Monday, July 23, 2007

It's Just Miserable in Afghanistan

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini is a well-formed story, but it's just so darn brutal. I generally enjoy stories in foreign locations, where I can learn about another country's history and culture and yet connect with a character who is in dramatically different circumstances than I. It's also a story about redemption, which is a big plus for me, and it's a story that reaches its fulfillment in a second generation rather than the first, which is one of the elements I love about Wuthering Heights. Hosseini's language is simple and emotional, although it doesn't approach the artistry of Kazuo Ishiguro.

But good grief, is it hard to handle. As I said, it's brutal, and it takes you deeper into the horror of Afghanistan than a news report could. There's rape, torture, murder, public execution, disease, and emotional damage aplenty. I wasn't properly prepared for it all when I began reading. These elements were not simply added for shock value, however, and Hosseini's desire to depict the horrors Afghans have experienced and afflicted upon each other is a critical part of the main character's development. There's still a lot of beauty about this culture, and you see much of it prior to the Russians, Mujahideen, and Taliban's arrival. It makes me wonder how people survive and how such a marred society can ever be put to rights, but the story is optimistic. Humanity is amazing--its cruelty as well as its capacity for healing.

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