The Kite Runner
In this seemingly autobiographical first novel Hosseini tells the tale of a childhood in Afghanistan and, at the same time, we readers learn a lot about the Afghan society, before the Russians took over.
Amir is born into a wealthy Pashtun family, his mother dies in childbirth. So he is raised by his father, a well respected member of society and Ali, their servant. He spends most of his time together with Hassan, Ali´s son. But he only plays with him, when none of his other friends are around, because like Ali, Hassan is a member of the Hazari, an ethnic group that is looked down upon as natural servants of the Pashtuns. But, in fact, Hassan is the brave and tough one of the two, Amir the coward and often mean.
Like in “The human stain” by Roth, a theme of deceit and guilt is giving this story its edge. Hassan, as Amir´s companion and servant saves him on several occasions, whereas Ali runs away when they get into a really tight spot, specially after a kite-flying contest, when Hassan is raped by the bully Assef. And Amir envies Hassan not only the love of his father Ali but also his Baba´s love. He feels that he can never be strong enough to be loved the same way. And it´s his own scheming that finally makes Ali and Hassan leave his house.
Years later, Amir and his Baba have to leave everything behind and flee first to Pakistan, then to America, where they are granted asylum just like Hosseini himself. Again we readers are introduced into a strange Afghan society of emigrants, who cling to their rules and customs, although they have lost their real status in society. Baba works in a garage and makes some extra money by collecting things from carboot sales all over California and selling them at the Afghan market in San Franciso. Here Amir meets his later wife Soraya.
After the death of his father he receives an urgent message from an old friend of his father´s in Afghanistan, so he returns and finds the Taliban in control. He learns, that Hassan and his wife have been murdered and their son Sohrab is left in an orphanage in Kabul. But when Amir comes there, he finds out, that Sohrab has been given to an especially cruel self-appointed Taliban. Amir recognises him as Assef, the bully who had tortured and raped Sohrab´s father. And here it´s only with a certain uneasiness, that the reader is prepared to follow Hosseini´s tale of a cruel fight almost to death and of 12-year-old Sohrab, who saves Amir, because he is just as perfect with a sling as his father used to be.
The story has a phoney ring to it. Hosseini seems to be interested just a trifle too much in this young boy and his elaborately described sufferings. So the first half of the book is much more convincing than the second part. In the end they get back to America and with the installation of Karsai in Kabul in 2003 Amir and with him Hosseini are full of hope for the future of their home country.