A Review of Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner

Oreoluwa Ademola-Popoola
500-level Medicine & Surgery
University of Ibadan

Amir and Hassan are two young boys growing up in early-70s Kabul, whose lives initially revolve around watching dubbed John Wayne movies, kite fighting and running up mountains, oblivious to the backdrop of the rapidly changing political landscape in Afghanistan which subsequently led to the Soviet invasion, and the ensuing Taliban incursion into Afghanistan. Both nursed by the same breasts, they grew up in the same house but had vastly different futures what with Hassan being a Hazara an oppressed Persian-speaking minority ethnic group in Afghanistan. The injustice suffered by Hassan from his birth to his death due to his ethnicity demonstrates the senselessness of certain aspects of culture and the vileness of society to people they consider outsiders. 

A moving novel, for better or for worse, beginning in pre-Soviet and pre-Taliban Afghanistan. A gripping story about honour, culture, cowardice and redemption. Amir and his closest friend and steadfast servant, Hassan, show us the weaknesses and strengths of human character and the burden of culture on our individual lives and how artificial and arbitrary the lines between castes are. 

“When you kill a man, you steal a life”, Baba said. “You steal his wife’s right to a husband, rob his children of a father. When you tell a lie, you steal someone’s right to the truth. When you cheat, you steal the right to fairness. Do you see?”

And yet, the entire story invariably hinges on Baba’s lie. The character of Baba is perhaps the best thought out in the book. A proud, strong Afghani carpet merchant and philanthropist, broken by the death of the wife he loved and yet refusing to outwardly love the son that was so much like her. We are led to initially believe that Baba’s contempt for Amir was borne out of Baba’s perception of Amir’s weakness of character, but we come to realise that Amir simply reminded Baba of his weakness of character: the single failure of his fidelity that is the canvas on which this story is painted.

“Hassan and I fed from the same breasts. We took our first steps on the same lawn in the same yard. And, under the same roof, we spoke our first words.
Mine was Baba.
His was Amir. My name.
Looking back on it now, I think the foundation for what happened in the winter of 1975 —and all that followed— was already laid in those first words.”

The contrast between the characters of the two main figures, Amir and Hassan, inevitably shapes their future. Hassan’s unwavering loyalty to Amir, his selflessness and his bravery in contrast to Amir’s cowardice and commitment to only his survival leads to the fracture in their relationship. The book also explores how fatally flawed ‘good’ people may be why do honourable people do dishonourable things? The book ends with Amir finding redemption through sacrifice and suffering. 

The first thing I loved about this book was the title: ‘The Kite Runner’. Khaled Hosseini’s description of the kite running tournament was one of the most suspenseful portions of the book: the preparation, the pressure, the exhilaration and the pain. One could easily imagine standing on a balcony watching kites falling from the sky and hundreds of children chasing after the last kite to be cut as it floats through the sky. His description of Afghanistan under the Taliban was particularly haunting and reveals the horrors of living in a state controlled by religious extremists. The willingness of the author to provide redemption for Amir could appear a bit forced and convenient but it remains a most recommendable and emotive book.

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