Apr 20, 2007

Book: Kite Runner by Hosseini

The Kite Runner is the first novel by Khaled Hosseini. It's supposed to be the first novel published in English by an Afghan... and that was 2003. The novel has also won several awards, and was a favorite for several book clubs, and was a top 10 best seller in 2005 (check the novel's wikipedia site).

Why all this? I don't know!

About 60% of the novel was truly interesting. The Afghani author was writing about his childhood in Afghanistan - way back, at the time of the King, before the communist coupe. That was very amusing, because it was real. The description of his father, the Kites competition, his Hazara friends/servants/relatives - all this was just very sincere and nice. The description of Afghan community in Fremont, CA was very interesting. I actually took a drive there and ate at a restaurant while reading the novel to "live in the same atmosphere". It was very similar. The part in the novel about "Nang and Namos", one's pride and dignity, was also very interesting insight into the Afghani mentality.

However, the other 40% of the novel was terrible. It read like a very bad action hindi movie. The action sequence was oversimplified and obviously made up. His whole story about walking in Afghanistan during the Taliban was so "cliche", it made the novel very weak. Reading about the author later on, it seems it left Afghanistan in the 1970s - thus he never lived through the communist government nor Taliban. His images must have come mainly from CNN and, and possibly some Afghan sources.

The Novel also had many weak spots for tying events together. It was obvious that the author went through the novel once, and then went back and added "connections" later on. The problem is that these connections were too obvious, too direct, and generally didn't fit in the context.

For example, at the end of the conversation with the INS officer, the officer says - out of nowhere - "did you promise that boy you'll take him to America", "Yes", "That is dangerous business, making promises to kids."

Why would anybody say that?
well, because in 2 scenes afterwards, the main cahracter breaks the promise the little kid attempts suicide!

By shear coincidence, the wife's uncle is an "INS Officer" who has been working there for many years. Later in the novel, the guy needs a hard-to-get humanitarian visa... and surprise surprise, the Uncle uses his connections to get it.

Even the "research" that was done for the novel, (e.g. the visa laws for adoption), are used in bulk - thrown at the reader, and did not help at all with the plot. They seemed to "solve themselves" quickly and with only one move.

There are many such instances that only show a certain immaturity in the author's style. No surprise, this was his first novel.

Thus, after all this, again, I'm not sure why this novel has become so popular. From an American point of view, the novel is very "politically correct", it denounces the Taliban and shows them as pure evil, it rails about "double standards with women", "women should be able to sleep with strangers before marriage just as easily as boys", ... I think to a point this played a role why this was a book club favorite.

Supposedly the author is coming up with a second novel soon. It'll be interesting to see if it does as good.

now... I'm looking for my next book. Any suggestions?


  1. Yeah i read it too and had exactly the same opinion. I think the first part of childhood and moving to the US in the early 80s is quite interesting. But then once the narrator goes back to Afghanistan, the story falls apart.
    I couldn't agree more that the only reason this novel was singled out for free special publicity is that it's written by an Afghani writer who denounced Taliban and exaggerated as much as he wanted about their brutality and their love of little boys and thus, legitimizing the US role in Afghanistan today and war against "evil."
    I found reading the book though rewarding just because of the part about life in Kabul before the communist regime.
    Good review Abu-Layan :)

  2. I TOTALLY AGREE! it has its publicity bc of what the dreamless nomad just said
    besides im 100% sure the taliban arent gay men who also decide to fight for their country which happens to be a strict sunni muslims state...
    does that make sense?

  3. The book isn't an autobiography. Khaled Hosseini is not Amir.