The main character and narrator of "The Kite Runner" by Khaled Hosseini is a boy named Amir, who becomes a man during the time span of the novel. He is a Pashtun Afghan boy from Kabul who later escapes to America when Kabul becomes dangerous after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. "The Kite Runner" itself is a wonderful novel that has received enough praise and criticism to make it one of the most popular novels of the past ten years. The story is fraught with political and emotion upheaval. However, it is the characters that make the novel the masterpiece that it is and Amir is the character who ties them all together.
At first glance, Amir's life is privileged. He lives in a big house, has servants and does not lack for essentials and material things. However, as the reader gets to know Amir, it becomes clear that those things do not make his life easier, but only serve to make his complicated young life even more difficult. His mother died giving birth to him and he seems to be more like his mother than his father, who appears ashamed and dismissive of Amir. Amir develops relationships with a young servant boy Hassan, Hassan's father and his own father's business partner to make up for his lack of connection to a parent. However, none of these things fill the void in his life. He becomes somewhat bitter and tests his most important relationship -- that with Hassan -- often.
Amir sees things in Hassan that he does not see in himself -- all traits that his father possesses. Hassan is unerringly brave and loyal. Amir is not as confident in himself and tests Hassan's loyalty, seemingly testing his own loyalty to Hassan at the same time. He frequently makes mention of the difference in status between himself and Hassan and seems to ponder what this really means. In the end, the difference is made clear to him and he is forced to make a choice. It is a choice that many boys would make out of fear, but Amir is ashamed of himself and allows a tragedy to change the course of his friendship with Hassan. Much of the novel is centered on Amir's shame for not being the son his father wanted and for not being the friend Hassan deserved.
The question that "The Kite Runner" poses to the reader concerning Amir is whether he is inherently selfish, cowardly and sometimes mean. Snippets of his inner dialogue reveal otherwise. Amir is wracked with shame, but does nothing to change his behavior or remedy his mistakes. Yes, he is something of a coward. However, he feels empathy for Hassan. He feels ashamed of himself. As one character in the book points out, those who are truly bad do not feel shame. So what makes Amir behave in a way that goes against his own nature?
It seems that Amir's life and actions are strongly influenced by a sense of inferiority he feels when compared to his brave and generous father. He feels a lack of affection from that outstanding man and comes to assume the superficial difference between himself and his father, such as Amir's love of writing and his father's love of sports, is evidence that he is a bad person while his father is a good person. In a way, it is a self-fulfilling prophesy. I am not as strong as him, so I cannot be strong. I am not as brave as he is, so I am not brave at all. Yes, there is one point where Amir's actions seem driven solely by fear, but his later reactions clearly stem from a need to cover up "the bad person" inside. It takes learning that his father was not perfect for Amir to find his own type of strength.
It is easy to harbor disdain for Amir in the first half of "The Kite Runner." However, it would appear that Khaled does not want the reader to hate Amir, but rather to hate the true evil in the world that did not give Amir enough time to find himself before presenting itself to him. Khaled shows that Amir's mistakes are the forgivable kind. He is just an average boy and then an average man. However, even in redemption, his guilt never leaves him.
"The Kite Runner" by Khaled Hosseini is one of the rare books that leave a mark on you long after you are finished. It is the kind of book you rush to suggest to friends and sing the praises of any time the topic of fiction literature comes up. It has everything -- tragedy, comedy, friendship, love, irony, literary mentions, heroes, villains and the complex in-betweens that are average human lives. It would be impossible for me to review this book without simply gushing about it, so consider yourself forewarned.
Khaled Hosseini made his literary debut with this book. Since that time, it has been slammed, revered, adapted for film and enjoyed by countless readers. The topic matter is controversial, but not as bad as some critics would have you believe.
"The Kite Runner" is written from the perspective of Amir -- a Pashtun Afghan who lost his mother at birth. Amir has a love of literature that he apparently got from his mother, but that seems to disgust his father. His father is a seemingly heroic figure. He is the patron of the needy and the defender of the victim. However, he is also very distant with Amir, something that is later explained, but that I will not give away here. His relationship with his father seems to shape his decisions, though one other relationship is much more important, that which he has with his Hazara servant.
Hassan is a boy who was born not long after Amir. He is a servant who lives in a hut behind Amir's house, but who is much beloved by Amir's father. Amir loves him too, but is too ruled by his own demons to see this love for what it is. He makes a huge mistake in dealing with Hassan, allowing a tragedy to befall him. This mistake colors the rest of Amir's life. It is a demon that haunts him. Hassan appears to handle his misfortune better than Amir handles his own cowardice.
Later in "The Kite Runner," perhaps the most important character emerges in a young boy who ties Amir and Hassan together again. His name is Sohrab. The book is riddled with the tragedy of war torn Afghanistan. However, the tragedy reaches a crescendo that is entirely unexpected with this boy. There is hope beyond it, as in any good novel, but the shock of it was like being punched in the stomach. That is no mean feat given that more than three-quarters of the emotion-laden novel was already consumed by then.
There is a certain level of horror present in "The Kite Runner." There is one very bad man in particular that raised the hackles of many a critic. Who or what does this man represent? How rude to have him represent Afghanistan or the Taliban. The truth of the matter is that this bad man does not represent Afghanistan or the Taliban, at least to my mind. In fact, Afghanistan is spoken of quite lovingly in "The Kite Runner." The Taliban are not, of course, but they are not represented by this one horrible man. What he represents to this reader is the monster of war that targets children. Let's face it; war is cruel to children. They are already helpless. In any country, in any war, there are wolves that descend on the children. Hosseini created one that is gruesome to the last, but who is not unrealistic and only shows that bad men lurk in every society waiting for chaos to emerge and allow them to take their thrones.
Awhile back, Cracked Spines had a post about translated Shakespeare quotes. For the most part, the post was a gag, though the translations were, essentially correct. There seems to be a demand for Shakespeare quote translations, so this post will be more serious for those readers who are seeking serious translations sans sarcasm. The quotes are broken up by which piece they appeared in. Unfortunately, we cannot translate everything, so here are some of the more famous quotes from the most popular Shakespeare pieces.
Romeo & Juliet Quotes Translated
"These violent delights have violent ends and in their triumph die like fire and powder, which as they kiss consume." ~ Friar Laurence
Here, Friar Laurence is giving Romeo advice about his quick and passionate love of Juliet. Given the context of the quote, it seems that the Friar is telling Romeo not to move too fast or too hard in love. Perhaps his fervor does not bode well for the relationship as it can make the love that is there burn out quickly. If he could love calmly and tamely, he would be safer. The word violent here seems to mean passionate. However, the word does foreshadow the violent end of the lovers' lives.
"A plague on both your houses!" ~ Mercutio
In this scene, Mercutio is cursing the Capulets and the Montagues. The violence and animosity between the two families has torn both of the families apart. So, when he says "A plague on both your houses." he means to curse the two families, not literally their houses.
"A greater power than we can contradict hath thwarted our plans." ~ Friar Laurence
This is the Friar's way of telling Juliet that their plans are ruined and Romeo is dead. It is unclear whether he speaks of a god or fate here, but he is clearly saying that a power that they are helpless against has messed up their plans to fake Juliet's death and bring the two lovers together again in life.
"O happy dagger! This is they sheath; there rust and let me die." ~ Juliet
Here, Juliet is not saying so much that the dagger is happy; but that she is happy it is there. This is the scene in which she sees her husband lying dead and decides to take her own life. The sheath she speaks of is her chest. So, she is saying, I am thrilled there is a dagger here, I am going to plunge it into myself and hope that it will rot there and succeed in killing me.
"But soft. What light through yonder window breaks?" ~ Romeo
In this scene, Romeo is speaking to himself. He is essentially saying, "Be quiet, a light is coming on in that window. I wonder who it is?" He later realizes it is Juliet.
"O I am fortune's fool." ~ Romeo
Romeo says this after the scene where he is driven to kill Tybalt to save himself. He is saying that he is a victim of fate, that he has been played a crappy hand by fate. In short, he is saying "That really sucks."
Macbeth Quote Translations
"Present fears are less than horrible imaginings." ~ Macbeth
In this scene, Macbeth fears for the future. This line is essentially him telling himself that what he is thinking is not worth fear for he does not know what the outcome will be. What he is afraid of in his mine are just thoughts.
"Come what come may. Time and hour run through the roughest day." ~ Macbeth
Taken in context, this is one of several mentions in this scene of leaving the future to chance. Macbeth does not want to worry, so he says, let what will happen, happen. Time goes by no matter how hard or happy the day.
"Screw your courage to the sticking place and we'll not fail." ~ Lady Macbeth
This is Lady Macbeth bullying her husband, essentially. He has misgivings about murdering Duncan. She is essentially saying, if you find your courage and hang on to it, we will succeed in this murder.
A Midsummer's Night Dream Quote Translations
"I'll put a girdle round about the earth in 40 minutes." ~ Puck
With this line, Puck (the troublemaker elf of the play) is saying he can travel around the entire world in 40 minutes.
"And yet, to say the truth, reason and love keep little company together nowadays." ~ Bottom
The meaning in this quote is rather clear, but it is a popular quote, so those who do not know the context may need to find the meaning. Here, the character Bottom is saying that people in love do not behave reasonably more often than not and vice versa.
"And those things do best please me that do befall preposterously." ~ Puck
Puck is saying here that he is happiest when ridiculous things happen. Order does not suit him.
So, here are a scant few popular Shakespeare quotes translated. Please feel free to leave comments in the comments section for other quotes you would like to see translated. However, there is no guarantee that the humor will be left out next time.
"Suzanne's Diary for Nicholas" is a 2001 novel by James Patterson chronicling the life and tragedies of Matt Harrison through the eyes of the two women who love him. It is a romance novel, but it contains all of the suspense that Patterson fans have come to expect. Furthermore, it is more than just a romance novel. At the core, it is about how romance can bring about a greater love -- the love parents have for their children. It is also a book about grief and how difficult it is to overcome it.
The format of "Suzanne's Diary for Nicholas" is a diary written by a loving mother for her son coupled with flashes to the woman who is reading the diary. The woman reading the diary is the lover of the diary writer's husband. James Patterson starts the novel by implanting a series of questions. Is Matt Harrison still married? Is he hiding his infidelity from his wife? Where is his child?
James Patterson, of course, does a lovely job of writing this story. It really deserves all of the praise it has received over the years. However, I will say this: The ending was tres predictable. You can see it coming a mile away. Nevertheless, it is easy to get emotionally caught up in it once you see it on paper. Reading this novel is an emotional task -- one that can be undertaken in one sitting. I would recommend it to anyone who loves stories about family, love, hope and loss.