I have, for the last year, been put through the pain of having to not only read, but study this book – hailed as a best-selling eye – opener onto the issues in the middle east….not so in my opinion.
- The writing of this book is what I would call mediocre – there is employment of foreshadowing and such – these are things I was aware of from the age of 12 I’m sure. The over-worked structure of this apparently very well crafted redemptive arc provides outlandish coincidences – yes it is a small world but is a person really likely to meet and recognise someone in the whole of America that they haven’t seen for 20 years. But wait you say – narratives are fictitious, they are creations…all well and good but the truly skilled writing dupes his or her reader into believing these shadowed coincidences – they are the shadows not the blinding rays of obvious sun – metaphorically speaking.
2. The politics…..and this is were this book really falls flat in my opinion. Despite Hosseini being a Afghani his book adopts a very westernized, colonial view of the conflicts in his homeland. There is little comment on the actions of America or Russia – the Russians are brutish yes – but they also helped to arm the future Taliban forces – nothing is mentioned of this. Americans reading this at its time of publication – on the eve of the Iraq war might well have used the reading of this novel as a way of seeming pseudo-worldly. Another point: Assef – the neo-Nazi blond boy whose read Mein Kampf……but doesn’t know what ethnic cleansing is….how does that work. Politically flawed – ’nuff said.
3. The interspersing of Farsi could be seen as a way of showing that the narrator is speaking in his mother-tongue but other books that do this make it far more subtle. The inclusion of Afghani dialect seems like the kind of thing that editors and publishers would drool over without considering that the protagonist has fully adapted to his life in America and we are told that he has a medical degree. The book panders to Americanism throughout which seems tragically ironic given the destructive involvement of the US in the Middle eastern conflict of the past years
4. Class and Race are critiqued but nothing is done to redress the balance – Hassan and Ali are still sacked despite the family links and the word of the rich kid takes precedent over that of the truthful minority. The Hazaras continue to be ignored by the novel and it is condoned as ‘this is the way Afghanistan is’ – tradition cannot be changed. the rift caused by Amir’s spoilt lying could be mended easily and it isn’t – soooo frustrating.
I could go on but it would be so long and riling. What did you think of this book?
Comments much appreciated!