Afghan kites

My friend Marie-Louise left for Afghanistan recently to spend a little over four months there working for a development NGO called DACAAR. I helped her set up a blog which she has named Eyes Out There for her to tell the world about her travels.

Since I won’t be going to Afghanistan any time soon, I settled for the next thing (well, apart from actually going out meeting Afghanis), and read the Kite Runner by Khaled Husseini.

It is a heart-breaking novel in more ways than one, and last night, I found myself unable to put it down, reading the last 250 pages in one sitting. The story has strong allegorical traits describing not only the story of two boys growing up and growing apart, but also a country being torn apart first from the outside and then from the inside – in a way much like the protagonists it portrays.

Not only does the book teach a lot of wondrous details about Afghanistan and the way of life and some of the reasons behind the differences in that torn country, but it also manages to combine it with a lot of heart and humanity. I found the end to be somewhat predictable, but given the nature of Husseini’s topic, clichés seem inescapable as he calmly acknowledges:

I always thought that cliches got a bum rap. Because, often, they’re dead-on. But the aptness of the cliched saying is overshadowed by the nature of the saying as a cliche.

And indeed, much of the plot of the book seems to be based on the story of Rostam and Sohrab from the ancient Persian book of Kings, the Shahnameh. I suppose that it is true that these days, all of the great stories have already been told, and all stories easily look like variations on the same theme of the human condition. But as long as they’re as well written and earnest as this one, I for one won’t mind.

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