Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Khaled Hosseini's The Kite Runner: "For you, a thousand times over"

I had a hard time reading Khaled Hosseini's The Kite Runner. For a first novel, Hosseini wrote something so extraordinarily personal, masterfully illustrating humanity—its yearnings and joys.

The story is told by Amir, once a young boy from a rich district in Kabul and the son of a famous, powerful man. He had a best friend, Hassan, whose character is a stark contrast to his: the son of a Hazara servant, born with a facial defect, and poor.

Kite flying was the sport they were actively involved in. Everyone in the community eagerly waited for that one day during winter time when kids would fly their kites. The person with the last kite still standing at the end of the day would win and would be treated with respect and awe.

Hassan was Amir's faithful assistant. Just about the time when Amir trampled the last kite remaining other than his own (because to be the last kite standing, one had to put all the other kites down), Hassan exalted in their victory, which was his as much as it was Amir's.

The title is derived from one particular scene in which Hassan ran to retrieve Amir's kite after it had fallen. Whoever caught the winner's kite would be a great honor in itself, too.

But, despite Hassan's loyalty (which extended far deeply than the singular kite episode), the twelve-year old Amir betrayed him—indirectly, but betrayal nonetheless. This is the turning point upon which the entire story revolves. It was an unthinkable act that Amir would regret for the rest of his life.

Years later, Amir, having moved to the United States because of the political turmoil in native Afghanistan, would get a call from an old friend, telling him, "There's a way to be good again." The Kite Runner, then, is a story of how man journeys to redeem himself from the bad things he once did.

To illustrate loyal and selfless friendship, Hosseni writes about betrayal and selfishness. To tell something about courage, he paints a portrait of cowardice. The use of contrasts in the entire book drives home his point, deepening the characters in the novel.

Although the book ends with a note of hope, it is not hopeful. After all, man can only do so much to redeem himself. One cannot cleanse the conscience by covering the bad deeds with a thousand good ones. It doesn't work that way. Apart from God, our attempts at saving ourselves are as futile as chasing after the wind.

2 comments:

  1. Kuya Lance! I wrote a play in high school set in Saudi Arabia. Did you know, Amir means "prince"? I actually used it for one of the main characters. His second name, Alhasan, means "handsome". Not sure though if it's the same for Hassan. :P

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  2. That's great to know, Pat—that you know what Amir means and that you wrote plays in high school. Amir seems like a fairly common name in Southwestern Asia, and, after reading the book, it makes sense that the character was named as such. Thanks, Pat!

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