March 17, 2014

The Kite Runner

I feel a bit behind the times having finally read this book. It is a historical novel, set during the Russian invasion and early Taliban rule of Afghanistan. Although The Kite Runner is a work of fiction, much of the information regrading the political, social and cultural climate Afghanistan is true.

If Atonement by Ian McEwan hadn't already been published, Hosseini could have used the title. After Amir cowardly ignores his friend in a time of need, he spends the rest of the novel attempting to redeem himself. It is only have he returns to Afghanistan in search of Hassan's son dose he finally feel redeemed.

I  enjoyed the use of Afghan words, and cultural references. I am unfamiliar with the country and cultural so having those little tidbits only made the story more enjoyable.

I liked how Amir and Hassan didn't have the perfect relationship. Amir was the son of a wealthy businessman, and Hassan was a servant. Amir was a Pashtun and Hassan was a Hazara. The friendship was flawed, but realistic. Nevertheless, the boys still played together, forming a brother like bond. What Amir did to betray Hassan was wrong, but would any other boy his age have done things differently?

I had a hard time with Assef as a character. In the story, Assef is the main antagonist and is described as blond haired and blue eyed with a German mother and Afghan father. Early on in this story, Assef is portrayed as someone who is absolutely evil - a sociopath - who also happens to be a Nazi. He has a well earned reputation for savagery that follows him into adulthood. While reading this passage I couldn't help but shiver a little - "You [Assef speaking to Amir] don't know the meaning of the word liberating until you've done that, stood in a roomful of targets, let the bullets fly, free of guilt and remorse, knowing you are virtuous, good and decent. Knowing you're doing God's work"(277).  As a reader, It bothers me that his source of evil is never explained. His parents are described as timid, and scared of him. Hosseini wants the reader to accept Assef as evil, someone who destroys lives and someone without a conscience.

I think it's interesting that Hosseini chose a half German blond haired, blue eyed, Hitler loving villain for his novel. It felt like a safe choice - most everyone can hate a nazi.

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