Book Review: The Kite Runner

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Monday, November 14, 2005
By Yokota Fritz


The Richmond, VA Times-Dispatch printed a story about Professor James Starrs. He teaches forensic science at George Mason University and digs up and studies corpses in his spare time. He's also crazy about bicycling. So crazy, in fact, that he wrote a 400-page book in 1982 on the role of the bicycle in literature. Here, I make my contribution and note the presence of bicycling in literature.

Bicycles are mentioned five times in The Kite Runner. Coincidentally, there are Five Pillars of Islam, suggesting that bicycling is like religion.

This novel by Khaled Hosseini follows the dark and depressing journey of Amir, an Afghani who lived a life of privilege growing up in Kabul. He and his family lost everything after the overthrow of King Zahir Shah and the chaos that followed afterward with Soviet occupation and eventual Taliban control. Very bad things happen to just about everybody Amir is close to.

If you're looking for escapism, avoid this novel and read some good sci-fi. If you want fascinating insights into Afghani culture and the tragedy that has befallen this impoverished nation, this novel written by one who's lived the life is a difficult and melancholy but interesting read.

Why "Kite Runner"? Kite competitions were a big deal in pre-Taliban Kabul. Amir was one of the best kite flyers. Amir's servant-boy, Hassan, was one of the best kite runners -- the children who chase and retrieve fallen kites. Kites, kite running, harelips, pomegranate trees, and sheep all serve as metaphors for different themes throughout the novel; you'll need to read the novel to find out exactly what. Bicycles serve no storytelling role other than to provide exotic third-world background scenery.

The author, Khaled Hosseini, was born in Kabul, Afghanistan. His father was a diplomat in Paris when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan in 1980. The family was granted political asylum in the U.S. Dr. Hosseini is a physician in California.



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