I wept again when I read Khaled Hosseini’s “A Thousand Splendid Suns” – the way I did when I read his first book “The Kite Runner“. Read his website here.

Khaled has this uncanny way, as most good novelists do, of making you feel a part of the story. You become so entrenched in the plot that you develop feelings for some characters – some you pity or love, some fill you with such disgust, you feel like blowing them out of the book.

As you turn the pages, every scene or line or quote help your feelings, your sentiments, evolve. Along the way, you learn some Afghani words, too, and get to picture how the cities and the Afghan culture disintegrate with every bomb blast, with every political regime.

The title of the book was derived from a poem composed by 17th century Persian poet Saeb-e-Tebrizi: “One could not count the moons that shimmer on her roofs, or a thousand splendid suns that hide behind her walls“.

The way we may never know the true Afghanistan or its war-torn people.

At the end of the book, you feel a mysriad of emotions – from sadness to happiness to dismay, shock even hatred. You also feel the injustice of life. He gives you unexpected endings. You ask yourself a thousand questions, all summarised into one over-arching querry: doesn’t great sacrifices or good deeds pay at all?

Here, Khaled Hosseini makes you taste the agony of Afghan women, but also their pride, endurance and their unconditional love. He tells his story in simple prose and easy language. He tells you that every woman in his book made either an independent decision or forced to accept their fate in life, and yet suffered for it.

The book spans four decades (1959 – 2003) and four political regimes – from the Soviets to the Talibans and US invasion in 2001. In every political change, the people’s hope for peace became more illusory. Though there were some semblance of real life. For example, women do not need to wear the burqa and were allowed to go to school and work during the Communist reign.

The lives of all the women in this book intertwined in someway or another. There is Nana, a Herati woman who gives birth to Mariam, an illegitimate child. Nana is incessantly complaining about women’s lot in life, reminding her daughter that men are ruthless, careless, cruel and insincere. “Like a compass needle that points north, a man’s accusing finger always finds a woman“. Mariam did not believe her mother in the beginning but later, she understood the wisdom in those gems of words.

Then there is Mariam, the poor “harami” girl, for whom I felt the most for. Throughout the story, life was unkind, even brutal to her. From her father Jalil, a wealthy cinema owner with three wives and many children, and who was ashamed of Mariam and treated her as his “penance”, providing for her from afar with weekly visits, false promises and insincere gifts. Later, it was her elderly, brutish and violent husband Rasheed, who sent her to prison and eventually her execution.

From these two men, Mariam learned the harsh and painful truth about her mother’s pearls of wisdom: “A man’s heart is a wretched, wretched thing, Mariam. It isn’t like a mother’s womb. It won’t bleed, it won’t stretch to make room for you”.

There is also Laila, Mariam’s ambagh (or “madu” in Malay, they share the same husband), who is somewhat educated, more willful as her father Hakim, a teacher sacked by the Soviets, had encouraged her to seek knowledge and gave her confidence as a woman. There is also her childhood sweetheart Tariq, who fathered her daughter Aziza, but left kabul before he knew about the baby, forcing Laila to marry the overbearing Rasheed, who saved her from a bomb blast, which killed both her parents.

Life had been kinder to Laila. At first the two women were hostile to each other, but later their grievances, sufferings and sadness, brought them together. The women learned that sometimes it was a mistake to love: “The future did not matter. And past held only this wisdom: that love was a damaging mistake, and its accomplice, hope, a treacherous illusion“.

Of course, Khaled Hosseini made me loathe the male figures in the story. I condemned their authority and violence, not only in their families, but in their politics. They were as hard and horrifying as the guns, rockets and bombs which rained kabul and Afghanistan, sending millions or more refugees scurrying across the borders into Pakistan and Iran. Then ones who remained were mostly maimed, bloodied or charred bodies.

At the end of the pages, I felt that during those years in Khaled Hosseini’s book, it must have been a tragedy, even a curse, to have been born a woman, perhaps not only in Afghanistan but some other places in the world as well.

“Each snowflake was a sigh of aggrieved woman somewhere in the world. That all the sighs drifted up the sky, gathered into clouds, then broke into tiny pieces that fall suddenly on the people below as a reminder of how women like us suffer. How quietly we endure all that falls upon us”.

A must read, this book.

15 responses »

  1. wits0 says:

    What goes round comes around in ‘Have-gun-is-stern’. The karma cook serves the customers’s misogynic order together with the rest of it.

  2. monsterball says:

    Susan reminds me of my mother paying money to see only sad stories and wept. One day she and two of her friends went to such a movie and brought me along….all were weeping…not enough hankies…squeezed water out…and wiped tears again.The whole hall..some were weeping..some like me…I guess are not that emotional….but I was 5 years old..what do I know.
    Then my dad brought her and me to a Charlie Chaplin silent move…dad and me laughed like hell….mom was confused.
    Different strokes…I guess.
    But what Susan said…tempt me to go buy the book and read.

  3. Mior Azhar says:

    Khaled Hoseini’s second book is equally engrossing. Like the first novel, the characters in this novel followed me everywhere for days after I finished reading it.

  4. hutchrun says:

    And then there`s `The Afghan` a thriller by Frederick Forsyth (Day Of The Jackal). Pretty good, fast paced.

  5. wits0 says:

    “I’ve told you that if you do not like the state of your world, it is yourselves that you must change, individually and in masse. This is the only way that change will be affected. If your generation or any generation affects a change, this is the only way it will be done. When I’m telling you has been said before through the centuries. It is up to you as to whether or not you listen.”
    http://webpages.charter.net/imaginenolimits/seththegodconcept.html

    In ‘Have-gun-is-stern’, the sound of the AK47 further drowns away the possibilities. Hence the hole-ly climax must be first done.

  6. hutchrun says:

    The coincident sixth anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, the onset of Ramadan, and the much-awaited US progress report could signal a `celebration of sorts` for the hole-ly climax.

  7. jkytkl says:

    The Afghans have only themselves to blame for their terrible unending predicament. They should had thrown off the muslim yoke, as Spain and the Balkans had done several hundred years ago. El Cid is a shining example of what one has got to do when one wishes to live with dignity.

  8. bolehbug says:

    Watched on TV, Astro, the recent documentary on the Russian Beslan siege and the Chechen terrorist attack on the opera hall. Fentanyl in inhalation form knocked out everyone in the hall, later all hostages were rescued but 126 died because of ?overdosage, more importantly all terrorists were killed and the explosive devices not set off. Earlier, a misguided woman was beheaded etc.

    Question: What cowardly beliefs drive these lunatics to hold children ransom, women to wear suicide bomb belts, behead innocents??
    What drives the deafening silence of those whose beliefs have sullied by these inhuman beings to remain silent?

    If there is indeed a omnipotent omnipresent being as many may subscribe to, does not such actions in his name qualify for blasphemy

    Driven to tears by fiction, what then the affect of fact, me wonders?

  9. Mitesh Rami says:

    follw the path to peace – try to change your self – spread love and unity around the world

  10. GeauxDoe says:

    I just finished “A Thousand Splendid Suns” and it was amazing! What a great book to see a culture through the eyes of these two women. The world is so much smaller today and I love to travel. This book gave me insight into a place I will probably never go. My son is in the Army and based in Afghanistan. He says the people a so kind and giving. I’m glad his experience has been a great one. Thanks Mr. Hosseini for a wonderful story!

  11. Manasi says:

    Hi there,

    I just finished reading A Thousand Splendid Suns and was trying to gather some information on the same as to how the readers from different parts of the world have taken it …. and say I tripped on this lovely blog of yours which says it all… Let me say your write up fascinated me to read and look through your other poetry pages a little quickly and its been nice to see you writing great stuff and having an element of truth in each. I wish I could write and express like how you do… on anything and everything that touches you… keep up the good work… and if you can spare some moments kindly visit http://manasira.blogspot.com/ – A humble space into the world of writing.

  12. Nice read, I love it also!

  13. Jan says:

    What these women endured was unreal. They were like abused prisoners. How could Mariam put up with it for 27 years? How can a culture support that treatment of their mothers, wives, and daughters? The characters became like friends. I just wanted to reach into the pages and save them! Ughh! Then when it finally seems like Laila can be happy, she wants to go back to Kabul where she had to have such horrible memories? I am just getting ready to finish the book but am afraid to finish it for fear it won’t end well. Wow, what an emotional and involving story!

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