Wednesday, April 17, 2013

An Author to Add to My Favorites List: Khaled Hosseini

Recently, I read the books The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns by Aghanistan born author Khaled Hosseini. His books revolve around telling the story of Afghanistan from the 1950's to today through the viewpoints of different people of different backgrounds.

Khaled Hosseini was born in Afghanistan in 1965, and came to the US with his family when he was 15 years old, today he is a US citizen, a doctor, and an author who has sold over 38 million books.

It's striking just how vividly he can portray events and daily life in Afghanistan, and I was surprised at how much I didn't know about the country. As it turns out, Afghanistan was quite peaceful in the days of it's monarchy, before a coup, and then the Soviet invasion brought chaos and war.

The author gives a very balanced view, he doesn't try to hide from the negative aspects of Afghanistan's recent history, like forced marriages, war, massacres, the Taliban's iron fisted (and barbaric) time in power, but he also shows the positives, and the good within people. One such incident is when the main character and narrator in The Kite Runner, Amir is facing the death of his father, and the entire Afghan Pahstun community in his new hometown in Southern California (Amir and his father had fled shortly after the Soviet invasion in 1979), came together to support him, and help him in any way that they could.

What really stood out to me (and is a hard concept for me to understand as a Westerner), is the extremes that the people there go in their hospitality towards guests. In The Kite Runner, Amir returns back to his old neighborhood in Kabul during the time of the harsh rule of the Taliban, and the local guide, who is helping to smuggle him into Afghanistan from Pakistan, invites him into his home to eat.

 Amir unintentionally overhears an argument between the man and his brother, and finds out that the food they gave him was some of the last food that the family had, leaving the children without food for a while. The brother of the man asks him why he did this, and the guide said "we are poor, not savages". The cultural code of hospitality, passed down through the generations was so strong, that the man felt that he would be dishonoring himself and his family, if he didn't offer the food to Amir. This was very baffling to me, and was hard to understand.

Amir is shocked by this fact, and after his local guide went above and beyond to help him in his journey through Afghanistan, he gave his guide the equivalent of $2,000 in local currency, because he felt so moved by the man's dedication and selflessness.

The books are an incredible read, and they are some of the best books I have read in a long time. They have been a great insight into the history and culture of that region of the world, and have helped to give me a better understanding.


  1. THE KITE RUNNER also introduced many Westerners to the repugnant practice of bacha bazi, or the abuse of dancing boys. In doing so, it brought a human rights issue into global consciousness.

    It's been ages since I last looked at THE KITE RUNNER, but a line from the book still resonates with me. "You've always been a tourist in your own country." It's a reminder that there are many groups having many different experiences in any given culture, and that an elite's experiences are very different from a poor person's.

    1. Yes, there's the scene where the local guide is assuming that Amir is just coming back to sell some family land, or take car of some other financial matter, and his resentment of wealthy Afghans really shows, and Amir really starts to understand just how good he had it as the son of a wealthy businessman.

      I had heard of the practice of bacha bazi, it's disgusting, and it's puzzling how this can be accepted in a Muslim country, you would think that it would be outlawed and driven underground, if for no other reason than their opposition to homosexuality (since it is an adult man with a young boy). You would think that there would be a much different attitude towards sexual abuse of children overall.

    2. Btw, in the scene where Amir rescues his nephew, I thought it was ironic justice how the boy blinded Assef in one eye, after what his father had said to Assef as a young boy.

  2. I really loved A thousand splendid suns. It really gave me insight into how a religion can crush the liberties of women in a society. It was tragic, how the different governments became more and more oppressive, and the men just went with it never questioning love for their wife.

    1. I noticed the stark contrast between the rule of the kings, and then of the Taliban after the Soviets were thrown out (and Afghanistan's civil war ended).

      Amir's father was right when he said that if the clerics got into power, it would destroy everything. Their culture, their happiness, the rights of women, all gone....

      The barbarians in the Taliban couldn't even appreciate the history of Afghanistan for what it was, they had to blow up the ancient towering statues of Buddha that were carved into the mountains.


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