Fact is stranger than fiction, and fiction is nothing unless it tells the truth. Powerful and moving stories often tell us something true about life, about the world and about ourselves, even if the details have been manufactured inside the author’s brain. The Kite Runner, one of the most popular more high-brow novels of recent years has been successful because of the moving story it tells of human weakness and redemption, set in a country, Afghanistan, that we have all become more familiar with for all the wrong reasons.
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini tells the story of Amir, son of a privileged oligarch living in Kabul during the 1970s in Afghanistan. Amir grows up alongside Hassan, the hare-lipped son of the family’s principal servant Ali. Although of a very different background, Hassan is Amir’s childhood companion, yet at the same time is also resented by Amir, who is jealous of any affection shown the boy by his own father. The story covers Amir’s struggles to come to terms with his relationship with Hassan and his father, and historically covers the period from the end of the monarchy in the 1970s to the US invasion in 2001.
The book is a quick read although also a harrowing one, with death, rape, guilt and destruction common presences throughout its pages. I can’t say much more about the plot without giving away too much, but I would recommend that you read it yourself.
Although the Kite Runner is a heart-wrenching and powerful story, I get the feeling, especially during the last act of the book that rather present a “real” story of this war-ravaged country, the author is carving out a book with a powerful narrative arc, one that hits all the emotional and thematic buttons – for instance the kites and the redemption of being able to make up to Hassan by adopting his son etc etc. It’s all a bit too convenient and well-fitting. So despite the truly harrowing and sad story, the book left me feeling that I had ready something contrived rather than something true.