Before I read The Kite Runner, I knew of Afghanistan as a war-ravaged country. A country ruled by the Taliban, invaded by George Bush’s American troops and thousands of displaced people, producing the largest number of refugees in the world for a long time before ISIS in Syria happened. The Afghan Girl from National Geographic also stands out in memory but I was very young when I saw the picture and the issue was quite old by then. Her eyes are still the most striking part of the image.
For Afghanistan, I read Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner, who during the Soviet War in Afghanistan fled to USA, a tale much like Amir’s from Kite Runner.
In many ways reading about Afghanistan was very difficult. I learnt about bacha bazi, which was an issue so vile and disturbing that I almost gave up on the book, but I had put off reading this for so long that I persevered.
Like Malala, most Afghans are Pashtuns. There seems to be a social hierarchy in which the Hazara people, who look Mongoloid, are oppressed by the Pashtuns and work as their servants. I’m sure that the real situation in the country must be different and I am happy to be corrected, but this is the knowledge that I gleaned from Kite Runner and Wikipedia.
The Soviet War in Afghanistan was a much bigger problem than I knew. Sometimes, when you read about wars in newspaper articles, it’s so antiseptic. I think fiction is important because it makes you feel for someone else on a personal level, much more than watching the plight of hundreds of people on the news can make you feel. To read about Amir, who managed to escape the miserable life under the Taliban menace, Hassan, who didn’t, and Sohrab, who lost his innocent childhood over it, they left long lasting impressions in my heart and they make me care about Afghanistan a lot more than the news ever did.
The Kite Runner is a difficult book to get through. It is heart-wrenching and I spent many pages reading with tears falling from between my fingers. What truly makes the book worth it though, is that these difficult bits are interspersed with pages of young boys running, jumping, laughing. In parts it’s like every childhood, in others it’s the deepest, darkest depths of human depravity. It’s so human. Our happiness is like sunshine, our dark secrets make us bury our heads in shame. A great book stays with you long after it is done. Even now, reading “For you a thousand times over” makes me want to laugh and cry at the same time.