The Kite Runner
The story of the Kite Runner is fictional, but it is rooted in real political and historical events ranging from the last days of the Afghan monarchy in the 1970s to the post-Taliban near present-day. Hosseini also pulls from his own memories and experiences growing up in the Wazir Akbar Khan section of Kabul and his adaptation to life in California.
Khaled Hosseini’s aim was to not only call attention to the devastation in Afghanistan; he set out to remind the world that before he last few decades under the world’s scrutinizing eye highlighting the negativity of the country, Afghanistan was a generally peaceful nation. Afghanistan gained international attention after the coup of 1973. From 1933 until 1973 Afghanistan was ruled by monarchy. On July 17th 1973 power was seized from the monarchy and by April 1978 the power of the country lied in the hands of the PDPA — or the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan.
The military coup was nearly bloodless, but was still a very frightening time for the people of Kabul who heard rioting and shooting in the streets; as is depicted through the eyes of Amir, the protagonist of The Kite Runner. The PDPA instituted many political and social reforms in Afghanistan, including abolishing religious and traditional customs. The reforms incensed groups of Afghans who believed in adherence to traditional and religious laws. 1979 brought the beginning of an occupation by the Soviet Army which would last a decade.
This is the historical point in the Kite Runner where the protagonist and his father leave Afghanistan. The Muslim internal forces, or mujahedins, were represented by the character Farid and his father who engaged in the resistance against the Soviets on the side of Islam. In 1992, with the collapse of the Soviet Union, the mujahedins finally won Afghanistan and converted it to an Islamic State. Despite the Soviet withdrawal, there was still a great deal of infighting and unrest among rival militias within the country. Unrest made everyday ife in Afghanistan during this time unsafe. In The Kite Runner, Hosseini chooses the figure Rahim Khan to represent a voice of reasoning. Khan describes the fear in Kabul during this time; “
The infighting between the factions was fierce and no one knew if they if they would live to see the end of the day. Our ears became accustomed to the rumble of gunfire, our eyes familiar with the sight of men digging bodies out of piles of rubble. Kabul in those days… was as close as you could get to that proverbial hell on earth. Khan’s description of the situation in Kabul directly reflects Kabul in the 1990s and also present day Afghanistan and the Middle East as a whole. The Taliban is a internationally and infamously known fundamental Muslim movement. A negative retrospective surrounds the Taliban movement and militia due to their reputation of terror reeking, however in 1996 when the Taliban first took control of Kabul, their presence was welcomed. The country and populus were vulnerable after many years of violence and insecurity in Afghanistan. To describe the public reaction Hosseini employs Rahim Khan once again; “…
We all celebrated in 1996 when the Taliban rolled in and put an end to the daily fighting” However, soon after their arrival life in Afghanistan had become dangerous once again under their corrupt leadership. The Islamic community became divided by what can be best described as an Iron Curtain. Although a disagreement between the Sunni and Shiite of Islam has always been present, the Taliban developed the separation into a tangible battle. The Taliban, as Sunni fundamentalist supremacists, systematically massacred Shiites including the Hazara people.
In The Kite Runner, we see how the Taliban used fear and violence to control the people of Afghanistan, for example at the frequent and very explicit and public executions Assef held in Ghazi Stadium. Hosseini’s stance on the separation of Islam can be best observed through the relationship of Amir, a Sunni Pashtun, and his servant, Hassaan, a Shiite Hazara. The friendship of Amir and Hassan was partly inspired by Hosseini’s own relationship with Hossein Khan, a Shiite Hazara cook that worked for his family.
Khaled Hosseini and Hossein Khan developed a relationship similar to that of Amir and Hassan’s ; both Amir and the author are identified as Pashtuns while Hassan and Hossein Khan as Hazarans–even the names of the servants of the Pashtuns seem similar. The social stature and ethnic differences of the two boys is the main factor of interest in The Kite Runner. The primary conflict of racism in the novel is against the Hazara, who practice Shi’a Islam. The dominant group is the Pashtuns who practice Sunni Islam. ” The Hazara are generally treated very inhumane in Afghanistan.
They are the poor population of the country and the racism against them in Afghanistan is reflected in the novel through their treatment. Hosseini’s even includes how the Hazara are identified in the country stating they are immediately recognizable having stereotypical mongolian traits such as a flat nose and pointed cheek bones. Some characters call Amir’s childhood friend Hassan a “mice-eating, flat-nosed, load-carrying donkey. Amir and his father use the division between Pashtun and Hazara to oppress them in the most insidious of ways, as they pretend to be close to Hassan and Ali, while keeping them at an arms distance as servants.
When Amir and his wife adopt Hasaan’s son Sohrab, Amir protests, “I have to deal with the community’s perception of our family. People will ask. They will want to know why there’s a Hazara boy living with our daughter. What do I tell them? ” In some sense, the persecution is a prevalent theme all the way through the book because, according to the author Hosseini, the disenfranchised, displaced Afghans find the need to hold on to some remnant of power, specifically by discriminating against the Hazara. Amir’s view of the Hazara barely changes although Hassan made many sacrifices for Amir and was truly his only friend.
Baba has a similar relationship with Ali, Hassan’s father. Amir’s grandfather adopted Ali as his own son, and Baba’s brother, but his role is always as a servant. This may be the authors way of reflecting on the separation of the Islamic community and a view into the mind of Afghans–the separation will and must always exists in their minds as long as there is unrest in Afghanistan; after extended trauma internally it may be the only way they can capture an identity or image of who they may be. After the events of September 11, 2001, the United States invaded Afghal of
Afghanistan and overthrew the Taliban. This is also when Hosseini began working on the Kite Runner, finishing a year later in 2002 and publishing the novel in 2003. Initially he considered abandoning the entire project, but with the defeat of the Taliban, he felt is was even more important to tell his story to the world. Hosseini did not return to Kabul until after the publication of The Kite Runner in 2003 and much of his portrayal of Afghanistan after the Soviet takeover is based on research. Hosseini’s choice of time period corresponds with his own life.
In 1980, The Hosseini’s were granted political asylum by the United States after being relocated for several years in Paris due to the Soviet invasion. Amir and Baba also relocate to the United States during this period of unrest for Afghanistan. Structurally, The Kite Runner and the life of Khaled Hosseini can be divided into three sections: memories of pre-conflict Afghanistan, adjusting to life in America, and returning to Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. The intimate examination of relationships amid the fraught environment of Afghanistan were Hosseini’s attempt to give a voice to the Afghan people.
Hosseini offers a detailed, human account of life and survival in Afghanistan by giving the people a voice and a story, not just a negative image seen by outside eyes. In a 2003 interview Hosseini expressed joy stating, “I get daily e-mails from Afghans who thank me for writing this book, as they feel a slice of their story has be told by one of their own. ” In 2006, Hosseini was named a Goodwill Envoy to UNHCR, the United Nations Refugee Agency. His commitment to do a service for his people goes beyond his literature and shows the passion behind his intentions.
After becoming inspired by a trip to Afghanistan he establish The Khaled Hosseini Foundation, a nonprofit which provides humanitarian assistance to the people of Afghanistan; all while he still resides in Northern California. A negative image of Afghanistan has been built since its government has been corrupted. In the resolution of the novel Amir discovers Hassan was actually his half-brother. This revelation gives perspective to the entire situation of Afghanistan. Hassan and Amir came from separate backgrounds, and are different ethnicities they were family the entire time.
Just as the Shiite and Sunni have different beliefs and the Pashtun and Hazara are from different backgrounds in the end there is a common blood shared and that is the Islamic religion. Despite their differences, their origin is the same and as one they create a family. Khaled Hosseini wrote “The Kite Runner” to bring a new, more positive kind of attention to his country. Although fictional, the relationships and situations in The Kite Runner depict reality — rooted in real political and historical events of Afghanistan.
The social impact of The Kite Runner was widespread. The contemporary novel provided insight into historical events from a not-so-distant past, sparking interest in previously ill-informed readers. Hosseini enabled readers to envision history by contextualizing it through a well fleshed out character. The world, particularly the United States, is very ignorant and biased to the situation of the Afghan people — more so after the event of 9/11. Coincidentally, 9/11 occurred six months into Hosseini’s work on The Kite Runner.
The times were catastrophic but for Hosseini the timing a propitious. The Kite Runner became an international bestseller. The book served to bridge the cultural divide and surmount headlines with its story of a young boy contending with political and personal turmoil. 2001 was the year many Americans first learned where Kabul, the country’s capital, was and who the Taliban were. To a great extent, Americans had pictured Afghanistan as a land of cave-dwelling terrorists. The Kite Runner helped fill in that very rudimentary picture.
Its cultural richness, accounts of ethnic conflicts, even its evocation of annual children’s kite contests helped the world build a more humane prospect on Afghanistan. Despite the impact The Kite Runner had on the world, the effect in Hosseini’s homeland, Afghanistan was very different. Afghans experienced outrage in contrast to the positive response brewing from everywhere else. When the film version of the Kite Runner was released, Americans sympathized with the character of Hassan, who was raped in an alleyway by Assef for defending his Pashtun companion Amir.
In Afghanistan the rape scene triggered threats of violence against the three Afghan child actors who appear in the film, demands that the scene be cut, articles about Hollywood exploitation — and an ensuing P. R. disaster for Paramount, which had to delay the film’s release until the kids were safely out of Afghanistan. The children and their guardians had been relocated to an unnamed city in the United Arab Emirates for the safety because controversy of the Kite Runner caused tensions to boil so high.
Nonetheless, Hosseini’s project was a success. He provided insight for the world into what was really happening in Afghanistan beyond the headlines. In a humane retrospective, he showed a completely different side of Afghanistan. Usually stories about Afghanistan fall into “Taliban and war on terror” or “narcotics” — the same old things. The Kite Runner was the story about family life, about customs, about the drama within a household, a window into a different side of Afghanistan.
The Kite Runner delve into a world of confusion, in the midst of more confusion but still provided a crystal clear image and storyline that was easily relatable, even as fiction. The War helped the book become published but The Kite Runner is still embraced even now. By putting a face on international news Hosseini helped demystify Afghanistan for a lot of people. The Kite Runner not only affected individuals, but a whole generation who grew up seeing the biased headlines, and the speech of ignorant, ill-informed people.
All of a sudden Afghanistan has became a real place and Afghans have became real people. The parallels between life here and the life of the people in a completely remote country were obvious but before the Kite Runner there was never anything to connect to. Now when there’s a news story about Afghanistan — be it a bombing or an attack on a village — subconsciously, now registers on a very personal level. In a sense, it’s as if The Kite Runner has made us more human; revitalizing the emotions we feel, the connections we make, and making us more aware of our conscience.