Wednesday, May 31, 2006

The memory

I read the memory bit in Chapter 7 again. I have a few questions.

1. What was the signicance of Amir withdrawing his hand?
2. Why did a shadow pass the old man's face when he was touching Hassan's eyes?
3. Why did he return Hassan his money?

Here's my interpretation.

1. Amir withdrew his hand to foreshadow the fact that Amir was a coward. He could not face up to reality; to the truth; to the darkness in his life.

2. The old man could see the darkness which was going to befall on Hassan as he read his fortune.

3. He returned the money as he could not bear to tell Hassan the truth that he saw.

What do you guys think?

Monday, May 29, 2006

Nothing Doing... What?

A very Indianised usage. What does it really mean and where could one use this phrase.

Example (a typical Indian movie example): Girl loves boy. Girl invites boy to her house. Boy says no because he is poor and her family may object his very present and then girl says "Nothing doing! You are coming." And she walks away, turning back picks up...soon they are in the Alps singing duet!


"Nothing doing! You better!"

Where's the remote control?

"The news on the radio [or TV] was getting pretty boring."

This is not just true of a young child's view. How so often do we do that! Boxing Day 2004. TSUNAMI! The news was as big as the waves that hit many countries in this part of the world. We were all glued to the one-eyed monster for days. Soon we were hungering for other news... no sooner we were starved without those entertainment programmes. With a push of one button, reclined on our couches, we were so lost in another world..."news on the [TV] was getting pretty boring."

We go about doing our own things, making the newsworthy a distanct memory...Twin Towers, NYC 2001; Mother Teresa's passing away, 1997. That's life!

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Foreshadowing symbols

This entry is my humble interpretation and analysis of Chap 5 - 8. I'll try not to make it sound too academic (though I am enjoying the process loads and am thankful for this Bookish Club, as it is through an analysis of a novel's themes, characters, plot and author's literary writing styles that one can then thoroughly savour the crimson juices of a story) and put in more personal reflection =)

For me, although this is an emotionally-stirring novel and overall a smooth read, I don't quite like it simply because the qualities given to Hassan as a boy are rather incredulous. Docile, fiercely loyal, pure and simple - but too much pathos (meaning: an element in experience or in artistic representation evoking pity or compassion) in the plot for me to have Hosseini portraying him as an infallible hero thus far. Like how Cinderella's Fairy Godmother appeared - a moment too good to be true, Hassan's perfect enduring spirit was too good for me. Then again, allow me to say that I am, by nature, cynical so please do not let my comments interfere with your enjoyment of the novel.

Interesting symbols of (i) wounds, (ii) the kite, (iii) dreams that foreshadowed happenings and (iv) redeeming blood:

(i) Wounds
Hassan had a cleft lip and was given a surgery by Baba that healed over time. It is ironical, however, to know that he would stop laughing with his newly-formed lips that winter. He was born with an imperfection but he came out smiling. Now that he has fully-formed lips, he stopped smiling. For Amir, his scar from his circumcision surgery was one which he would not forgive Baba for waiting until he reached 10 years of age. Looking at Hassan, Amir wished that he had a scar which would warrant some attention from Baba, and he did have a scar through Hassan in the end. Hassan's physical and emotional wound - sodomised and humiliated - gave Amir a scar which didn't heal over time. Sadly, the only difference was only that Baba wouldn't be pleased to help Amir heal the scar.

(ii) The triumphant blue kite
The blue kite which was cut by Amir symbolised the untying of the Gordian knot between Amir's love and jealousy for Hassan. It was cut loose, Hassan ran to retrieve the 'prize' ( a superficial symbol of victory for Amir over Hassan) and was humiliated in the process as he salvages the lost prize and relationship between Baba and Amir, for Amir's sake.

(iii) Dreams
Hassan's dream: Both Amir and Hassan conquered the rumours of a monster in the lake by swimming in it and the lake was named after them. However, a monster that seemed to be non-existent was actually lurking in the deep waters, as what Amir says in Chap 8. That monster is Amir, who dragged Hassan down underwater, and is also one who understood the nature of his new curse, that if he kept mum about what he had witnessed, no one would know. Superfically he appeared all right, but within his heart, he alone knew what he saw and the truth breaks him.

* Amir's dream: Lost in a snowstorm without a sense of identity when a familiar shape appears with an outstretched hand. From the deep gashes on the person's palm, blood dripped and stained the snow. It was an offer to help Amir with his loss of identity and redeem him from his situation. (this point is closely linked to the following)

(iv) Redeeming blood
As Hassan was sodomised by Assef, he had the look of a sacrifical lamb. During the last month of the Muslim Calendar, a lamb is slaughtered on Dhul Hijjah to redeem humanity from sin. This memory is the last in the chapter before Hassan appears, with blood staining the white snow black. Here, Hassan is illustrated as a lamb slaughtered to redeem Amir's sins, and this image is further enhanced with him appearing with blood spent on washing Amir's conscience clean.

However, Amir rejects Hassan's blood of repentance and forgiveness by splashing blood-red promegranates at him. Repeatedly Hassan had tried to rekindle their friendship by asking Amir to play together but the latter flatly rejected him. (see * above) And now on top of the hill, Amir demands Hassan to throw a promegranate back at him, and unexpectedly, Hassan picks up a promegranate and offers it to him - '"There," he croaked, red dripping down his face like blood. "Are you satisfied? Do you feel better?"' Hassan's behaviour is portrayed like the Christians' sacrificial Jesus who shedded his blood for mankind with unconditional love. It is understandable that Amir feels worse at not being reprimanded for his cowardice, for human behaviour understands that the wages of sin is death, or karma; retribution.

The numerous symbols present in Chap 5 - 8 foreshadowed incidents which would happen and also emphasised Hassan's role in Amir's life to further enhance the pathos of the story. The most significant symbol for me is Amir's dream of a bleeding outstretched hand staining the snow, which I immediatedly pulled together the incident of Hassan bleeding in the snow after the attack. Hosseini then merges the image of a helping hand with Hassan's look of a sacrifical lamb, bleeding in a vain attempt and offer to rescue our fallen protagonist.

Friday, May 26, 2006

The Poor Little Rich Boy

Hi everyone, this is marie, sharon's friend here. Have not done such critical analysis since my O' levels days, so please bear with me! Anyway, here's my 2 cents' worth:

In response to Syl's question regarding who Hassan teared for , the father or the dying son, my guess would be that he was actually tearing for Amir, whose predicament paralleled the son's. In the first 4 chapters of the book so far, Hassan has proven to be a rather intelligent and intuitive boy, despite his illiteracy. His ability to solve riddles faster than Amir serves to highlight the fact that he seems to possess quite an analytical mind. I felt that Hassan was able to see the similarites between the relationship of the father and son in the story and that of Amir and his Baba. Both sons sought approval and some form of recognition from their fathers, only to be killed by them , and in Amir's case, his spirit was killed by his Baba's constant rebuffals. Hence, it could have been the pain and sadness that Hassan felt for Amir that made him tear whenever the story was being read to him.
Another thought that came to mind was that perhaps Hassan's inability to shield Amir from the pain of his father's indifference caused him to cry as well. Hassan's very first word uttered was 'Amir' and he once told Amir, in the opening chapter 'for you, a thousand times over'. The reverence that he held for Amir can be truly felt and it must have frustrated Hassan to have been helpless over the situation despite his attempts.

Mirror, Mirror is that me?

At the beginning of Chapter 2, Amir and Hassan used to reflect sunlight into the their neighbours' houses from a poplar tree with a shard of mirror.

It is interesting how the relationship between Amir and Hassan is a reflection of Baba and Ali's, as Amir mentioned in Chap 4 - "Ali and Baba grew up together as childhood playmates - at least until polio crippled Ali's leg - just like Hassan and I grew up a generation later". There are also similarities between the fathers and the sons.
  • Hassan would never tell on Amir for the mischief; Ali said to Baba "But, Agha sahib, tell them who was the architect of mischief and who the poor labourer?"
  • Ali suffers from polio and walks with a limp; Hassan was born with a cleft lip
  • Both Amir and Hassan lost their mothers
  • Both Baba and Ali's marriages surprised their society (one married a descendent of a royal family; the other married one a dishonourable woman) and ended up raising sons by themselves

That being said, there are actually more contradictions and differences than similarities in the 4 chapters. Just like how a mirror accurately reflects an image on its reverse side, a mirror also distorts it. (Remember those funny mirrors you pass by in a carnival or in the Singapore Science Centre which made you look different from how you really are - short, tall, fat or just, well, out of shape)

The differences between Amir and Hassan are obvious - their physical attributes and caste and social system. One thing though - although they both lost their mothers at birth, one lost due to a great loss of blood and the other due to his mother's defiled nature which was more shameful than death at childbirth, Hassan's father treated him as the antidote to his misery while Amir felt that his father disdained him.

Baba deems that there is only one form of sin in the world - theft. "When you kill a man, you steal a life ... when you tell a lie, you steal someone's right to the truth. When you cheat, you steal the right to fairness". As Amir's mother had died at childbirth, Amir feels that he has killed his mother and robbed his father of a wife's love. The cycle doesn't end, for Baba feels robbed of his wife and in turn robs Amir of fatherly love and acceptance, resulting in Amir feeling responsible for his own situation. Although Amir worships Baba, he wishes to slit his veins and drain his cursed blood from his body. On the other hand, Ali sees his son as a gift from his wife, though his loss of a wife was not a dignified one, instead of being robbed of a wife who brought him only shame.

Amir found his mother's book on Hazara history and it said that the Pastuns (Baba and Amir's caste) had quenched the Hazaras (Ali and Hassan's caste) with 'unspeakable violence'. Baba was described as 'Mr Hurricane', who had hands that looked capable of uprooting a willow tree ... etc, in all, a true Pastun. His son, however, is a creative writer who gets shoved around during games in the neighbourhood. Ali, the gentle Hazara who married an infamous wife of promiscuity for the sake of regaining honour to restore his uncle's blemished name, who tolerated his taunting tormentors, who takes care of the two boys lovingly, has a protective and loyal son - Hassan fights off the bullies who attacked the passive and weakly Amir. It seems like an exchange of offsprings between the two fathers - Hassan has gotten the aggressive streak from Baba/Pastuns, the character/caste that protects his/their territory and possessions. On the same note, Amir quietly allows bullies to step over him due to his lack of confidence, power, bravery and thus became helpless, like the gentle Ali/Hazaras. Not only is there an opposition of hereditary traits, it is also noteworthy that the opposite of 'unspeakable violence' would be 'gentleness, grace and mercy'.

One opposition I picked out was how Amir felt that all fathers must have harboured a secret longing to kill their sons. It is different from what Freud stated about the well-known Oedipus Complex, that sons desire to kill their fathers in a battle for their mother's affections. The part narrated about Amir and Hassan's favourite story did not state what the father and son were battling over, but it was a man-to-man affair, which encompassed the one-sided pain and vain attempt from the son. This significant portion which mirrors the tragedy in Amir's relationship with Baba seems to also potray what Amir yearns to say,

"If thou art indeed my father, then hast thou stained thy sword in the life-blood of thy son. And thou didst it of thine obstinacy. For I sought to turn thee unto love, and I implored of thee thy name, for I thought to behold in thee the tokens recounted of my mother. But I appealed unto thy heart in vain..."

The indifference and matter-of-factly opinion that fathers always wanted to kill their sons (Don't worry Logan, we know how you love Reuben to bits!) given by Amir was quite disturbing. Here, we see that Baba has robbed Amir of a true understanding of the notion of what characterises a father, the ability to empathise, and most of all, the love and life that every little boy should have.

Something noteworthy - Amir wondered if Hassan was tearing for the regretful father who unknowingly mortally-wounded his son, or for the son who longed for his father's love. What do you reckon?

I can't think of any reply to this question at 2am knowing that I am getting up early for gym and a full day of individual meeting with 35 people.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

the past

A line on the first page hit me. ...

it's wrong what they say about the past, I've learned, about how you can bury it. Because the past claws its way out.

How very true. No matter how hard you try to bury the past, memories are jolted by people you meet, places, sights, smells. A glimpse into the buried past will always peek its way out, whether you like it or not.

Father-Son/ Young-Old

As a father and a son, I was quickly drawn into this remarkable work of Hosseini. As I read chapters 3 and 4, I began to re-live my days as a son to my late father. It brought back similar feelings at times. After so long, it all seems to make sense to me - sounds credible and ok!

In Page 18, for a young boy to wish that "all children died along with their parents" only shows how much he missed his father. This portion reminds me of my son constantly telling me with a smile on his face about how committed I am to my work so much so that I have more time for my worksheets than for him. NEGLECT in all that I do. A teaching point! No matter how much we do for our children, if we don't have the time factor in their lives, it amounts to nothing! Honestly! Think about the saying "the best gift one can give his children is time." Something BABA didn't give Amir! (“I was learning about father from others” and “Envious, but happy”).

Amir eavesdrops on his dad. I am still wondering how he could stomach such things – a mere 8 year old! Not only does he now know that his father thinks little of him but he has to live with the fact that his father sees nothing of him (Baba) in Amir. I put myself in Amir’s shoes and if anything I would want to remember that evening by would definitely be those 3 resounding words - “Envious, but happy”. At least (or should I say, at last), Baba is happy because of Amir!!

I believe that because the story is written in retrospect most of the feelings conjured in writing are a bit exaggerated. Is a child capable of such thoughts “killing” etc? I don’t know. But this much I know, he was afraid of Hassan – or rather sees Hassan as a challenge. Baba out rightly adored Hassan and had compared his behaviours with that of Amir’s. Probably that was why Amir often avoided reading poems as Hassan could decipher them easily than Amir could. Or was it just child-play? Again, I don’t know.

Well, a son needs lots of affirmation and love from his parents, especially father. I know it very well, as a father and a son. Hosseini is beginning to teach me through his experiences.

It is like a 2-in-1 book for me!

Wednesday, May 24, 2006


How do you define a friend? If you grow up with a person,not related to you by blood, play with him during most of your free time, read together, share your past times and secrets with each other, what kind of a relationship do you share with him? If you do not call him your 'relative', what is the term you would use? A 'toy'?

I felt rather disturbed when I knew that Amir's father never acknowledged Hassan's father as his friend nor comrade, and frowned more when Amir confessed that he had never called Hassan "his friend".

I felt that this was due largely to the fact that their culture is strongly bounded by a class system. It is their different social status which is hindering the friendships in both generations.

Upon seeing this, I reflected that life can really be very unfair, for don't we all belong to one common race-THE HUMAN RACE? It is sad but it is happening. All over the world.


One of the themes I recognise in the first four chapters is "Parenting".

It is through Amir's narration that we understood how much he was suffering under his father's negligence and high expectations. It was rather upsetting to know that he has to be fearful and in awe of his father all the time. And he is always trying to behave in a way that pleases his father.

Hence, due to this lack of affection from his father, he might have developed the notion that fathers and sons are born enemies, or rather, he is convinced that his father truly regards him as the murderer of his wife. This is seen in chapter four when Hassan was saddened by the story which tells of a father who kills his son. Amir, on the contrary, who could not understand Hassan's grief, unfeelingly and mistakenly felt that, "didn't all fathers in their secret hearts harbor a desire to kill their sons?"

This made me reflect and associate it with reality whereby many children, or once-children, suffer similar fate. Hence, no matter the era, children are always hoping for love, attention and recognition from significant adults, especially their parents. Thus, I hope that this story has shed some light to those of us who are parents or parents-to-be. Praise your child and make him smile!

Sunday, May 21, 2006


The first time the author brought up this concept of 'irony' was through the story that Amir had written about the man and his pearls. (middle Chap 4) When I read it, I didn't think much about it, until Rahim Khan's note was read. I went back and re-read the story. As I got to the end of Chapter 4, the concept of irony became so apparent. Amir reads the story to Hassan and the latter's question, "Couldn't he have just smelled an onion?" and Amir's reaction to that innocent question made so much sense to me about the characters and the concept of irony which the author succintly introduces.

It dawned on me at that point the evident parallels that runs through the story - Amir, the poor little rich boy who had everything, but longed for his father's affection. Hassan, the despised and poor servant boy with nothing, but was intelligent, brave and had his father's affection. The man who had to kill his wife in order to have pearls which meant he had to be sad in order to be happy.

I don't know about you guys, but I haven't read a book as powerful as this one for a long time. So far, I have been amazed by the author's extraordinary penmanship - extremely subtle and poignant. I have 2 words which keeps popping up in my head, 'oh wow.'

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Our 1st discussion & Reading tips

Discussion for Chapters 1 - 4 will begin on 21st May 2006, Sunday evening, 6p.m.

Feel free to post entries on these 4 chapters. You may ask questions, give an insight, share a reflection, debate, summarise or criticise. You may also share a personal experience that you have found connections between life and the novel's themes. You could also pick out words, quotes, segments that was thought-provoking to you. All responses to any previously raised topic should be added as a comment to that post, rather than a new entry. i.e. 1 topic - 1 post.

I will include some more guidelines in the next entry to start us along. I don't know about you guys, but I'm real excited about our brave venture into book crusading. We even recruited a new member, Su, who was really excited to start with us on our first book. (welcome!)

Here are some tips I learnt while I was on the course. Its not rocket-science, but at least it gives us a common platform for meaningful discussion.

Make notes and mark pages as you go.

This may slow your reading, but saves time searching for important passages later. Personalise your book by using flag-tags or write notes in the margins.

Ask tough questions of yourself and the book.
These can promote in-depth conversations with your group and make the book more meaningful. (see tips given above) Most of the time, we don't need summaries, but we welcome insights and connections.

Analyze themes.
Consider the premise with which the author started.
Get to know characters. Consider their faults, strengths and motives and what it would be like to interact with them.

Notice the book's structure.
Are chapters prefaced by quotes? How many narrators tell the story? Is the book written in flashbacks? Does the order the author chose make sense to you?

Compare to other books and authors
Themes often run through an author's works. Share with members similar genre or books similar to selected book.

(adapted from NLB's 'Reading circle resource kit 2006')

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Welcome wannabe bookishes

An epic tale of fathers and sons, of friendship and betrayal, that takes us from the final days of Afghanistan’s monarchy to the atrocities of the present.

Hi bookish clubbers! Welcome!

You are reading the inaugural post of our newly set up book club! For this first post, I would like to share with you guys a link to our first book that we are reading.

Since NLB is launching their READ! Singapore 2006 next week, it is very apt that we support their cause by choosing our first read based on their booklist. They have 2 English books and we (or rather, I) have chosen to read the kite runner by Kaled Hosseni.

Here's the official site of the author,

On Thurs, 18th May, we will meet at Syl's work cubicle to discuss our time line. Any objections?