The Kite Runner book review

The Kite Runner Book Review: Exploring Afghan Culture and History

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  • Post last modified:25 March 2024

Last updated on March 25th, 2024 at 02:59 pm

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini is a novel based on a story about two childhood friends, Hassan and Amir, from Wazir Akbar Khan district of Afghanistan which unfolds many twists and turns and surprises. The story began during the rule of the last King Mohammad Zahir Shah to the U.S invasion of Afghanistan after the 2001 Twine Tower tragedy.

Growing up with Amir, Hassan was a child of their household servant Ali. Hassan’s family belonged to Hazara ethnic community with Shia Islamic faith, and while most of the Hazaras served as servants to the dominant Sunni majority Pashtuns, and had been considered less of human beings and treated harshly.

Hassan’s mother, Sanuabar, left Hassan when he was less than a week, with a group of singers. Beautiful she was, she could not accept Ali as a husband because of his bizarre polio-stricken handicap body.  

Growing together, Amir as Master’s son and Hassan servant’s, developed the skill of flying kites, which was a part of pride and Afghan culture. Apart from flying kites, Hassan mastered the skill of running slingshots and running kites. Running the second to last flying kite of any competition was equally considered as winning it.

It was during a kite fighting, which Amir won to win his father’s love and adoration, that Hassan got raped by a gang leader, Assef, a local boy whose father had a close tie with Daud Khan, brother of ousted King Zahir Shah.

Assef raped Hassan in a blind alley when he went running the kite. In the dark of twilight Assef and his gang members ambushed him and demanded that he has to pay a price for the kite. Hassan, instead of giving up the kite for his friend Amir, let Assef rape him which Amir witnessed from afar and did not do anything to save Hassan. Amir, since then started to consider himself as a criminal for not saving Hassan and letting the horrible thing happen right before his sight.

After the incident, Amir framed Hassan for stealing his birthday gift money to rid of Hassan and his father. Amir decided to do that out of anger and feeling of guilt for being a coward so he does not have to see his friend and deal with him anymore. Amir’s father eventually dismissed Ali and Hassan after forty years of being together.

However, when Amir’s mother died giving birth to him, his father hired a woman to breastfeed Amir and Hassan.

In 1981, when the Soviet Union captured Afghanistan, along with many other Afghans, Amir’s family sought political asylum in the US through the Pakistani route by the hands of human traffickers.

In 1989, with the complete withdrawal of Russians from Afghanistan, the war between Afghans and Mujahedeen began. As Northern Alliance took over Kabul, different factions claimed different parts of Kabul during 1992 and 1996. But in 1996 with the initiation of the Taliban reign, everything changed. They caused more damage to Afghanistan, among which was the 1998 Mazar-e-Sharif massacre on the Hazara community. Kite fighting was banned.

Having a telephone call from Rahim Khan, Amir’s fathers’ friend, who was in Pakistan in 2001, Amir had flown to meet him. Rahim was waiting to reveal the long-concealed secrete to Amir. He said that their house in Kabul was occupied by the Taliban, and Hassan and his wife were executed on the street by the Taliban, and their son Suhrab was given to an orphanage.

Moreover, Rahim Khan revealed that Hassan was his half-brother from Sanuabar. Amir’s Father slept with a servant’s wife, which nobody knows until the very moment. Rahim Khan told him that he must find out Suhrab in Taliban controlled Kabul and must bring him to Pakistan to a safer place. Then, Amir began his dangerous journey to Kabul to rescue Suhrab.

Risking his life, Amir decided to find out Suhrab and got to know from an orphanage that the boy was taken by a Talib leader, who uses him as a dancer and rapes him. Amir ended up at the Talib leader’s house to demand Suhrab.

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Amir was surprised to know the identity of the Talib leader, the rapist of his friend Hassan, who stoned to death a man and a woman in the public view in the Gazi Stadium, a few hours ago: Assef. Amir saw the execution of the two during the halftime of a football match.

Amir agreed to a one-on-one fight with Assef while his guard waiting outside the door with Kalashnikovs dangling to take Suhrab away. Because of Suhrab’s intervention with the slingshot, Amir narrowly escapes his death and got away with Suhrab to Pakistan.

Amir had to face a diplomatic battle to avail of an adoption visa for Suhrab from the US embassy because of a changed US adoption policy. In the meantime, Suhrab attempted to commit suicide and yearned for ‘the old of his life’, an Afghanistan where there was no chaos, parents, grandmother, relatives besides him.

Finally, Amir was able to take Suhrab to the US where he had to deal with Suhrab’s broken and traumatised psych. I like it when the author writes of Suhrab: ‘ I brought Hassan’s son from Afghanistan to America, lifting him from the certainty of turmoil and dropping him in a turmoil of uncertainty”.

Why I liked The Kite Runner

The Kite Runner is written in a very deep philosophical and compassionately descriptive sense. The breath-taking portrayal of Kabul’s natural beauty, Afghanistan’s cultural tenets kept me riveted. The mountains, the snows, the winter, the lakes, the kite fighting were thoroughly narrated, as if you are part of them, inseparably.

The jealousy of Amir towards Hassan for being excessively loved and favoured by his father, and his constant struggle to win over his father’s love can one make feel the want of parental love.

The unflinching loyalty of Hassan to his master and Amir was unmatched, no matter what happens. The squalid condition of the Hazar community, the superiority and prejudices of Pashtuns and the treatment the Hazara people have to accept are capable of breaking one’s heart. The sectarian prejudices eroding the communal fabrics.

True that people always feel connected and yearn for their lost childhood, watan, the homeland. No place in the world can be compared with homeland, motherland, the land of one’s childhood, growing up.

The Kite Runner also lets you know the prevalent practice of homosexuality among Afghans, mostly among the radical section of Muslims of Afghanistan: The Talibs.

Finally, Amir and his wife’s deprivation of a child their own compels them to consider Suhran as their child. The language, the words of wisdom of The Kite Runner exemplifies the beauty of creative writing and colloquialism. This is one of my other book reviews.

Romzanul Islam

A proud Bangladeshi, and an unconventional thinking human with reasons who nurtures passions for reading, writing, researching and collecting the best books and watching the best films. Stoicism, liberalism, feminism and aversion to material success are my ideals.