The Kite Runner

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The Kite Runner  
First paperback edition book cover
Author Khaled Hosseini
Cover artist Jacket design and imaging: Honi Werner
Country  United States
Language English
Genre(s) Novel
Publisher Riverhead Books
Publication date
May 29, 2003
Media type print (hardcover & paperback), audio cd, audio cassette, and audio download
Pages 324 pp (first edition, hardcover)
ISBN ISBN 1-57322-245-3 (first edition, hardcover)

The Kite Runner is a novel by the author Khaled Hosseini, who is also the author of #2 Bestseller, A Thousand Splendid Suns. Published in 2003 by Bloomsbury publishing PLC, it is Hosseini's first novel,[1] and was adapted into a film of the same name in 2007. The 2003 novel by Khaled Hosseini has been adapted to stage by Bay Area playwright Matthew Spangler. David Ira Goldstein (Arizona Theater Company Artistic Director) directs a cast that includes Barzin Akhavan as Amir, Demosthenes Chrysan (General Taheri), Gregor Paslawsky (Rahim Khan) and James Saba (Ali), all from New York City, Thamos Fiscelle (Baba) of Los Angeles, and Bay Area actors Craig Piaget (Young Amir), Lowell Abellon (Young Hassan), Rinabeth Apostol (Soraya), Adam Yazbeck (Assef), Zarif Kabier Sadiqi, Wahab Shayek, and Lani Carissa Wong. The cast is joined on stage by Tabla player Salar Nader.


[edit] Introduction

The Kite Runner tells the story of Amir, a young boy from the Wazir Akbar Khan district of Kabul, who betrayed his best friend Hassan, the son of his father's Hazara servant, and lives in regret. The story is set against a backdrop of tumultuous events, from the fall of the monarchy in Afghanistan through the Soviet invasion, the mass exodus of refugees to Pakistan and the United States, and the rise of the Taliban regime.

[edit] Plot

Amir, a well-to-do Pashtun boy, and Hassan, a Hazara and the son of Amir's father's servant, Ali, spend their days in a peaceful Kabul, kite fighting, roaming the streets and being boys. Amir’s father (who is generally referred to as Baba, "daddy", throughout the book) loves both the boys, but seems critical of Amir for not being manly enough. Amir also fears his father blames him for his mother’s death during childbirth. However, he has a kind father figure in the form of Rahim Khan, Baba’s friend, who understands Amir better, and is supportive of his interest in writing stories.

Assef, a notoriously mean and violent older boy with sadistic tendencies, blames Amir for socializing with a Hazara, which is, according to Assef, an inferior race that should only live in Hazarajat. He prepares to attack Amir with his brass knuckles, but Hassan bravely stands up to him, threatening to shoot out Assef's left eye with his slingshot. Assef and his henchmen back off, but Assef says he will take revenge.

Hassan is a successful "kite runner" for Amir, knowing where the kite will land without even watching it. One triumphant day, Amir wins the local tournament, and finally Baba's praise. Hassan goes to run the last cut kite, a great trophy, for Amir saying "For you, a thousand times over." Unfortunately, Hassan runs into Assef and his two friends. Hassan refuses to give up Amir's kite, so Assef exacts his revenge by assaulting and raping him. Wondering why Hassan is taking so long, Amir searches for Hassan and hides when he hears Assef's voice. He witnesses the rape but is too scared to help him. Afterwards, for some time Hassan and Amir keep a distance from each other. Amir reacts indifferently because he feels ashamed, and is frustrated by Hassan's saint-like behavior. Already jealous of Baba's love for Hassan, he worries if Baba knew how bravely Hassan defended Amir's kite, and how cowardly Amir acted, that Baba's love for Hassan would grow even more.

To force Hassan to leave, Amir frames him by planting a watch and some money under Hassans mattress;he falsely confesses. Baba forgives him, despite the fact that, as he explained earlier, he believes that "there is no act more wretched than stealing." Hassan and his father Ali, to Baba's extreme sorrow, leave anyway. Hassan's departure frees Amir of the daily reminder of his cowardice and betrayal, but he still lives in their shadow and his guilt.

Five years later, the Russians invade Afghanistan. Amir and Baba escape to Peshawar, Pakistan and then to Fremont, California, where Amir and Baba, who lived in luxury in an expansive mansion in Afghanistan, settle in a run-down apartment and Baba begins work at a gas station. Amir eventually takes classes at a local community college to develop his writing skills. Every Sunday, Baba and Amir make extra money selling used goods at a flea market in San Jose. There, Amir meets fellow refugee Soraya Taheri and her family; Soraya's father, who was a high-ranking officer in Afghanistan, has contempt of Amir's literary aspiration. Baba is diagnosed with terminal oat cell carcinoma but is still capable of granting Amir one last favor: he asks Soraya's father's permission for Amir to marry her. He agrees and the two marry. Shortly thereafter Baba dies. Amir and Soraya learn that they cannot have children.

Amir embarks on a successful career as a novelist. Fifteen years after his wedding, Amir receives a call from Rahim Khan, who is dying from an illness. Rahim Khan asks Amir to come to Pakistan. He enigmatically tells Amir "there is a way to be good again." Amir goes.

From Rahim Khan, Amir learns the fates of Ali and Hassan. Ali was killed by a land mine. Hassan had a wife and a son, named Sohrab, and had returned to Baba’s house as a caretaker at Rahim Khan’s request. One day the Taliban ordered him to give it up and leave, but he refused, and was murdered, along with his wife. Rahim Khan reveals that Ali was not really Hassan's father. Hassan was actually the son of Baba, therefore Amir's half-brother. Finally, Rahim Khan tells Amir that the true reason he has called Amir to Pakistan is to go to Kabul to rescue Hassan's son, Sohrab, from an orphanage.

Amir returns to Taliban-controlled Kabul with a guide, Farid, and searches for Sohrab at the orphanage. In order to enter Taliban territory, Amir, who is normally clean shaven, wears a fake beard and moustache, otherwise the Taliban would exact Sharia punishment against him. However, he does not find Sohrab where he was supposed to be: the director of the orphanage tells them that a Taliban official comes often, brings cash and usually takes a girl back with him. Once in a while however, he takes a boy, recently Sohrab. The director tells Amir to go to a soccer match and the man wearing the John Lennon glasses is the man who took Sohrab. Farid manages to secure an appointment with the speaker at his home, by saying that he and Amir have "personal business" with him.

At the house, Amir has his meeting with the man in sunglasses who says the man who does the speeches is not available, due to the fact that he is participating in wrongful acts of adultery. The man in sunglasses is eventually revealed to be his childhood nemesis, Assef. Assef is aware of Amir's identity from the very beginning, but Amir doesn't realize who he's sitting across from until Assef starts asking about Ali, Baba and Hassan. Sohrab is being kept at the home where he is made to dance dressed in women's clothes, and it seems Assef might have been raping him. (Sohrab later says, "I'm so dirty and full of sin. The bad man and the other two did things to me.") Assef agrees to relinquish him, but only for a price - cruelly beating Amir. However, Amir is saved when Sohrab uses his slingshot to shoot out Assef's left eye, fulfilling the threat his father had made many years before.

Amir tells Sohrab of his plans to take him back to America and possibly adopt him, and promises that he will never be sent to an orphanage again. After almost having to break that promise (after decades of war, paperwork documenting Sohrab's orphan status, as demanded by the US authorities, is impossible to get) and Sohrab attempting suicide, Amir manages to take him back to the United States and introduces him to his wife. However, Sohrab is emotionally damaged and refuses to speak or even glance at Soraya. This continues until his frozen emotions are thawed when Amir reminisces about his father, Hassan, while kite flying. Amir shows off some of Hassan’s tricks, and Sohrab begins to interact with Amir again. In the end Sohrab only shows a lopsided smile, but Amir takes to it with all his heart as he runs the kite for Sohrab, saying, "For you, a thousand times over."

[edit] Characters

  • Amirprotagonist, narrator of the novel, said to be born in 1963, in Kabul, who begins as a well-to-do boy in monarchical Afghanistan and later migrates to America following the downfall of the monarchy. Amir is Hassan's half-brother; however, Amir does not learn of their relationship until much later in his life. Hassan never learns of the relationship.
  • Hassan — a childhood friend of Amir, although Amir never explicitly admitted to this. He is described as having a China doll face and green eyes. Hassan is first thought to be the son of Ali (Baba's servant and inexplicit childhood friend) and Sanaubar; later in the story, Hassan is revealed to be the illegitimate son of Baba and Sanaubar. Hassan died without ever knowing about the truth of his paternity.
  • Assef — a sadistic, sociopathic teenager from Amir's neighborhood in Kabul, antagonist. He is described as being exceptionally handsome, blonde and blue-eyed. As a teenager, he rapes Hassan. As an adult he repeatedly rapes Hassan's son, Sohrab, and numerous other young children of both sexes. Neither act, however, seem to be matters of sexuality, so much as of dominance, as there does not seem to be any feelings of lust, at least during Hassan's rape. Assef is the son of a German mother and Afghan father. He is a Nazi sympathizer and has a hatred of Hazaras, giving a book about his "idol" Adolf Hitler to Amir for his thirteenth birthday. Many years later, he becomes an executioner and pedophile, when he is a part of the Taliban. Sohrab severely damages one of Assef's eyes during Assef's fight with Amir.
  • Baba — The father of Amir and Hassan. He is said to be born in the year 1933 (when the Afghan king begins his 40-year reign). He is described as a big, strong, healthy looking man with wild brown hair and beard. Baba is depicted to be of about 1.96 meter (6'5") in height. He loves throwing parties (when he had a large house and many friends in Kabul), and is known for his strength. (He is said to have fought with a black bear and won the fight, in his younger years). Baba is a successful business man and a benevolent force in the community, helping many other people establish businesses for themselves and constructing an orphanage. During the book, Baba seems to be a bit disappointed in his son Amir, who he wishes to be as much of a man as he is (but his son only reads books and lets others fight off bullies for him). After leaving Afghanistan for America, he ages quickly and dies at fifty-three, in 1987, of cancer. He lives long enough, though, to see his son Amir marry a young Afghan woman called Soraya. Many people attend his funeral.
  • Ali — Baba's servant and inexplicit childhood friend. He is initially thought to be the father of Hassan. Before the events of the novel, he had been struck with polio, rendering his right leg useless. Because of this, Ali was constantly tormented by children in the town. He was killed by a land mine after Baba and Amir left Afghanistan.
  • Rahim Khan — Baba's business partner and best friend in Afghanistan, later he was the one who tells Amir about Hassan's actual father. Amir liked him as a child, and Rahim Khan is also the one who invited Amir back to Pakistan to pick up Sohrab. Later in the story, Rahim Khan goes off alone leaving a letter to Amir telling him not to find him. He dies peacefully knowing he has successfully made Amir the man Baba wanted him to be.
  • Soraya — an Afghan woman living in Fremont, California. She marries Amir. Soraya wants to become a teacher. Before marrying Amir, she ran away with an Afghan boyfriend in Virginia, which, according to Afghan tradition, made her unsuitable for marriage. Because Amir also had his own regrets, he loved and married her anyway. Soraya desperately wants to have children but cannot conceive a child, attributed to "Unexplained Infertility".
  • Sohrab — son of Hassan, traumatized and repeatedly raped by Assef; Rahim Khan contacts Amir later in life in an attempt to get him to come back to Afghanistan to find Sohrab. In the end, he is adopted by Amir.
  • Sanaubar — Ali's wife who gives birth to Hassan as a result of an affair with Baba. She then leaves home to pursue the life of a gypsy. She might have become involved with an Afghan army soldier who nostalgically describes her "sugary little cunt" to Hassan; whether this is true or whether the soldier was just making fun of the Hazara is never established. She later returns to Hassan in his adulthood to make up for her neglect of him when he was a child, providing a grandmother figure for Sohrab who nicknames her "Sasa".
  • Farid — bitter driver who is initially abrasive toward Amir but later befriends him. Farid's two daughters were killed by a land mine years back, a disaster in which he also lost some of his fingers. Farid is Amir's means of transport, information, and knowledge of current Afghanistan when he returns.

[edit] Reception

The novel was the first best seller for 2005 in the United States, according to Nielsen BookScan.[2] It was also voted 2006's reading group book of the year. Hosseini's first novel headed a list of 60 titles submitted by entrants to the Penguin/Orange Reading Group prize (UK).[3]. However, there have been some critiques of "The Kite Runner" (see Miller, "The Kite Runner Critiqued: New Orientalism Goes to the Big Screen" [1]).

It won the 2004 Boeke Prize.

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

[edit] References

  1. ^ "The Kite Runner". World Literature Today 78 (3/4): 148. September/December 2004. 
  2. ^ "Harry Potter tops US best-seller list for 2005". 2006-01-07. Retrieved on 2007-02-14. 
  3. ^ "Word-of-mouth success gets reading group vote", The Guardian, August 7, 2006

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