I did see the movie some years ago, but I didn’t remember too much of it and I ended up reading the book because it seemed like a good option to buy in an airport book-store. It’s quite an impressive story, especially when reading it now, in the global context that we live in.
‘The Kite Runner’ tells the story of Amir, a young boy from the Wazir Akbar Khan district of Kabul, whose closest friend is Hassan, his father’s young Hazara servant. The story is set against a backdrop of tumultuous events, from the fall of Afghanistan’s monarchy through the Soviet military intervention, the exodus of refugees to Pakistan and the United States, and the rise of the Taliban regime.
The two boys spend their days kite fighting in the hitherto peaceful city of Kabul. Hassan is a successful “kite runner” for Amir; he knows where the kite will land without watching it. Amir’s father, a wealthy merchant Amir affectionately refers to as Baba, loves both boys, but is often critical of Amir, considering him weak and lacking in courage. Amir finds a kinder fatherly figure in Rahim Khan, Baba’s closest friend, who understands him and supports his interest in writing.
Assef, an older boy with a sadistic taste for violence, mocks Amir for socializing with a Hazara, which is, according to Assef, an inferior race whose members belong only in Hazarajat. One day, he prepares to attack Amir with brass knuckles, but Hassan defends Amir, threatening to shoot out Assef’s eye with his slingshot. Assef backs off but swears to get revenge.
One triumphant day, Amir wins the local kite fighting tournament and finally earns Baba’s praise. Hassan runs for the last cut kite, a great trophy, saying to Amir, “For you, a thousand times over.” However, after finding the kite, Hassan encounters Assef in an alleyway. Hassan refuses to give up the kite, and Assef beats him severely and rapes him. Amir witnesses the act but is too scared to intervene. He knows that if he fails to bring home the kite, Baba would be less proud of him. He feels incredibly guilty but knows his cowardice would destroy any hopes for Baba’s affections, so he keeps quiet about the incident. Afterwards, Amir keeps distant from Hassan; his feelings of guilt prevent him from interacting with the boy.
Amir begins to believe that life would be easier if Hassan were not around, so he plants a watch and some money under Hassan’s mattress in hopes that Baba will make him leave; Hassan falsely confesses when confronted by Baba. Although Baba believes “there is no act more wretched than stealing”, he forgives him. To Baba’s sorrow, Hassan and Ali leave anyway. Amir is freed of the daily reminder of his cowardice and betrayal, but he still lives in their shadow.
Amir lives all his life with this quilt, and the author makes his character look like a “an unlikable coward who failed to come to the aid of his best friend”, although he does put him in a light that creates also sympathy for him. The book is so strong in morals. From the power of true friendship taken sometimes to extremes, to honesty, betrayal, family love and guilt, they are all there, trying to teach us a lesson about what life actually means.