The Kite Runner, An Afghan Odyssey

The problem with movies and book, my agony

Movie Poster

Movie Poster

From now on I should keep it in mind that I shouldn’t begin with the movie of a classic book before I read that one. The Kite Runner movie made a bad impression upon me in the beginning of my university life as I couldn’t follow the storyline and narration. That’s why I’ve kept myself away from reading the book for half a decade! In the meantime two copies of that book came into my hand and yet I was not forced or motivated to read it that was the strong impression against the book.

But happily this time I’ve entered the story and couldn’t come out of the story! Am not I still in the story? Khaled Hosseini is a master storyteller. He can keep us in enchantment with the story he wants to tell! The beginning of the novel is of a beginning of a rising story teller. It may remind us of ‘The Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man’ of James Joyce.

The son and father and oedipal complex!

There are some instances where Amir Agaha had some ‘Oedipal Complex’s against his father or vis a vis. There is an implied competition in Amir against his father. There is a great thirst of winning the kite fight which happened on a day where in the young mind of Amir there is an urge in him who wants to show the world, especially his father that he is also capable of doing something great, something bigger like his father. Like all sons Amir also find and accept challenges against father! In this way are not a son kills the legacy of his father or he turns himself into a father like figure! Rhetorically I can say if you want to be something, want to do something, you have to kill your father.

Story of friendship and brotherhood

Of Friendship and Brotherhood

Of Friendship and Brotherhood

The main point of the kite runner encompasses the relation between Amir and Hassan, their friendship, love, dependence, of growing up together, rape of the childhood, separation and longing of Amir to meet his friend and redemption he sought till the end. Some may find Hassan, his childhood friend is the alter ego of Amir. After so many years Amir would know Hassan is not merely the servants’ child, or playing mate rather he was his half brother. This truth would give him much agony and made redemption most needed for Amir. It was because of that revelation he would endanger his life to rescue Sohrab, the only son of Hassan who was killed by Taliban militants.

The language of kite flying

kite flying

That was the beauty or puzzle of kite flying. Your mind also drifts with the kite. Flying kites resembles the flying of hopes; it fluctuates in the wind, sometimes shatters in the wind. Kite flying is a matter of focus, attention, determination, ‘victory, salvation and redemption’. Are not our mind fluctuated like kites with hope and hopelessness while reading it?

We will have an instance of kite flying tournament in the story where Amir and Hassan participated in the race. What thoughts came into the mind of Amir is very interesting to know. He thought, ‘I didn’t know what the other guy was playing for, maybe just bragging rights. But this was my one chance to become someone who was looked at, not seen, listened to, not heard.’ (page 57)

What a great pleasure a boy one can get from wining we can taste it in the winning of Amir in a kite flying tournament. Winning the tournament, if he could, would be ‘the single greatest moment of my twelve years of life’ for Amir. Because of that his Baba was proud of him for the first time in his life. This battle was important of epic dimension.

Kite flying is very important. It was kite flying which led to the end of ‘the songs of innocence’ to the lives of Amir and Hassan and brought them to the cruel world of ‘the songs of experience’. It will appear at the end as well where Amir will run for a kite in his forties to please Sohrab, his brothers blood, the only remnant of the memories of Hassan. He sought redemption by running after the kite but we don’t know whether he got it but we can only hope like Amir himself.

The scope, style and narrative of The Kite Runner

kite struggle

The narrator in The Kite Runner is very observant and notices all the minute details around him; places, persons and personalities. It is in first person narrative but there are some instances of omniscient narrative as well.

The Kite Runner sets in a vast canvass like three countries; Afghanistan, Pakistan and America but all the stories and characters are rooted in Afghanistan which over the years the story progressed turned into a broken, destroyed, ramshackle country! The Waste Land of T.S. Eliot we can say.

At first the story might appear to be a bildungsroman, two young boys growing up in front of the eyes of the elders of the family and older generations. At the beginning there it seemed it would be a story about rosy rosy, happy happy childhood. But slowly, the more we enter into the story the more we will listen the songs of experience than the songs of innocence.

Technically speaking Bildungsroman is a German term signifying ‘novel of formation’. ‘The subject of this novel is the development of the protagonist’s mind and character, in the passage from childhood through varied experiences-and often through a spiritual crisis-into maturity and recognition of his or her identity and role in the world.’

(M.H ABRAMS, Glossary, p132)

The Kite Runner proceeded with a first person narrative. That’s why it is so touching, trustworthy and fluent! The story is not written actually the narrator was telling the story to us. It is poetic, it is lyrical, and it’s musical. What is First-person point of view?

“The mode, insofar as it is consistently carried out, limits the matter of the narrative to what the first-person narrator knows, experiences, infer, or can find out by talking to other characters.” (MH Abrams, A Glossary of Literary Terms, page no: 167)

A story teller is great because of his details, the canvass he portrays or the worlds he creates. A writer performs the duties of God or follows the pathway God went through creating this universe. All the tiny bits, surrounding characters, events, places and actions are portrayed as vividly as can dream of. A writer or narrator or storyteller is such a traveler who can visit the heart of the characters and of the readers as well. What thoughts are there in the mind of the characters are known clearly as crystal. That is the true greatness of a great writer. Every character is vivid, life like; so little and trifle in the context of the story he/she might be. They are such people as if we know them or find them around us. They are not from the fancy land, they are our neighbors or we are like them.

For example the leading female protagonist or the heroine of the novel ‘Soraya’ is painted with such mastery that every reader must fall in love with her as happened with Amir! Khalid Hosseini is a great painter with words. His strokes are masterful.

 

Afghan history, culture and life style

KITE_RUNNER_02_3415599b

Along with the well knitted story line we will know more about Afghan history, culture and culinary habits. There we will find many ludicrous but essential part of Afghan lifestyle. The Kite Runner is also a report on Afghan lifestyle, culture and history. Many dark spots of Afghan heritage got special treatment in the story.

Khaled Husseini used some Afghan words, idioms and phrases which say much of Afghan people and their culture. One of such often used phrase is ‘Zendagi migzara’. The simple meaning of it is as such as that there is a flow in life which you can’t control, if you try even harder! Zendagi migzara if we say in short means ‘life goes on.’(p176, chap 15)

Another word is ‘watan’ which is the homeland or motherland. For example their love for ‘watan’ (homeland) is deep, touching and grave. On the other hand, there are racial prejudices and conflicts in the country Pashtuns over Hazaras, Sunni’s over Shite’s which would be breaking point of this nation and one of the many causes of today’s handicapped shape of Afghanistan.

‘Khastegari’ is another of such phrases which mean to ask for one’s daughters’ hand. ‘Khastegari’ is the first door to matrimony and where a young man should ask for the hand of bride to the family of the bride.

 

Khaled Hosseini, the master storyteller

the-kite-runner-khaled-husseini

Khaled Hosseini built such a story on the pages or over the map of Afghanistan that it might overwhelm young writer like us. How a person can tell stories in such an enticing manner, how a man can continue telling one story after another or stories inside story for so many times.

How a person can take the control of the heart of the reader and its pulses? It is sheer overwhelming. It was a breathtaking journey over the pages of The Kite Runner. It’s epical and it’s musical but of tragic and sad notes! Yet ‘our sweetest songs are those tell our saddest thought!’ Khaled Hosseini wrote the modern day Odyssey or Afghan Aenid.

Literally the protagonist made Odeyssian journey to achieve his terribly sought redemption. That Amir is seeking redemption can be traced even at the beginning part of the novel where Amir won the kite flying tournament. He exclaimed with joy, “All I smelled was victory. Salvation. Redemption.” (p57)

You will not know how many times tears will roll on the corners of the eyes by the time you finish reading it. The last para is of Amir’s running for redemption. More specifically ‘I ran’ are the two short words which ends the story which we don’t know exactly whither it ended! But one thing is very clear in reading this masterpiece is that we, reader had to run hard over the pages of this novel. It is such a moving, such a fast and ferocious novel! There is an extreme thirst in Amir to be a good man, and redemption. Did he get his redemption we actually don’t know but we can hope along with hopeless Amir for his gaining so.

Who can say it’s a novel? It’s a life or couple of lives who came into reality and started speaking their unforgettable tales! We, readers became the toy-things of the well knit plot and irresistible stories! Very few books can quench their thirst with the salty water from my eyes.

There are some tragic events in it, there are some strong relations shielded with love; the love story of Amir and Soraya could rank it a marvelous love story, the friendship and bond between Amir and Hassan is of extraordinary nature, the relation between Amir and his father was Oedipal at the beginning but slowly it narrowed down and ended in a good friendship in America.

The weak in morale always flee in the caves when crisess stand before them

The Kite Runner moved through the passage of Afghan history, especially of the last couple of decades where Afghans saw much more things. They saw a Badshah flee from throne, his cousin snatching it, Barbak Karmal, aided by Soviet Russia planted an idea and governments which was alien to the land. People were dying in want of fresh air, fresh thought or fresh politics. So they drive them, beat them away from Afghanistan.

They welcomed Taliban with an expectation that they will lead this historic land forward. But to the utter dismay of Afghan people Taliban drag this land to a farfetched past, an ancient and waste land, a utopian and unrealistic reality! Afghanistan is a land of desperation, frustration, hopelessness and of unreality. Then one sudden September morning World Trade Center in New York crashed, with it crashed the world order, the little peace which was still there like the last lees in the glass. 9/11 had shaken not only the ground of New York, but also the whole of the world. The quick aftermath is the attack in Afghanistan in search of Osama, the myriad man in recent history on whom we know little but who rule the world order or shook it to the ground. What happened in Afghanistan, what happened to the guardian of God who was given special responsibility to make everything fit, everything in God’s wish; what happened to them who knew God’s design more than the God Himself? Yes, “Soon after the attacks (9/11), America bombed Afghanistan, the Northern Alliance moved in, and the Taliban scurried like rats into the caves.” ( p316)

The problem with country like Afghanistan is that they only know how to fight but they don’t know how to manage, how to run. This is a sort of idiosyncrasy of the Afghans. One of the good sides of Afghan culture is their hospitality which in some cases would appear as stupidity to the west. They will go through starvation but will try to satisfy the guests with whatever foods they have. There is a mention of such incident in the Kite Runner.

The continuous wars and racial conflicts those ravaged Afghanistan produced many orphans, widows and physically disabled entity. We will find such sentences as ‘the wars had made fathers a rare commodity in Afghanistan’. (p215, Chapter 20) As a result the roads and streets are occupied by the beggars whom turn into the majority. The children, orphan and women are the biggest portion among the beggars. It became a common scene to see people without one leg, one hand or even both. And some used artificial leg. In the time of extreme poverty they even sold the artificial leg. It is a symbolic crisis for the country as well. So many limbs have suffered amputation of the country called Afghanistan and it’s a lame country.

There are so many climaxes, tensions and movements in the story. A reader with weak heart may go with heart attacks several times! At least an instruction should be there in the beginning page that a patient recently went through heart attack is not instructed to read this book! So many things are there in the novel. There are stories inside stories. There are so many touching, moving and emotionally packed stories.

There are some implicit criticism and irony on the Mullahs and their wrongly derived fatwas! On an instance a father phoned two Mullah in a live TV show regarding his fear over his son ‘wearing his baggy pants so low the seam of his underwear showed’ (p281) Repressive Sexual Practices in Taliban period Young boys and girls like Sohrab became the plaything of some sex hungry culprits from Taliban. It’s a sheer dishonesty and cruel farce that the guardians of morality turned into the robber of that. Assef, once a bully in his childhood who also sexually abused Hassan, now a regional Taliban leader, actually a gunda  is found executing a man and a woman for immoral act in front of thousand spectators in a stadium. But Assef and his associates are doing that offence or doing more terrible offence than anybody else they executed. They raped and violated dozens of little boys and girls!

 

Of places and persons

How places change but not the personality. Over the years Afghanistan turned into a waste land and brought many changes to the Afghans. Many fled to Pakistan and then in America. Especially the elites and middle classes who are not in a good position in the new hierarchy fled the country. Amir and his father are like the ones who found themselves in America. Interestingly a power elite like Amir’s father, an exceptionally rich and honorable man like him had found himself as a workmen in America. In his most honorable job he worked as an accountant in a gas station. The new position had created psychological and social problems. On an occasion he embroiled in a quarrel with a shop woman. Where Amir adjusted quickly in America and American ways of life as it happen with the young people like him, his father over a logn period of time was still ‘adjusting’! How wars can dismantle the realities of persons, how it can shatter the edifice of day to day life of those communities.

The ordeal Afghanistan and her people went thorough had created so many episodes, loopholes in their lives. And there are stories to every one of them. And the stories are of saddest sort. There was a need of such a storyteller who can tell the stories of himself and the country, race and of his time. Khaled Hosseini is the singer of the Afghan tragedy which is a spectacle of everyday life. Afghanistan creates several tragedy every single day, creates tragic stories often. Khaled Hosseini is the fruit of such tragedy his country, race and nation went through.

 

Sabidin Ibrahim

Mail: [email protected]

Ibrahimpur, Mirpur 14, Dhaka

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