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Kite Runner’ presents life, journey of Afghani man

Marty Schroeder | Friday, March 10, 2006

“The Kite Runner” is a story about a man experiencing his home country of Afghanistan, inspecting his emotional journey through the lens of Afghani history. This story chronicles the story of one man and his travel through childhood and into adulthood within the unique context of Afghanistan’s history.

Written by Khaled Hosseini, “The Kite Runner” was published in 2003. It follows the life of Amir, the son of a wealthy businessman of Kabul, Afghanistan in the 1960s. When the novel opens in 2001, he is living in California and receives a fateful call from one of his late father’s friends concerning the child of Amir’s childhood playmate and son of his father’s servant.

This playmate is named Hassan and the emotional journey that Amir experiences through the book involves an incident of crime against Hassan he witnessed in his childhood during a kite-flying tournament. As he boards the plane traveling back to the now war-torn Afghanistan, he recounts his childhood and all that is involved therein, from his birthday parties to his tumultuous relationship with Hassan.

The kite-flying that gives the novel its title is a type that is practiced in Afghanistan and parts of Pakistan. It involves a “kite fighter” who uses his/her kite’s string to sever the strings of other “kite fighters.”

Kite fighters accomplish their tasks by coating the string in a mixture of glass powder and glue, which allows them to cut other kite strings. But the mixture is also is very abrasive on the hands and can cause serious damage. It also involves a “kite runner” who runs to find the severed kites, which then become the trophy of the victorious kite fighter.

This novel is not only about Amir and his emotional journey, but also traces the emotional journey of Afghanistan through the peaceful years of the 1960s, the political turmoil of the 1970s, which culminated with the Soviet invasion in 1978, and the almost complete takeover of the country by the Taliban by 1998.

Hosseini breaks the novel up into three parts. The first involves Amir’s childhood in Kabul, the second is his life after he immigrates to California with his father after violence overtakes Kabul, and the third deals with his return to the war torn Afghanistan in 2001 to redeem himself for past sins. The sections are fairly monolithic stylistically and a better transition could have been used to connect the three. However, the emotional portrayal of Amir does a fine job connecting these episodes of the character’s life.

This emotional buildup is the novel’s real strength. A few of the minor characters are archetypal, such as the sadistic Assef and his gang that terrorizes Amir and Hassan in their childhood. They eventually make a surprising, if slightly unbelievable, return later in the book.

However, the central characters are developed with quite an emotional complexity. There are sins that are committed and relationships that are destroyed, but Hosseini does not give his character’s quick and easy avenues out of these emotional hardships. He instead moves them around each other in a dance of laughter and happiness, but also tears, pain and death. But hope is never completely lost and none of the main characters are ever completely incapable of redemption, even if they do have to face the sometimes searing fires of their past to find it.

The climax of the book is a very moving moment but even in the end, the problems are not completely solved. The characters do find that they are essentially good people, even if they ashamed of skeletons in their closet. This is not a groundbreaking work of literary complexity or structure, but it is certainly a gratifying journey through the life of Amir and his changing relationship to Afghanistan.