Afghanistan is a land of ancient traditions including kite
flying. Khaled Hosseini is an Afghan born physician turned novelist after learning that the Taliban had banned the sport of kite fighting in his native homeland. As he had grown up with the sport as a child in Afghanistan, news of the ban served as inspiration to write a short story about two young boys who fly kites in Kabul. After the story was rejected by several magazines, Hosseini shelved the idea but several years later he felt compelled to take the work and transform into a novel. Four years after its publication, the novel was adapted as a screen play and the motion picture was released in 2007.
It is a dark story set against the backdrop of sport kite fighting in Afghanistan before the Soviet invasion. It is also a unique film that provides insight into a centuries old culture on the cusp of dramatic change, and the mixed reviews the film received are as interesting as the movie itself.
Edward Hower from The New York Times review of The Kite Runner: “Hosseini’s depiction of pre-revolutionary Afghanistan is rich in warmth and humor but also tense with the friction between the nation’s different ethnic groups. Amir’s father, or Baba, personifies all that is reckless, courageous and arrogant in his dominant Pashtun tribe … The novel’s canvas turns dark when Hosseini describes the suffering of his country under the tyranny of the Taliban, whom Amir encounters when he finally returns home, hoping to help Hassan and his family. The final third of the book is full of haunting images: a man, desperate to feed his children, trying to sell his artificial leg in the market; an adulterous couple stoned to death in a stadium during the halftime of a football match; a rouged young boy forced into prostitution, dancing the sort of steps once performed by an organ grinder’s monkey.”
A review published in The Guardian, “A gripping and emotional story of betrayal and redemption, The Kite Runner had me thrilled and moved, both at the same time. It tells the story of Amir and Hassan, the closest of friends, as good as brothers, and also experts in the art of kite flying. The two young boys live in Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, and this year they are going to try harder than ever to win the local kite-fighting tournament—a popular Afghan pastime, and this is Amir’s one hope of winning his father’s love. But just like the kites battling in the sky, war comes to Afghanistan, and the country becomes an extremely dangerous place.In war, people are often forced to make great sacrifices, and the young Amir himself commits an act of betrayal, towards his best friend Hassan no less, which will haunt him for the rest of his life. Amir and his father are forced to flee Afghanistan for America, and The Kite Runner becomes the story of Amir’s quest for redemption – righting the wrongs he committed all those years ago as a boy in Kabul.”
I recommend both the book and film. However, I would be remiss if it were not noted that the content is not for a younger audience.