# 373: BOOK OF THE WEEK — “The Kite Runner”
Story behind the Book Choice
Almost every Sunday, I have a déjà vu. Before I start reading, I hate myself for making this commitment to continue writing about a new book I have read every week. Then I remember how much I miss writing whenever I do not write. Then I start reading and with every page I read, I get happier about my decision again. Even though it is still crazy to write a blog that nobody reads, I continue doing it. And with every book I read, I feel happy again that I was given this talent of living in stories to a certain extent. Maybe I will never be a writer whose texts are read by anyone except for a few people I send a link to occasionally. Maybe I will not be teaching literature that much longer. Still, I will forever remain faithful to literature and the things it can do to your life.
This is also what Khaled Hosseini might be saying. If we read the novel as an auto-biographical one, which it presumably is, then the main character Amir would be stating very similar thoughts. The novel has not become famous beyond literary experts for no reason. The story is well-crafted, it has rhythm, tension, emotion — basically everything a good story needs. One of the most striking features, of course, is that it is a novel about a writer. Among the many things that writers write about is writing. And usually, these passages about writing touch me in an unusual way. Whenever I do not think about writing, whenever I do not read much, I lose touch with this enormous love one can feel towards writing. But then it all comes back when reading about the inner struggles writers go through.
Amir goes through much more than this writing struggle in the story. As happens to any person leaving his/her homeland, there are many losses and turns in the story. But I would not reduce this to those who are called “refugees” of some sort. I do think that writers in general are doomed to live a life of the disabandoned ones, those without a home, those with dark and funny stories buried somewhere in their biographies, only to be discovered by themselves in their own writing at a certain point. This sounds as if the stories of writers are always gloomy and sad. I am not so sure. Maybe the dark and gloomy sides are the ones that bring real happiness to your life, even though you only discover this when it is almost too late — I guess.
- Majoring in English
This passage is one of my favorites in the entire book because it combines the Ford story with the story of studying English to become a writer. Being given a car as a graduation gift by one’s father is one of the most emotional things one can imagine. This is because Amir’s Baba is not a rich man. They came to the U.S. with nothing and a father who has almost nothing but still decides to give his son a car so this son can drive to college does not need more explanation. But it is even more remarkable in light of the fact that the son has the guts to study English as a major. Not that studying English requires special courage per se. But the son knows exactly that English is NOT necessarily what his father would necessarily prefer as his son’s path. Still, Amir has the determination and guts to go fot it because he feels the fire of the writer burning inside.
The entire story builds up the story of the writer becoming a writer. It is a coming of age story not just of any man but of a writer who has written this story about a writer writing. I know, this sounds kind of confusing but this interwoven structure does make the story special. And part of this story, a large part, derives from the tension between a son knowing that he is somehow special and this son openly admitting to his father that he has special interests compared to the one he himself might feel more “suitable” for a boy who came with a widowed father to the Land of Opportunities. Even though there are many passages which reveal why Amir has much reason to think that he is a coward, at last at first, this ability to stand up for his own talent — his calling to be a writer — turns him into a very courageous man in my eyes.
2. Reading Stories
This tension between a father wishing his son to study law or medicine and this very same man acknowledging the writing talent of this son, even on his deathbed, is special and moving. It is the father asking his daughter in law to read the stories. And it is both of them assuring him that they are impressed by Amir’s stories. It is one thing to hear that you can write in a way that people are touched or convinced of some content, or even both. But having your wife read stories from a notebook to your dying father is a different story. Literally, some of the last lines Amir’s father has heard in his life time are these stories from his pen. Baba holds on to the unwritten rule telling his son to not cry. But he equally confirms that he wants Amir to write. If there is nothing which might survive from a person after his parting, this “silent” affirmation that what you are doing has his blessing, is the most powerful legacy to keep you going.
3. Life Lies
Lies, cowardice, and regrets do play a large role in this story. They are even needed to build up suspension. I am not sure if this is special, however. Maybe it appears to be more special because this story is about Afghanistan and one might suspect something terribly sad or criminal to happen after turning each page. But in general, I do think that life is all about lies and ultimately guilt. As I heard someone say on the radio the other day, “life is all about being guilty.” As a human being, you will always be guilty, whether you like it or not. You will always make mistakes that cause guilt in some way. You might think this sounds very Christian and this might even be true. I do think it is very human, though, after all.
When Amir finds out about the biggest lie of his life in this passage, the reader is not really surprised, I think. The dramaturgy of the book is very well crafted. One is expecting some dark truth to be discovered at this stage of the story. When I say “one,” I of course refer to myself. Who else could be reading a story and writing about it? But this is the entire point of it. I am not sure anymore that lies are such a big deal. Maybe it is my age. Or maybe learning in general. I do not know. But the less I care about anything that much anymore, the less I care about the seemingly disturbing effect of discovering lies. I wonder if it makes such a difference if you find out that your entire life was built on a lie.
I know, this sounds outrageous, but to me, it just confirms my general take on life. We live in stories and whether it be the stories told by others or the ones we tell ourselves — they are all fabricated in some way. And fabricated means they are not true to some or even a large extent. And “not being true” means lies. So, what does it matter for the present or future that your life in the past was a lie? You can move on with the deep conviction that the future will just be a lie as well. There is nothing to regret about this. Nothing to run away from. There is just life to live and accept the way it is now. Like a kite in the air — at some point falling down to the ground forever.
1) Do you think that writers need more courage than members of other occupations to pursue their path? Why/not?
2) Imagine you were dying: Who are the last people you would like to see/talk to?
3) What is the biggest lie in your life which you either discovered or created yourself?