Saboor’s decision to give up Pari is a testament to his skills of carefully structured storytelling. There is a pleasant sense of unravelling when reading this book, of opening an elaborate series of Russian dolls: we observe the effect of Saboor’s sacrifice on characters sometimes separated by many years or serious distances, connected to each other by the flimsiest of threads.
Interestingly the turbulent backdrop of this story, the history of Afghanistan, functions exactly as that. Hosseini seems to be reluctant to spend time narrating the chaos experienced by his native country. He prefers to present it through occasional side-on glimpses, relegating certain periods of time, such as the Taliban’s rise to power or the American invasion — so endlessly documented, filmed, photographed and reported — to something akin to white noise.
As Parwana’s brother Nabi explains in a letter to Markos: ‘‘ You know well the recent history of this beleaguered country. I need not rehash for you those dark days. I tire at the mere thought of writing it, and, besides, the suffering of this country has already been sufficiently chronicled, and by pens far more learned and eloquent than mine.’’
Indeed this novel is strongest when depicting its characters’ intimate thoughts, realisations — and hardenings. Parwana’s jealousy of her beautiful sister Masooma is illustrated in all its hurtful power, for example.
Perhaps Hosseini is arguing for the value of taking a different approach to understanding his homeland, for focusing on individual lives and how they are affected by decisions global and local. We are all connected, he suggests.
The intricate structure of And the Mountains Echoed demonstrates the ways in which we ignore the complex forces that shape our sense of self. The lives lived by Hosseini’s characters raise questions of individual autonomy: when other people and their decisions mould our identities, how independent are we — and, perhaps more significantly, what do we owe them?
Afghan-American writer Khaled Hosseini casts a wide net