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July 6, 2007

A Thousand Splendid Suns

Khaled Hosseini – 9781594489501

The long awaited second novel by the author of The Kite Runner is here; a year later than planned, it arrives to broad acclimation.

I admit that it is as beautifully crafted as was “Runner,” which I recommended as the best book of its kind which I had read in 5 years, but this one is so exhausting with its inexorable gloom that even the relatively--and implicitly transient--upbeat climax doesn’t rescue it.

It accurately portrays the horrors of Afghanistan (and for that matter the Middle East) almost from time immemorial, and especially since the Russian invasion and the takeover by the warlords, then displaced by the Taliban. It emphasizes some of the majesty of humanity, occasional reason, friendship and love in the face of absolute evil, but it is so-o-o-o raw that it remorselessly buries the reader. Whereas I could not put his first novel down, I had to force myself repeatedly to pick this one up! I kept hoping for a tiny flicker of redemption. It never arrived.

I am no apologist for radical Islam, or for Islam itself, as those of you who read my entries with any regularity. While often sordid and troublesome, even these people--most at least--have many redeeming qualities which are hardly mentioned. Maybe I missed it, but I don't think so. It seems that this obviously displaced, upper-class Afghani Muslim is on his own special rant.

The plot wanders thru a web of human sorrow and destruction, trust and friendship . . . with a certain grandeur in the face of overwhelming odds, yet each time there is an ephemeral flash of light or hope he promptly razes it with a sadistic or tragic event—sometimes both—which deflates the reader all over again. He’s basically observing that that’s the way it is in that part of the world! It brings to mind Thomas Hobbes memorable quote that "war of every man against every man [creates life which is] solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”

What it demonstrates to this reader is the unrelenting savagery in the wholly irrational world of the murderous, patriarchal Middle East with its Muslim religion and its masochistic, misogynistic beliefs; a circumstance from which there is absolutely no deliverance without a total cultural change . . . one which at least approaches civilization as we in the West understand and define it.

If they just left the rest of the world alone--stayed miserable in their own place on earth--it would be insupportable and unacceptable, but not menacing. Since this is what they plan to impose on the rest of us it is objectionable in the extreme. It must be defeated, or at least humbled and pushed back into its own wretched corner of the planet.

For that reason alone I would recommend—nay, would oblige if I could--the tolerant and understanding multiculturalist souls amongst us read this manuscript, in concert with any three or four of the following: The Kite Runner, The Bookseller of Kabul, Infidel, Because They Hate, Why I Am Not a Muslim, The Rage and the Pride, Londonistan, The Sword of the Prophet, The Caged Virgin, and What Went Wrong, in no particular order.

Perhaps in the performance of this mission those who do not believe would finally and fully understand that this is not a war between civilizations. It is a war about civilization! They prefer the medieval, barbaric 7th century. We (at least I hope it is we) prefer the relatively enlightened 21st.

For those who do understand, and have already achieved a morally justifiable intellectual intolerance, I’d recommend spending your time and money reading one of the many (almost any) other book in print which you think you might enjoy.

Posted by respeto at July 6, 2007 12:30 PM