Baba does not want chemotherapy, only painkillers.
Amir and Baba go in their spare time to the market for selling used products. Amir get to learn Soraya and fall in love with her. Her father is General Mr. Sahib. Iqbal. He worked for ministery of Defense.
Baba buy a VW from an old acquaintance. Amir and Soraya talk. Soraya want them to read stories written by Amir. Soraya's mother, Jamila finds Amir is a nice guy.
When it is New year Amir and Baba are walking a bit outside. Baba falls on the ground and there's blood from his mouth. He's just unconscious. Baba is taken to hospital. Baba told Amir that he likes Soraya and Baba agree with it, so Amir and Soraya are goint to marry. Soraya wants to talk to him on the phone. She said that she is impure. And she has had some problems with her ex boyfriend. Soraya thought Amir would not want her after she said that.
The day after the wedding the aunt and uncle from Soraya came to visite. They played a game with Amir. That night Baba Soraya wanted to give his medication but he did not. He said he had no pain. From that evening Baba never woke up.
Amir writes books about father and son. His book is crowned. Amir and Soraya learn that they can't have children. Soraya doesn't want a child addoption she wants to feel how it's like to be pregnant. . When Soraya's father learned that she had gone to bed before her marriage, she was imprisoned and had all her hair cut off. She wished that her father died.
2001, Amir gets a call from Rahim Khan. He said that he is very ill and that he wants to see Amir before his deat. He lives in Pakistan. They talk about Baba and the occupation of Afghanistan by the Taliban. The Taliban has expelled the Russians from Afghanistan. People thought they were saved. But that was wrong. Rahim said could care no longer for the house of Amir and Baba. He decided to go to Hassan and Ali and with difficulty he could persuade Hassan. Rahim did not sell the house because of the great memories. Hassan was married and had one son, Sohrab. His wife was pregnant with a daughter. Amir reads the letter that Hassan had written for him. Hassan and his wife were shot by the Taliban. Sohrab was arrested and placed in an orphanage. Amir Rahim wish now that he is going to save Sohrab because all the children in that orphanage are in the hands of the Taliban. Rahim also said that Ali is not the real father of Hassan, because he could get no children. Baba is the father of Hassan only he has a different mother. If Amir hears this he's very angry, because they had concealed for them the fact that they are step brothers.
Amir thinks about the past and now know why Baba never forget Hassan's birthday. When Amir Baba asked if she would take new servants said Baba yet,''Hassan's not going anywhere, he'd barked. He is staying right here with us, where he belongs. This is his home and we're his family".Amir feels guilty. He decides to go to Kabul to rescue Sohrab.
Farid, the taxi driver and friend of Rahim, takes him to Kabul. Along the way, they stayed with the brother of Farid. Amir sees for the first time in his life a Taliban soldier. He also meets an old classmate of his mother. The man told a few things, but a lot has forgotten. Eventually they go to a orphange. The location of the orphanage where Sohrab would sit, is lent to a ruler of the Taliban, monthly boys or girls from the orphanage will get to satisfy his sexual needs. Zaman is the boss. Farid will fight with Zaman. Amir should go with Farid to the stadium, to look at the man who has a black sunglasses.
Amir goes to the home of the Taliban fighter. Amir recognized the man, it is Assef. Assef says Amir can take the child if he wins. Amir gets a slap in the face with brass knuckles. He gets a tear in his lip. Sohrad shoot a stone in the eye from Assef with his slingshot. Assef concern Sohrab and Amir and this will give the opportunity to flee. Amir has to go to the hospital.
In the taxi they fled to Pakistan. Rahim Khan is gone and left money for Amir he can use to return to America. It was a trick of Rahim Khan to get Amir that far he would take care of Sohrab. He knew of the betrayal of Amir and he realizes that this is the only way to give back to Hassan. Amir ask Soraya if she want to adopt Sohrab, she scared a bit. Amir hears how difficult it will be to get away Sohrab. He is advised to let Sohrab stay in Pakistan in an orphanage for a while, but Sohrab will no longer be in an orphanage and that Amir had pledged him. During a telephone call from Soraya she informs that she thinks she can adopt him in America, Sohrab cut his wrists. Fortunately, he saved time and then he recovers.
Sohrab needs a visa to be allowed into the United States what takes a long time. Soraya finally able to arrange dates could take Sohrab to the United States. Amir adopted Sohrab and he buys a kite for Sohrab. The two of them kite fight together and win. For the first time Sohrab smiles for Amir. Then Amir use the phrase that Hassan always said to him: "For you a thousend time over" and run to fetch the kite.
There are a lot of themes in this book and mostly apply to all the characters.
Father and son relationship: Baba has two sons but you think only Amir is the son of him. For Amir is Baba the smartest and strongest men in the whole entire world. Amir wants his father to be proud of him but Baba doesn't like the qualities of Amir. He wants Amir to be more like Hassan. Also the relation of Hassan and Sohrab they are a lot a like. They can both use the sling shot very well.
Betrayal: Amir betrays Hassan by framing him for theft.
Loyalty: The loyalty of Hassan to Amir because they are best friends but Hassan is also the servent of Amir. Also Ali to Baba when the watch is stolen from Amir. Ali wants to go away because of honor and loyalty. At the end of the book it's the other way around now is Amir loyal to the son of Hassan, you can read that when Sohrab en Amir go kiting in the park Amir is running after the kite of Sohrab.
Redemption: Amir tries to make it up to Hassan by adopting Sohrab, many other characters try to find redemption like Baba.
The title is: The kite runner. Kite fighting is a traditional sport in Afghanistan. Hassan is a kite runner for Amir. He runs to fetch kites Amir has deafeated by cutting their strings. He knows where such a kite will land without even seeing it. One day, Amir wins the local tournament, and finally Baba's praise. Hassan goes to run the last kite for Amir, saying 'for you, a thousand times over'.