HEARTBREAK IN KABU L
Khaled Hosseini’s new novel is a generational saga sustained by the poignancy of sibling bonding
In the art of lost- home- saga, no novelist today outsells Khaled Hosseini. His previous two novels, The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns, have sold 38 million copies, and this 48- year- old Afghan- American has become the chosen stylus of a godforsaken place, writing its sorrows and long lost enchantments for a global audience. He may not be the Ivo Andric ( author of the great Bosnian classic The Bridge on the Drina) of war- scarred Afghanistan; he is the Dan Brown, a bit more literary certainly, of national sentimentalism. On his earlier pages, we saw the possibilities of friendship between two unequal boys, as in The Kite Runner, and the trajectory of two women’s connected destinies, as in A Thousand Splendid Suns, set in the backdrop of a land ransacked by history. In the mass market of emotions, the Hosseini story stands apart: It is big, overpopulated and operatic.
His third novel, And the Mountains Echoed, is bigger, spanning generations and continents; and, with the elasticity of a vintage Russian novel, but lacking its psychological or moral depth, it contains all the familiar themes you are likely to find on a good bookshelf: Exile, separation, war, a home in memory, love and betrayal, homecoming and reunion, and the rewards of remembering. It begins with a bedtime fairytale featuring a child- snatching giant and an unlucky, hardworking father who has to make a sacrifice, set in a barren village with little hope. The father won’t regain his son, his favourite one, but he will be spared the pain of memory. The son becomes a void the father is condemned to carry within him for the rest of his happy life. Still, the father “didn’t understand why a wave of something, something like the tail end of a sad dream, always swept through him whenever he heard the jingling, surprising him each time like an unexpected gust of wind. But then it passed, as all things do. It passed”. What Hosseini tells in the next 400 hundred pages is a variation of this fairytale.
At the centre of it is a separation. In the year