Perceptions of Afghanistan: The Kite Runner

The novel, The Kite Runner, is singularly one of the most horrifying and simultaneously beautiful books I have ever had the honour of studying. The themes, including rape, warfare, and the idea of honour and betrayal, are perhaps themes that much bigger novels have attempted, however none, at least in my opinion, have succeeded quite so admirably and succinctly. I think that the  fecundity of the author’s mind alongside his own human experience produces the tenderness in the setting of the children; the use of such seemingly innocent minds is almost irreconcilable with the abhorrent acts included within the novel.

Children tend to represent the beautifully innocent mind; people who have not yet been naturally damaged by the world around them. The removal of innocence in the boys, one betraying the other however shows a disparity between the naivety associated with childhood, and the real political awareness one would have had, growing up in a war zone. The concept of conflict in itself, especially in a nation as politically unstable as Afghanistan is an interesting juxtaposition when considered alongside the children as entities in themselves; they go on to represent the damaged children of Afghanistan and the generations from the 1950s onwards that have lived their lives in such a way that the explosion of a bomb was an everyday occurrence.

Kings Tomb, Kabul (1)

The country of Afghanistan I think was brought into a much more public, literary sphere than it had been previously entitled to as a result of the novel. The history of Afghanistan is tainted with the history of imperialism and subsequent occupation and invasion. The problem has been exacerbated in the last fifty years, especially with the rise of problems such as terrorism, jihad, and the freedom fighter. This led to the western world feeling threatened, and  therefore attempts to ‘control’ the nation lead to invasion, war, and inevitably a global misunderstanding of what true ‘jihad’ actually is, and instead promotes the media’s perception of the terrorist as someone involved in jihad. There is always a distinction to be made in each individual case, however it would be a terrible mistake to believe that every Muslim is involved in anti-western jihad; the majority of people of Muslim faith live in America peacefully and as part of their respective communities.

This misunderstanding is one explored within the parameters of the novel, and looks at how elements of change are also included as negative and positive; throughout the novel there is an element  of both positive and negative progression, and unlike most of the media coverage of events in Afghanistan, looks at domestic conflicts which are so rarely understood and sympathised with. I would suggest that everyone read the novel, if only to satisfy their own personal curiosity about some of the issues in the area.

I have an interest in politics of the Middle East and one day, I would love to be able to travel more freely around the area. The history of horrific oppression, often in a domestic setting and in relation to its position on an international platform makes the area a fascinating example of political and religious conflict; I hope to be able to look at more Eastern literature, and if I could, I would love to study a historical module on the modern history of the Middle East.





2 thoughts on “Perceptions of Afghanistan: The Kite Runner

    • I’ve never seen the film, I’ve only read the book. I imagine the film is rather haunting… (:
      Thank you for reading!
      Sarah (:

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