The Kite Runner
|The Kite Runner|
1st edition cover
|Cover artist||Honi Werner|
May 29, 2003
|Media type||Print (hardcover & paperback), audio CD, audio cassette, and audio download|
|Pages||324 pp (first edition, hardcover)|
|ISBN||ISBN 1-57322-245-3 (first edition, hardcover)|
|Dewey Decimal||813/.6 21|
|LC Classification||PS3608.O832 K58 2003|
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.
Plot summary 
Part I 
Amir, a well-to-do Pashtun boy, and Hassan, a Hazara who is the son of Ali, Amir's father's servant, spend their days in the hitherto peaceful city of Kabul, kite fighting. Amir's father, a wealthy merchant, whom Amir affectionately refers to as Baba, loves both boys, but is often more harshly critical of Amir, considering him weak and lacking in courage. Amir finds a kinder fatherly figure in Rahim Khan, Baba's closest friend. Khan understands Amir and supports his interest in writing. Amir explains that his first word was 'Baba' and Hassan's 'Amir', suggesting that Amir looks up most to Baba, while Hassan looks up to Amir.
Assef, a notorious sociopath and violent older boy, 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 stainless-steel brass knuckles, but Hassan bravely stands up to him, threatening to shoot out Assef's eye with his slingshot. Assef and his posse back off, but Assef threatens revenge.
Hassan is a successful "kite runner" for Amir, knowing where the kite will land without watching it. One triumphant day, Amir wins the local tournament, and finally Baba's praise. Hassan runs for the last cut kite, a great trophy, saying to Amir, "For you, a thousand times over." Unfortunately, Hassan encounters Assef in an alleyway after finding the kite. Hassan refuses to give up Amir's kite, and Assef decides to teach Hassan a lesson. He beats him severely and then anally rapes him. Amir witnesses the act but is too scared to intervene. Secretly, he also knows that if he intervenes, he might not be able to bring the kite home; therefore, Baba would be less proud of him. After witnessing this brutal act against his dearest friend, he feels incredibly guilty, but knows that his cowardice would destroy any hopes for Baba's affections, so he tells no one what he saw. Afterward, Amir keeps a distance from Hassan, his guilt preventing him from interacting with the boy. Jealous of Baba's love for Hassan, Amir worries that if Baba found out about Hassan's bravery and his own cowardice, Baba's love for Hassan would grow even more.
Amir, filled with guilt on his birthday, cannot enjoy his gifts. The only present that does not feel like "blood" money is the notebook to write his stories in given to him by Rahim Khan, his father's friend and the only one Amir felt really understood him.
Amir feels 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. Baba forgives him, despite the fact that, as he explains earlier, he believes that "there is no act more wretched than stealing." Hassan and Ali, to Baba's extreme sorrow, leave anyway. It is clear that Ali knows about Hassan's rape. Their leaving frees Amir of the daily reminder of his cowardice and betrayal, but he still lives in the shadow of these things.
Part II 
Five years later, the Soviet Union militarily intervenes in Afghanistan in 1979. Amir and Baba escape to Peshawar, Pakistan and then to Fremont, California, where Amir and Baba, who lived in luxury in an expensive mansion in Afghanistan, settle in a run-down apartment and Baba begins work at a gas station. Amir eventually takes classes at a local community college to develop his writing skills after graduating from high school at age twenty. Every Sunday, Baba and Amir make extra money selling used goods at a flea market in San Jose. There, Amir meets fellow refugee Soraya Taheri and her family. Soraya's father, General Taheri, once a high-ranking officer in Afghanistan, has contempt for Amir's literary aspiration. Baba is diagnosed with terminal small cell carcinoma but is still capable of granting Amir one last favor: he asks Soraya's father's permission for Amir to marry her. He agrees and the two marry. Shortly thereafter Baba dies. Amir and Soraya settle down in a happy marriage, but to their sorrow they learn that they cannot have children.
Amir embarks on a successful career as a novelist. Fifteen years after his wedding, Amir receives a call from Rahim Khan, who is dying from an illness. Rahim Khan asks Amir to come to Peshawar, Pakistan. He enigmatically tells Amir, "There is a way to be good again." Amir goes.
Part III 
From Rahim Khan, Amir learns the fates of Ali and Hassan. Ali was killed by a land mine. Hassan had a wife named Farzana and a son named Sohrab. He had lived in a village near Bamiyan, but returned to Baba's house as a caretaker at Rahim Khan's request, although he moved to a hut in the yard so as not to dishonor Amir by taking his place in the house. During his stay, his mother Sanaubar returned after a long search for him, and died after four years. One month after Rahim Khan left for Pakistan, the Taliban ordered Hassan to give up the house and leave, but he refused, and was executed, along with Farzana. Rahim Khan reveals that Ali was not really Hassan's father, that Ali was sterile, and that Hassan was actually Baba's son, and therefore Amir's half-brother. Finally, Rahim Khan tells Amir that the true reason he called Amir to Pakistan was to rescue Sohrab from an orphanage in Kabul.
Rahim Khan asks Amir to bring Sohrab to Thomas and Betty Caldwell, who own an orphanage. Amir becomes furious; he feels cheated because he had not known that Hassan was his half-brother. Amir finally relents and decides to go to Kabul to get Sohrab. He travels in a taxi with an Afghan driver named Farid, a veteran of the war with the Soviets, and stays as a guest at Farid's brother Wahid's house. Farid, initially hostile to Amir, is sympathetic when he hears of Amir's true reason for returning, and offers to accompany him on his journey.
Amir searches for Sohrab at the orphanage. To enter Taliban territory, clean shaven Amir wears a fake beard and mustache. However, Sohrab is not at the orphanage; its director tells them that a Taliban official comes often, brings cash, and usually takes a girl away with him. Once in a while however, he takes a boy, recently Sohrab. The director tells Amir to go to a soccer match, where the procurer makes speeches at half-time. Farid secures an appointment with the speaker at his home, by claiming to have "personal business" with him.
At the house, Amir meets the man, who turns out to be Assef. Assef recognizes Amir from the outset, but Amir does not recognise Assef until he asks about Ali, Baba, and Hassan. Sohrab is being kept at Assef's home where he is made to dance dressed in women's clothes, and it seems Assef may have raped him. (Sohrab later confirms this saying, "I'm so dirty and full of sin. The bad man and the other two did things to me.") Assef agrees to relinquish him, but only for a price—cruelly beating Amir. However, Amir is saved when Sohrab uses his slingshot to shoot out Assef's left eye, fulfilling Hassan's threat made many years before.
Amir tells Sohrab of his plans to take him back to America and possibly adopt him, and promises that he will never be sent to an orphanage again. However, US authorities demand evidence of Sohrab's orphan status. After decades of war, this is all but impossible to get in Afghanistan. Amir tells Sohrab that he may have to temporarily break his promise until the paperwork is completed. Upon hearing this, Sohrab attempts suicide. Amir eventually takes him back to the United States without an orphanage, and introduces him to his wife. However, Sohrab is emotionally damaged and refuses to speak to or even glance at Soraya. His frozen emotions eventually thaw when Amir reminisces about Hassan and kites. Amir shows off some of Hassan's tricks, and Sohrab begins to interact with Amir again. In the end Sohrab only shows a lopsided smile, but Amir takes to it with all his heart as he runs the kite for Sohrab, saying, "For you, a thousand times over."
- Amir is the protagonist and narrator of the novel. He was born in 1963, and his mother died giving birth. He is a Pashtun. As a child, Amir delighted himself with storytelling and was encouraged by Rahim Khan to become an author. At age eighteen, he and his father fled to America following the Soviet invasion in Afghanistan, where Amir pursues his dream of being a writer.
- Hassan is Amir's closest childhood friend. He is described as having a China doll face, green eyes, and a harelip. The reader eventually discovers that Hassan is actually the son of Baba and Sanaubar, although Hassan never knows this during his lifetime. Hassan was later shot by the Taliban led by Mohammed Omar for refusal to abandon Amir's property.
- Assef is the main antagonist of the novel. He is the son of an Afghan father and a German mother and ironically, given that he is of mixed origin, an advocate of Pashtun dominance over the Hazara. As a teenager, he is a neighborhood bully and is described as a "sociopath" by Amir. Many of his cruel actions as a child include raping Hassan as a means of revenge against Amir, and giving Amir a biography of Adolf Hitler as a birthday present. As an adult, he joins the Taliban and rapes and abuses Hassan's son Sohrab.
- Baba is Amir's father and a wealthy businessman who aids the community by creating businesses for others and building a new orphanage. He is also the biological father of Hassan, a secret he takes to the grave. Baba is born in 1933 (when the Afghan king begins his 40-year reign). According to legend, he won in a fight with a black bear in his younger years. Believing that sin could be explained as a form of stealing from one's fellow man, he does not endorse the religiosity demanded by the clerics in the religion classes attended by Amir in school. Baba is disappointed in his son Amir, whom he wishes to be as manly as he is, and appears to favor Hassan. In his later years after fleeing to America, he works at a gas station. He dies from cancer in 1987, shortly after Amir and Soraya's wedding.
- Ali is Baba's servant, a Hazara believed to be Hassan's father. In his youth, Baba's father adopted him after his parents were killed by a drunk driver. Before the events of the novel, Ali had been struck with polio, rendering his right leg useless. Because of this, Ali was constantly tormented by children in the town. He was killed by a land mine in Hazarajat.
- Rahim Khan is Baba's loyal friend and business partner, as well as a mentor to Amir. Rahim convinces Amir to come to Pakistan by saying "there is a way to be good again." He eventually tells Amir that Hassan is his half brother, and that he should save Sohrab. He dies peacefully knowing he has successfully made Amir the man Baba wanted him to be.
- Soraya is a young Afghan woman whom Amir meets in America. She lives with her parents, Afghan general Taheri and his wife. She meets Amir at a flea market and later marries him. Soraya wants to become an English teacher. Before meeting Amir, she ran away with an Afghan boyfriend in Virginia, which, according to Afghan tradition, made her unsuitable for marriage. Because Amir also had his own regrets, he loved and married her anyway. Soraya wants to have children but cannot because of "unexplained infertility".
- Sohrab is the son of Hassan. After his parents are killed and he is sent to an orphanage, Assef buys him and physically abuses the child. Amir saves him, and then is saved by Sohrab in a pivotal confrontation. He is later adopted by Amir and Soraya, where he (very slowly) adapts to his new life. Sohrab greatly resembles a young version of his father Hassan.
- Sanaubar is Ali's wife and the mother of Hassan. Shortly after Hassan's birth, she runs away from home and becomes a gypsy. She later returns to Hassan in his adulthood. To make up for her neglect she provided a grandmother figure for Sohrab, Hassan's son.
- Farid is a taxi driver who is initially abrasive toward Amir, but later befriends him. Two daughters of Farid's seven children were killed by a land mine, a disaster which mutilated three fingers on his left hand and also took some of his toes. After spending a night with Farid's brother's impoverished family, Amir hides a bundle of money under the mattress to help them: the secretive act once committed to hurt his friend Hassan, he now does to help someone he barely knows.
- General Taheri is the father of Soraya. General Taheri lives mainly off welfare, considering himself too good for ordinary work. He is always waiting for a call to be restored to his former position as a high-ranking general in Kabul, which he eventually receives at the end of the novel, after the fall of the Taliban.
- Khala/Khanum Jamila is Soraya's mother, who lovingly accepts Amir into her family. She sees Amir as someone who could "do no wrong in her eyes."
- Farzana is Hassan's wife and Sohrab's mother, a shy Hazara who is later shot to death by the Taliban.
The Kite Runner received the South African Boeke Prize in 2004. It was the first 2005 best seller in the United States, according to Nielsen BookScan. It was also voted the Reading Group Book of the Year for 2006 and 2007 and headed a list of 60 titles submitted by entrants to the Penguin/Orange Reading Group prize (UK).
The Kite Runner has been accused of hindering Western understanding of the Taliban by portraying Taliban members as representatives of various social and doctrinal evils not typically attributed to the Taliban (take, for example, Assef's pedophilia, Nazism, drug abuse and sadism, and the fact that he is an executioner). The American Library Association reports that The Kite Runner is one of its most-challenged books of 2008, with multiple attempts to remove it from libraries due to "offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited to age group."
Afghanistan's Ministry of Culture banned the film from distribution in cinemas or DVD stores, citing the possibility that the movie's ethnically charged rape scene could incite racial violence within Afghanistan.
The Kite Runner was published in 2003 and in 2007 adapted as a motion picture starring Khalid Abdalla (Amir), Homayoun Ershadi (Baba), and Ahmad Khan Mahmoodzada (Hassan). Directed by Marc Forster and with a screenplay by David Benioff, the movie won numerous awards and was nominated for an Oscar (2008), the BAFTA Film Award (2008) and the Critics Choice Award (2008). However, Manhola Dargis of the New York Times states that "The back of my paperback copy of this Khaled Hosseini novel is sprinkled with words like 'powerful' and 'haunting' and 'riveting' and 'unforgettable'. It's a good guess this film will be rolled around in a similarly large helping of lard."
The novel was also adapted to the stage by Bay Area playwright Matthew Spangler. It was performed at San Jose State University in March 2007 and two years later at San Jose Repertory Theatre, where David Ira Goldstein (artistic director of Arizona Theater Company) directed a cast that included Barzin Akhavan (Amir), Demosthenes Chrysan (General Taheri), Gregor Paslawsky (Rahim Khan), James Saba (Baba), Thamos Fiscelle (Ali), Craig Piaget (Young Amir), Lowell Abellon (Young Hassan), Rinabeth Apostol (Soraya), Adam Yazbeck (Assef), Zarif Kabier Sadiqi, Wahab Shayek, and Lani Carissa Wong, with Salar Nader also onstage playing tabla. The play was subsequently produced at Arizona Theatre Company (2009), Actor's Theatre of Louisville, Cleveland Play House (both 2010) and The New Repertory Theatre of Watertown, Massachusetts (Sept. 2012). The play had its Canadian premiere as a co-production between Theatre Calgary and The Citadel Theatre (January 2013). In April 2013 the play made its European stage premiere at the Nottingham Playhouse, where the lead role was played by Ben Turner (actor).
See also 
- A Thousand Splendid Suns (the second novel by Khaled Hosseini)
- Kite Runner (play)
- The Kite Runner (film)
- 16 Days in Afghanistan - referenced film.
- Hosseini, Khaled (2003). The Kite Runner. New York: Riverhead Books. ISBN 978-1-59448-000-3.
- Hosseini,Khaled. The Kite Runner. Anchor Canada: Toronto, 2004. ISBN 978-0-385-66007-5
- Noor, R.; Hosseini, Khaled (September/December 2004). "The Kite Runner". World Literature Today 78 (3/4): 148. doi:10.2307/40158636.
- Hosseini 2003, p. 102
- Hosseini 2003, p. 202
- Hosseini 2003, p. 222
- Hosseini 2003, p. 227
- Hosseini 2003, p. 228
- Hosseini 2003, p. 305
- Hosseini 2003, p. 308
- "Harry Potter tops US best-seller list for 2005". ninemsn.com.au. 2006-01-07. Retrieved 2007-02-14.
- "Word-of-mouth success gets reading group vote", The Guardian, August 7, 2006
- Pauli, Michelle (2007-08-15). "Kite Runner is reading group favourite for second year running". guardian.co.uk (London). Retrieved 2009-04-23.
- Sengupta, Kim (2008-10-24). "Butcher and Bolt, By David Loyn". The Independent Books (London). Retrieved 2009-07-04.
- "Top ten most frequently challenged books of 2008, by ALA Office of Intellectual Freedom". ALA Issues and Advocacy. Retrieved 2009-09-28.
- "New York Times, January 16th 2008". The New York Times. 2008-01-16. Retrieved 2010-03-10.
- Dargis, Manhola. "From Memories, There's No Escape", "The New York Times", December 14, 2007.
- "'Kite Runner'floats across SJSU stage on Friday night". Spartan Daily. 2007-02-22. Retrieved 2009-04-23.
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