Literature of The Modern Middle East

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Literature from the Modern Middle East: Amir’s Odyssey from Sin to Salvation in Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner

by – Shreeja Narayanan, Issue XIV, March 2016   (download in pdf)


Introduction to the Author:

shreeja(2)Shreeja Narayanan is a lecturer in MES Science & Arts college, Kerala. She has been teaching here since November 2014. Her interests are academic writing and reading different literary works. She has attended different seminars on English Literature.

She has attended different seminars on English Literature.




Published in 2003, The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini was the very first novel in English by an Afghan. This research tries to study the protagonist of The Kite Runner, Amir, who is from a well-to-do Pushtun family, and his journey back to Afghanistan from the United States as an indispensable expedition from sin to salvation, from skepticism to devotion. Amir crosses the borders of war-fed Afghanistan, for which he had to traverse his own psychological borders of social order, to reach for the rescue of his Hazara friend, Hassan’s son. It took him two decades to atone for his sin – the sin which he witnessed without intervening; once in his childhood, when he saw his friend, Hassan being beaten up and raped by Assef. A deeper sin when he kept quiet about the incident for the fear of losing his father’s affection in being a coward. “There is a way to be good again” these words of Rahim Khan set Amir in motion. In an attempt to mend his scary past, Amir starts his journey for redemption. The sin in The Kite Runner is deeper as it is the sin that Amir atones for himself and for his father. Amir learns from Rahim Khan that Hassan, his childhood friend, was in reality, his half-brother, his father’s illegitimate son with Ali’s wife. Hassan’s refrain, “For you, a thousand times over, Amir Agha…” fortifies the journey of Amir, waves-off his cowardice and attain fulfillment by rescuing Hassan’s son from the clutches of an unscrupulous child molester and finally by bringing the child America for adoption.


From Afghanistan to Palestine, from Morocco to Iraq, there are vibrant and exciting literatures from living authors that can bring diverse experiences and perspectives of the world about which we lack knowledge. The Middle East is such a large, diverse and historically complex region and due to some terrorist issues we view it as a region of religious fanatics. My research paper peeps deep into the abyss of the people in such regions and their lives. The contemporary Middle East Literature replaces stereotypes, transforms worldviews, develops personal relationships, humanizes Islam and Muslim people and most importantly focuses on the lives of Arabs, Turks, Kurds Persians and Pushtuns. According to, Sahar Khalifeh is considered to be the foremost Palestinian novelist, widely acclaimed for being the first feminist Palestinian writer, known for her sensitive, economical and lucid style. Among the other famous writers of the Middle East, we have Rasmi Abu Ali, Yehia Yekhlaf, Ghassan Kanafani, Nagulb Mahfouz, Marjane Satrapi, Khaled Hosseini and many more. The themes of these texts include family life, Islam and women, the impact of war, education, wealth and poverty, class and ethnic differences, the relation of east and west and so on. Among these writers, I fell upon Khaled Hosseini who talked about Afghanistan and its people. More particularly, The Kite Runner is filled with details of the culture and society of Afghani people, details about their food as well as Amir’s school year, winter vacation and the kite festival. But The Kite Runner is not just the pleasant story of a young man in a foreign land. It is a miserable journey taken by the protagonist of the novel Amir to attain Salvation. It is the tale of a boy wanting desperately to get his father’s approval; a tale of prejudice, racism and hatred; a tale of bullies, sacrifices and brutal attacks.        The Kite Runner is Khaled Hosseini’s best-selling first novel. It is also the very first novel in English by an Afghan. The common theme in review of the novel is the texts ethnographic value. The Kite Runner teaches the Non- Afghan reader about the history and culture of Afghanistan. For several people like me Afghanistan had been equaled to a terrorist area where Taliban’s live. This might be the reason why Hosseini himself declared, “finally putting a human face to Afghans”. The novel, therefore, humanizes the Afghan culture, providing depth and meaning to their lives, emotions and relations.

            Khaled Hosseini was born in Kabul, Afghanistan in March 4 1965. He moved to the United States at the age of 15, to escape the Russian coup. He is an Afghan-born American novelist and physician. There are three novels that he published which portrays varied themes of family relations intertwined with war, politics and socio-economic issues they are, The Kite Runner (2003), A Thousand Splendid Suns (2007) and And the Mountain Echoed (2013).

            The novel is narrated through the perspective of a young Afghani boy Amir. It is the journey that Amir undergoes all through his life to attain deliverance for his sin which is discussed in the novel. The story starts with the young narrator’s childhood days in the then peaceful Afghanistan to his settlement in America when the Russian armies took over their land and finally his journey back to his mother country, relieving the burden of his sin.

            The novel also discusses the relationship between various characters as Baba and Amir, Amir and Hassan, Hassan and his mother, Amir and Soraya, Amir and Sohrab, Amir and Rahim Khan. While Amir tries to gain sympathy and love from his Baba, he knowingly or unknowingly neglects the fathomless love and care of the hare clipped, hazara boy Hassan. Amir knows that his existence and life is very much connected to that of Hassan, but he refuses to call him his friend. Hassan is the all perfect hero who runs for the rescue of Amir whenever he is in trouble. When Assef and his gang come to fight with Amir, Hassan stands single-handedly before them for his rescue. Hassan blinds Assef with his brass ball slung from his sling shot. It is this incident that changes the lives of both Amir and Hassan.

            Like the Mariner who hung the dead Albatross on his chest, Amir carries the three deeper sins which he committed to Hassan in his childhood. The sin he committed without intervening when he saw his friend Hassan being raped and beaten up by Assef. Amir doesn’t look into Hassan’s face when Hassan handovers the blue kite which he did not throw away in spite of the shame and pain that had inflicted on him. Sinful, Amir runs to Baba to show him the kite and thus gain his love and care without even putting a word of consolation to his hasara friend .The third and the most serious sin is when he hides his gift watch, which Baba gifted him after the kite festival, in Hassan’s room claiming him to be the thief. He could not understand his love for Hassan up until Hassan steps out from the home accepting the lie Amir has cooked up.

            These three sins grow in Amir along with him and psychologically he has been looking for “a chance to be good again”. It was then that he received a call from Rahim Khan calling him back to his homeland thus providing him an opportunity for his long contemplated notion of salvation, of apology, of a quest for his long lost friend Hassan. It is his sin that pulls him back to Afghanistan for the rescue of Hassan’s son Sohrab, who was kidnapped. From Rahim Khan, Amir comes to know about the true identity of his hare-lipped, hasara friend, Hassan; that he is actually Amir’s half-brother, Baba’s illegitimate son with Ali’s wife. This realization adds depth to his sin as the sin that he wanted to atone is an extension of his father’s and that his separation is not only for his sin but also for his father’s. To top it all the story of Hassan’s and his wife’s death pushes Amir into gloom. Amir was denied the chance to say even a sorry to his half-brother.

            The journey back to Afghanistan is not that simple for Amir as he faces a lot of difficulties to reach his once peaceful, now wretched country. On several occasions, he bursts into tears to see those old streets where he and Hassan played and ran about has now changed to mere piled up stones. His fear and sorrow intensify when he comes to know that the war-fed Afghan has created more than a thousand orphanages. He ran through almost all of them in search of Sohrab, and finally came to know that a man from Taliban has taken him with him for his sexual pleasures.

            The metamorphosis of Amir could be seen in the second part of the novel. Whereas, in the beginning he tries to hide him behind the shoulders of Hassan, now he pulls himself up from the cocoon of fearfulness and jumps into action for the rescue of his half-brother’s son. In other words, he rewinds that day- the day that made him flabbergasted when he saw his friend raped by Assef- the same villain comes alive in front of him seizing Sohrab and challenging him. Even though Amir receives plenty of jolts and thumps which were enough for a common man like him to abandon his mission, he fights with him till the end when Sohrab throws the string ball on the once blinded eyes of Assef.

            “For you a thousand times more Amir Agha…” bangs in the ears when he thinks of his mental and physical pain. It is this phrase of Hassan that he repeats to Sohrab at the end when he plays Kite for Sohrab after adopting him. The mild smile of Sohrab is the greatest reward that Amir has ever achieved. The smile of Sohrab washes away his dirty sins. Amir teaches the greatest lesson to all who sins that there are chances led by God to be good again, and the harder your task for redemption the easier your salvation.



Ruth R. Caillouet. “The Other Side of Terrorism and the Children of Afghanistan.” The English Journal Vol. 96. 2006: 28-33

Webb, Allen. “Literature from the Modern Middle East: Making a Living Connection.” The English Journal Vol. 98. 2009: 80-88. Print

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