Kevin Ortiz Ms. Meredith AP Literature and Composition 11/18/11 Does Khaled Hosseini’s Writing Matter? Salman Rushdie is perhaps the most prolific foreign writer of modern times. As such, one can consider him a major voice in the criteria for what makes for a good expatriated writer. In his 1992 collection of essays, Imaginary Homelands, Rushdie sets forth multiple essential qualities the expatriated writer must possess. The most important three of these qualities are the ability to create universal subjects, must be daring, and encourage people to be open-minded.
Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner mostly accomplishes these tasks, though coming short in one of Rushdie’s major qualities. This is shown from the novel’s subject matter, in conjunction with an article from online magazine Slate, which highlights the major flaw. Rushdie’s first point is that an exiled writer should be able to “speak properly on a subject of universal significance and appeal. ” Hosseini, in his many subjects pertaining to human nature that is present everywhere, accomplishes this task. One such topic in Kite Runner is loss.
At some point or another, every human being has experienced loss. Whether it be the loss of a parent, like Amir losing Baba, the loss of a close friend, such as Amir’s loss of Hassan, or loss early in life such as Sohrab’s loss of Sanuabar, the reader can relate, regardless of race, place, or creed. The losses do not necessarily have to be physical, as the loss of innocence that occurs in the father-son tandem of Hassan and Sohrab is transferable to the everyday struggles one may face with beliefs, experience, or emotions.
The easily acceptable nature of these topics as realities of the “normal” world, as well as being a clear burden on the characters in the universe set forth by Hosseini show that he is definitively able to accomplish the task of relating loss. Another such subject is that of redemption. Throughout the novel, Amir’s conquest for the reconciliation of his deeds knows no bounds. This is very much the situation many people are in after a terrible mistake leaves them begging not only for forgiveness, but redemption.
The people who are in these situations will often go to great lengths, risking their mental or physical well-beings in order to rest their conscience at the end of their journeys. For Amir, it meant the rescue of Sohrab, but for the common man, it can be as small as apologizing or as large as turning to an enemy in order for help. The ability of the themes, though being masterfully complex and unique, to be related to and associated with on a deep, connective level are clear indications that Hosseini has fulfilled the first task set out by Rushdie, to create universal subject matter.
While performing extremely well in the area of creating a universally relatable subject matter, Hosseini falls short in one of the major tasks of Rushdie, being daring. While some may argue that Hosseini’s depictions of rape and violence are edgy or daring, his presentation of them, is not. In fact, Slate argues that “the Hollywood elements of his story conduce to a view of Afghanistan and its dilemmas that is in the end more riddled with facile moralizing than even the author may realize. ” The argument set forth by Slate’s Meghan O’Rourke is that though Hosseini’s novel does depict these brutal scenes, they are moralized.
They are painted in a light where they are seemingly not allegorical or necessary, but simple tools for shock value or fear induction. It is because of this shortcoming, that he is firstly failing the task set forth by Rushdie, in being daring. He once more fails this task in the choice of writing style. Because Hosseini chose to write a book deeply engraved with Afghan culture, which is already a fine line for an English novel, one would hope that he would take the risk of writing with a style that mirrors the roots of the storyline.
Instead, Hosseini chooses a cinematic approach, which mirrors that of American film, and American culture, which is a safe approach to the subject matter. He is not reflecting the risk that comes with changing between cultures for expatriates, therefore is not fulfilling the task set forth by Rushdie. Though Hosseini is able to mostly fill the requirements for what Rushdie defines as a great expatriated writer, the biggest flaw comes in his inability to take risks in his prose that reflect the risks taken by the exiles who preceded him.
Though he does have flaws, the final task set forth by Rushdie, making the reader open-minded, is easily fulfilled by Hosseini and his subject matter. Hosseini’s use of the Hazara-Pashtun conflict is effective in that it creates a more in-depth look at how a place many generalize as having one ethnicity is actually diverse, but not without conflict. The conflict also humanizes both parties in showing that although societal standards separate them, Hazaras and Pashtuns are not always treated as less than equals.
This concept works to make the reader aware that every Muslim that they may see, be it in America, France, or England, is more than simply a “potential terrorist,” but as many individuals with complex emotions and conflict, trying to create a new life. In addition, Assef’s introduction into the story further humanizes the Afghans. This is because, the concept of the Middle-Eastern groups bullying the world, the Afghan people are having their country destroyed by Assef, who is a neo-Nazi.
His socially and morally despicable actions lead the reader to feel a sense of sympathy for the Afghan people. It is due to this feeling of sympathy that the standard Afghan is looked at as not only a human being, but an equal, with fears and oppression as great as that of a man from America to Japan. These two forms of humanization lead the reader to not only become more accepting of Afghan people, but all new people in general, showing that they could be as troubled and frightened as the person judging them.
When judging an expatriated writer’s work, one often needs a guideline, or “measuring stick,” in order to truly gauge the significance of the writing. Salman Rushdie’s qualifications of the expatriated writer are extremely important in that they set that guideline for what an exiled writer should hope to achieve. Though Slate, and the reader, may find some fault with Hosseini’s novel, The Kite Runner’s ability to take risks, an amazing job is done at filling two massively important pieces of Rushdie’s philosophy in its universal appeal and ability to open one’s minds.
In doing so, the clear answer to the titular question of this essay, “Does Khaled Hosseini’s Writing Matter? ” is yes. Works Cited: Hosseini, Khaled. The Kite Runner. New York: Riverhead, 2003. Print. ORourke, Meghan. “Do I Really Have To Read The Kite Runner?. ” Slate, 07/25/2005. Slate Magazine. Web. 20 Nov 2011. Rushdie, Salman. “Imaginary Homelands. ” London Review of Books 4. 18 (1982): 18-19. 21 Nov. 2011 .
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