Through lives

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Books - Ella De­lany

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

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.