Fiction, non-fiction and The Kite Runner

Book reviews, in their conventional meaning, remind me of school. The character sketch, the plot, the protagonist, antagonist, climax…As the characters were dissected to nothing more than emotions and actions their pain became ours, their tears welled up our eyes and their helplessness turned us into insomniacs. I remember Rane of the story “Paribanda”, the character with the tell-tale trousers in “Cop and the Anthem” by O’Henry and his “The last leaf”, Chekov’s “About love” along with Tolstoy’s “The Two Old Men” munching on the loaf of bread, a soldier in “Coup De Grace” and a princess who chooses death to love and is guillotined….as if they were real. Then the reason I liked fiction were many then depending upon the teacher who read stories to us to the ordeal I went through to lay my hands on the book. Now, it’s zeroed down to how much I can relate to it and how much I can’t. It could fall into neither of the categories too but that’s the mediocre effect, not something I would like to discuss here.

Non-fiction is an entirely different issue though. A small piece of news on say Salary Men in Japan and it whets your appetite for more. It’s a complicated matrix of which you never make out enough sense to have the courage to talk about it with conviction (entirely based on my experience) unlike the typical male habit of “expressing opinions” on anything and everything they’ve heard of politics to petrol prices. Sometimes, people state that as a reason for women lagging behind men (not being so opinioned about everything) but I say well, that depends on what kind of noises you like. Empty vessels that make lost of noise, which I think could result in Permanent Threshold Shift of Hearing ( male tea-shops, office canteen politics alike guff) or PTS again resulting from women who at least know the details of what they are speaking about ( whether it be the vegetable they cooked, sari or relatives for that matter! ).

Non-fiction is a good thing; it prevents the Exposure of Ignorance. It results in the freedom from servitude and dependence not only in relation to other nations (if you can get the books in your country!) and individuals (in terms of knowledge) but also from the forces of ignorance and human misery (resulting from the same). {Well, that is infact the third principle of Development according to Todaro and Smith, hehe I just used it to express myself here} That’s the best part of reading Non-fiction. No fiction gets as Real as That!!

The Kite Runner

Kite Runner

Getting back to fiction, let me talk of “Kite Runner” that started the last of my Undergrad holidays. “Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseni. The first time I heard of it was when someone asked me if I had read the book over the IM, then another did the same over a cup of coffee, then a friend gave his version of the part that “almost” led to his precious tears sliding down his cheeks. My sister was the latest to join the gang, in her case the tears rolled and resulted in swollen eye lids. Finally I laid my hands on the book and finished it in a seating.

It wasn’t the suffering of Hassan, the friend of the protagonist Amir, in the book that first moistened my eyes. It was his utter cowardice nature that brought hot angry tears. An insult to the entire humanity, I drew an extremely quick conclusion. What a sham in the name of friendship! Such a coward that I stopped the book wiped the angry tears and felt like giving one tight slap to the boy. I didn’t know how I could calm my agitated mind, throwing the book or my blanket was not an option! So I put the book at a distance for a couple of minutes and restarted it. Amir’s character is that of a लुत्तपरेको हुतिहारा! (Sorry, I feel no English translation can bring out the essence of this term). That’s the success on the part of the writer my friend says, to stir such strong emotions in the reader inside of me. If so, I am an easy symptom of success I say. Tears, anger, frustration, laughter any emotion comes too easy to me.

The book progressed. The coward writes stories. The coward can’t face the truth. What was it with story writers, were they all capitalizing on their inability to face the truth, cashing on their cowardice or something? I could see the reflection of a real life character in the fictional Amir. Reminded me of a line from the movie “Great Expectations” starring Ethan Hawke and Gwyneth Paltrow . They are in a cab and she tells him,” People don’t change.” Holds true in case of Amir, it did in the other one too. Writing could be a way of redemption from ones follies, it would make a “writer” out of a coward Amir , could make him a hero. But that didn’t mean he CHANGED in any sense of the word. It only meant He Wrote. The writing could be good, better than the person itself.

Dialogues. The art of putting the words after the write article, the usage of the perfect noun, the adjectives, and the verb resulting in a sentence that lingers in my mind for a long-long time is what I like about fiction. The better if I can relate to them. And the book wasn’t lacking in it either.

His face twisted and strained to stay composed. “Father used to say it’s wrong to hurt even bad people. Because they don’t know any better, and because bad people sometimes become good.”
“Not always, Sohrab.”
He looked at me questioningly.
……………..
“Why did people want to hurt my father?” Sohrab said in a wheezy little voice. “He was never mean to anyone.”

“You’re right. Your father was a good man. But that’s what I’m trying to tell you, Sohrab jan. That there are bad people in this world, and sometimes bad people stay bad. Sometimes you have to stand up to them. ……”

Page 277-278

When you kill a man, you steal a life.
When you tell a lie, you steal someone’s right to the truth.
When you cheat, you steal the right to fairness.
There is no act more wretched than stealing.

How I related to it:

The drama began to unfold. She hadn’t read the diary of Anne Frank but the feelings were the same. “Somewhere deep within, there is good in every person”. Anne wrote other sentences with the exact opposite sentiments too but that wasn’t in limelight. She was the Saint as Hollywood portrayed her. That’s human nature, I guess, we focus on the good hoping sooner or later it will prevail. But the good is eventually killed…the bad prevails…nevertheless the hope of the good stays back… I wonder if knowing “Sometimes bad people stay bad” could have changed anything…I think it wouldn’t. Fiction philosophizes reality. The fact remains: you Live and you Learn.

Amir, the escapist has buried his past in a land far away from home. But as the saying goes, what goes around comes around…he has to confront it…”You can’t say that!” My friend had exclaimed when I said लुत्तपरेको हुतिहारा of Amir “He regrets in the end.” But my point is how anyone can be that much of a coward! On mulling over the character, I concluded that’s what most people are; we are a chicken beneath the armor of a lion. Its nang and namoos in the book. Honor and Pride. Relating it to the life we lead: it’s the will to question and change the system, professional ethics, the values of integrity and honesty. Talking big and acting small. When the situation comes, most give up as Amir. That’s the लुत्तपरेको हुतिहारा in every one of us. It’s in the multitude of students who leave the country in masses saying we’ll be back if situation improves but never talk of bring the Improvement, and if they do they’ll give up eventually. (I hope we fare better with a little honesty and lots of courage….)It’s the professionals who talk of ethics abroad and reflect nothing here. The problem sometime the person and sometimes the system. It’s the tourist who pays fine in his/her country on spitting on the road but enjoys the act here! That’s the coward in everyone that Amir portrays.

“……… it is Hassan’s silent sacrificial love that will bring the lump to your throat.” writes the Daily Mail. For me, it was frustration on Amir’s cowardice that spilled out all the emotions. Whether it is Chekhov’s “predicament of the little man” or Hosseni’s “Kite Runner” I think the reason for their immense popularity is that helplessness, that coward in every one of us. Still Chekhov’s protagonist haven’t brought this level of frustration in me..they are tolerable cowards…in life and love…this is intolerable. The situation they exist in is more to do with their helplessness. Here it is nothing else but the kind of person the protagonist is. Its worth everyone’s time but a little less hype about the book is welcome.

Fiction sometimes directs you to know more about the Non-fiction (the reality), which is the Afghan reality in case of this book. I think I am more for stronger characters in fiction I pursue. But the desire to be in the shoes of the character and get all the wrong things right is a huge success of the book. I can’t deny that.

Further Reads:
Reading ‘The Kite Runner’ by Dikshya

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6 comments

  1. SHOW OFF!!! Ive been dying to read Kaled’s books for sometime now. But I’m set to read Amitav Ghosh’s The Glass Palace, so kinda excited. Plus….I’ve got Arundati Roys…haha!!! Btw….wats the plans for our SA blog….cum on…get cooking!!! and all me after dinner’s served 🙂 ur the cook this time!!

  2. Dear zade ji,
    Great analysis of the kite runner…….I really inspired from ur review on book. After completing graduation , keep on criticisizing and reviewing books that would be really inspiring to us too.
    i will definitely read it after a while when I got that book as soon as possible.
    thanks.
    🙂

  3. reading, like writing, is done is isloation. And one does not know who is reading what. At times it feels as if you are the only one who spends hours reading books. so it’s kind of encouraging to get to know that there are other people who also read–hell of a lot–and, what more, write about the books they have read. keep on reading—and writing.

  4. ………………….I envied her. Her secret was out. Spoken. Dealt with. I opened my mouth & almost told her how I’d betrayed HASAN, lied, driven him out & destroyed a 40 year relationship between BABA & ALI. But I didn’t suspected there were many ways in which SORAYA TAHERI was better person than me. “COURAGE WAS JUST ONE OF THEM.”…………………………………………………..Thanks for ur reference on this book ……I just finished to read it ……..and I stopped on the line above 🙂
    Thinking about how Amir is comparing the situation in his favor ……………..
    thanks.

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