The Kite Runner
How we cite our quotes:
We stayed huddled that way until the early hours of the morning. The shootings and explosions had lasted less than an hour, but they had frightened us badly, because none of us had ever heard gunshots in the streets. They were foreign sounds to us then. The generation of Afghan children whose ears would know nothing but the sounds of bombs and gunfire was not yet born. Huddled together in the dining room and waiting for the sun to rise, none of us had any notion that a way of life had ended. Our way of life. If not quite yet, then at least it was the beginning of the end. The end, the official end, would come first in April 1978 with the communist coup d'état, and then in December 1979, when Russian tanks would roll into the very same streets where Hassan and I played, bringing the death of the Afghanistan I knew and marking the start of a still ongoing era of bloodletting. (5.5)
If you were to describe Afghanistan's political situation, you might describe it as "war-torn" or "ravaged." But those descriptions apply, really, only from 1978 on – before then, Afghanistan was a relatively peaceful country. In this passage, Amir documents the sea change the country undergoes in the late '70s. A way of life ends – and, importantly, the children born after this period won't remember peace because they never experienced it. Notice, too, that Hosseini places Afghanistan's loss of innocence right next to Amir's and Hassan's – the infamous rape scene happens only two chapters later.
You couldn't trust anyone in Kabul any more – for a fee or under threat, people told on each other, neighbor on neighbor, child on parent, brother on brother, servant on master, friend on friend. [...]. The rafiqs, the comrades, were everywhere and they'd split Kabul into two groups: those who eavesdropped and those who didn't. The tricky part was that no one knew who belonged to which. A casual remark to the tailor while getting fitted for a suit might land you in the dungeons of Poleh-charkhi. Complain about the curfew to the butcher and next thing you knew, you were behind bars staring at the muzzle end of a Kalashnikov. Even at the dinner table, in the privacy of their home, people had to speak in a calculated manner – the rafiqs were in the classrooms too; they'd taught children to spy on their parents, what to listen for, whom to tell. (10.8)
Of course, war changes everything. But it's still surprising, somehow, that the home itself could become a charged and dangerous environment. Isn't the home supposed to be a place where you can relax a little? Where you can count on the loyalty of your family? Apparently, that's not the case in Shorawi-occupied (Soviet-occupied) Afghanistan. Hosseini is describing, here, the dangers of occupied Afghanistan, but he's also referencing other betrayals. Later in the book, we learn Hassan is Amir's half-brother, though no one tells Amir this until he's 38. Later in the book, we learn Baba, Amir's father, knew all along Hassan was Amir's half-brother. Count 'em up. Brother betrays brother. Father betrays son. So is Hosseini only talking about Shorawi-occupied Afghanistan here? Unlikely.
I overheard him telling Baba how he and his brother knew the Russian and Afghan soldiers who worked the checkpoints, how they had set up a "mutually profitable" arrangement. This was no dream. As if on cue, a MiG suddenly screamed past overhead. Karim tossed his cigarette and produced a handgun from his waist. Pointing it to the sky and making shooting gestures, he spat and cursed at the MiG. (10.9)
Well, there are plenty of David and Goliath references in this book. Although this passage probably isn't actually a reference to that Biblical story, it's in the same spirit. Here's an Afghani smuggler pretending to fire a handgun at a Russian fighter jet. Could Karim be any more powerless? Could his curses and spittle mean less? Wait a second. Don't forget that the Russians actually give up and leave Afghanistan. David: 1. Goliath: O.