Khalid Hosseini’s Kite runner

I had heard about the book and so I purchased a copy, but that was about when my son kept telling me that I should actually listen to the audio book. He had finished the audio book and insisted that the audio book in this case gave a better feel to the words, place and persona…With great trepidation, I started on this audio book for the first time, complaining all the time that I could listen to the book only when I was in the car, that I could not go back & check things now & then, that I could not feel the pages and all that (or drift away into my own world between words). My son would not let go, he pushed and pushed. It took me two chapters to get into the groove and then I was hooked - to Khaled’s own voice narrating his touching novel ‘Kite Runner’.

Thus it was during the many miles back & forth between home & Carlsbad that I got acquainted with Kabul, Freemont, Amir, Hassan & Sohrab. The miles flew by and the story grew in my mind. Gone were the half sleepy & dreary rides back home, as I heard the book, I was looking forward to getting behind the wheel each day and hoped that the drive stretched a few more miles, as I neared the destination. Sometimes I had teary eyes, and the paper seller at the Vista traffic signal who met my eyes on more than one occasion would have found it pretty odd, I think…

Let us now get a bite of the ‘Kite runner’ treat. Like most of us in India, I knew only a bit about Afghanistan, mainly from Tagore’s ‘Kabuliwalla’ and a few movies (more about those in another blog). For those who are yet to read Kite runner, the movie is about to be released and another book “A Thousand splendid Suns” are already here - so you should catch up. It is not ‘just good’, but a great read/listen, quite enjoyable and for Indian readers, very understandable. It is the story of a guilt ridden boy Amir who grows up first in Kabul during the Z Shah days, moving on through the difficult days of the Soviet led invasion, his friendship with his servant’s son and how a betrayal of Hassan, his childhood friend torments him throughout his adult life as an immigrant in America. Eventually he is forced to act…

Rich and poor, Sunni and Shia, Afghanistan, Pakistan and America, pride of giving and distaste of penury and begging are all covered in this book that sweeps through two continents. As we get to the end, you do tend to think that the author was a wee bit influenced by the very ‘Bollywood’ movies that he decries now & then in the book, though he says emphatically towards the end that “Life is not a Hindi movie”.

Kahled says in an interview with R Sethna - Kabul was a thriving cosmopolitan city with its vibrant artistic, intellectual and cultural life. There were poets, musicians, and writers. There was also an influx of western culture, art, and literature in the '60s and '70s

The book takes you from those good old days through the Communist regime’s bad governance and the nerve racking Taliban period when life styles of the once proud Afghan in Kabul became that of abject poverty & devoid of any dignity. A period when Sharia ruled and woman became objects, a period when religion was misused by a select few fanatics and rogues, to wreck this once proud nation.

As you read the book, you notice at times, that Khaled (son of an Afghan Émigré himself) is guided by his own upbringing in America, but he has been reasonably close to the point. You can see that he yearns for Afghanistan’s Perisan connections and the Zahir Shah period of the past. He is meticulous in a clever way. First he goes on a tangent and you wonder what significance the event has to the story, then he converts the tangent to a curve and eventually closes the curve into a circle, later on in the story. Pretty neat actually!

He writes from his heart, as a simple man, without explaining or covering any of the geopolitics that shaped these conflicts in Afghanistan over the many years. But what it seemingly lacks there is compensated amply in soul. Few books have a soul, this has one and that is I guess why it has sold 5 million copies already. Read it (or better still listen to it), enjoy it, and treasure it!!

Readers may feel a strong biographical touch to the book and there surely is. Khaled while living in Kabul, did have a servant boy in his house called Hossein, whom he taught to read & write. The other interesting thing is that Khaled wrote about the return of the protagonist Amir to Kabul, while living in California. He went back to see Taliban Kabul only after the book was published. Khaled said in a
Time interview - "On the one hand, I was hoping I'd got it right, that I didn't screw up," he says. "On the other hand, what I'd written was so terrible, part of me was kind of hoping that it wasn't quite that bad. The reality was that it was actually worse."

Khaled goes on, in the same interview, defending his western sensibility when attacked with mail stating - There are problems in Afghanistan, but do we really need to talk about these things? At this time?. “ I guess I misunderstood what the role of fiction was. Because I never thought it was about writing things that everybody agrees about, that make everybody feel warm and fuzzy inside. I guess it's my Western sensibility, now that I've lived here for so long, that I feel like these are things we should talk about”.

Khaled Hosseini was born in Kabul, Afghanistan, in 1965. His father was a diplomat with the Afghan Foreign Ministry and his mother taught Farsi and History at a large high school in Kabul. In 1976, the Afghan Foreign Ministry relocated the Hosseini family to Paris. They were ready to return to Kabul in 1980, but by then Afghanistan had already witnessed a bloody communist coup and the invasion of the Soviet army. The Hosseinis sought and were granted political asylum in the United States. In September of 1980, Hosseini's family moved to San Jose, California. Hosseini was a practicing internist between 1996 and 2004. While in medical practice, Hosseini began writing his first novel, The Kite Runner, in March of 2001.

His thoughts
about his second book – A Thousand Splendid suns.

Those who would like to hear & see him talk, just type Khaled Hosseini on Youtube, you will find many videos…
Pics - from here & there, thanks to the posters...


Nice review. I have never listened to an audio book, for the same reasons that you describe. I also do not have much of a commute. But this review definitely makes me go out and get the book. The only problem is that I would not want to see the movie after that :-)

Isn't it good to see how many good authors there are among first and second generation immigrants from Asia?

GVK said…
Never thought of audio-edition in such terms. That the narrative is by the author himself adds value. In India, many of us don't go for it, even if available, because this mis-belief that audio is for the visually impared.
As for Kite Runner, it is one of those books you are compelled to write about after reading. I did my own bit in Shelfari, where it got buried in hundreds of other 'impulse reviews'.
Incidentally, that frog-strip on your blog isn't reader-friendly.
GVK said…
It has gone, the frog-strip.It was there when I initially accessed the site shortwhile back;and, on an impulse,pressed the 'refresh' button, it vanished. Thank you Maddy, for your tip.
Pradeep said…
Very informative and interesting. Afghanistan is always intriguing. Should check this out. Audio book concept is interesting. I used to listen to story book reading on the BBC. As you say a well done work can be as captivating as reading the written word.
Happy Kitten said…
Waiting eagerly for ur Kuwait memories..
Bullshee said…
Any idea how I could get hold of the audio book?
Nanditha Prabhu said…
i am just reading the thousand splendid suns! its just captivating. I couldnt get hold of the kite runner! it was always in the run in the library. but i am already hooked. will have to try the audio book now. but dont know whether i will be able to concentrate while driving as i am still new to the place here. or else i will land up some where else!
thank you for the beautiful review
Maddy said…
BPSK- I would still rea dthe book and then see the movie...
GVK - The authors accent and tonal quality lends much authenticity in this particular case, I guess!!
Pradeep - GVK, Actually Audio books are good when you are driving distances. They keep you from nodding off.
HK - Actually there is one up on Kuwait already, check this -
Bullshee - You can get it in stores, amazon or all places where they sell the book. Here we can also get it at the library. They have CD's and audio casettes.
Nanditha- Thanks, try the audio book, just for the heck of it, take the book also & decide.A tip for you - If you are looking for a popular book in a US library, there is a good chance you can get the large print version. It will be in that section.
diyadear said…
hey maddyji,
niec post abt the book. its was nice to read ur through analysis on the book and the author.. thats how i want my book reviews also to grow one day. n abt youtube, guess u know that they r deleting all copy righted material..
n abt "my sherikkum ulla karyam" well alls ends that ends well.. so its a matter of the past now :)
Maddy- heard this piece on audio-books on MarketPlace (NPR Radio) and thought I would pass it along.
"Drivers, Kai's safer than audio books"

Maddy said…
BPSK - yup I can imagine that - try listening to juicy scenes from a racy book like an old harold robbins, while driving - yup u sure could cause traffic accidents.But with Khalid, I doubt it. In fact I used to be very sleepy while driving long & boring distances, this perked me up!!