Author Topic: A Thousand Splendid Suns  (Read 7029 times)

The Old Spirit

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    • rajivmudgal
A Thousand Splendid Suns
« on: September 27, 2007, 02:17:47 AM »
A Thousand Splendid Suns (a very short critique)

I just finished reading “A Thousand Splendid Suns” and in the end of it, it read like a poor readaptation of James Cameron's classic, the 'Titanic'.

Khaled also seems to be totally in the dark about the real Kabul, on the other hand what he delivers is a imagined Kabul, a counterfeit coin with a lots and lots of emotional garbage.
For example (from reliable sources), when a missile used to whistle over head, the kids and women would be shoved into the bomb shelter, often in the veranda, or in the house itself (no mention of any such bomb shelters).

The Titanic street on the dry banks of Kabuli river was actually called China market, and still is. (The whole Titanic episode seemed almost ridiculous, and especially the way he has inserted all this at such a crucial juncture, which almost made me laugh.)
The streets and buses are never described in any detail, the Buses in particular is a feast of color and design is never mentioned, and culture, tradition is totally absent, except in passing. (and often inaccurate)

The war to seemed to be simply lifted uncritically from the American history books. The actual tribal alliances are confused and often appear absurd.(its not even a gossip, a magical realist style pioneered by many Iranian and Arab writers)
The Damage done by American bombing that has killed more Innocent Afghans than Taliban and the Soviet combined and the riotous damage done by the bunker buster's, vacuum explosives and cluster bombs are never mentioned.

The Hero Tariq turns out to be a carbon copy of Titanic's 'Lover Boy', The villain, a typical stereotyped bearded Afghan as popularised by the Fox News.
The Women surprisingly sound quite American in their convictions and the whole episode of Laila skipping her menstrual cycle and the drama thereof is utterly unrealistic and unconvincing (straight from 'Opera Winfrey' episode of girls trying to fool their husbands)

Page after page you encounter such obvious mistakes that one is left wondering as to the actual motive of the author; often one gets a feel that one is reading a new genre, ‘the new age’ American novel, like the ‘new age’ spirituality of Deepak Chopra.
All in all it seems like a Mills and Boon spin off for the grownups -where the Afghan soul seems to have been sold Lock Stock and Barrel to the American daemon.

There are obvious burst of poetic brilliance here and there, and some good moments, esp between Mariam and her father Jalil.
But overall, its a populist novel, (pulp fiction at best) written especially for typical American audience.
I will personally give it just 2 stars out of 5.


1] I also want to take this opportunity to add that this book itself is a very good read, but unfortunately it is not what it pretends to be, and that is where one is forced to look at the deep sub structures. Structures that remain invisible to our eyes and ears, structures whose voice never gets seen or heard, but which nevertheless organizes and shapes our doors of perception.
I often encountered these phenomenon while reading Dickens.

But what stuck me is the absence, and the more I dwelled on the absences the more the picture changed.
I would like to give an example of Dickens: For example what is absent in Dickens (when he was writing the bulk of his moral and social narratives), is his forgetfulness that his world somehow rests on the passing slave trade and the resultant colonial brutality.
Dickens was blind to the very nerve that marked his epoch and which eventually saturated and colored all his moral sentiments, and at the same time this very celebrated social literature which he produced could only arise because of 'this' abysmal absence.
His rationality was possible because of this absence.

Much of this world was made up of workers, textile mills, market and among them lawyers, bankers, and businessmen...all of them populate his narrative. But, this lifeworld was/is a result of a blinding violence and was not only maintained, but also sustained by it, that is by evolving its own art and culture. (a way to represent and justify its existence)

Dickens was in this sense an effect of a narrative culture.
Many British officers would commit genocide while reading Dickens in their spare time. (a paradox)
Much of the slave trade was still in operation and involved big business houses. Much of the democracy with its structures of representation, Industrial and consumeratism on one hand with its procedural safeguards projected within self centered interest as rights/laws legalized within state/nation/constitution through which it sustained it’s "Immanentism of reason in history” was in one sense or other directly related to this violence or on 'that' absence.

The present world known as the west with its laws of speech, economic rationality, biological functioning and social behavior legitimized itself through the practice as to what it means for the rest of the world to be a good citizen, a perfect wife, a good man, values reproduced and legitimized through the practice of Teachers, Social workers, NGO's Doctors, Judges, Police and administrators...all in one way or other the very product of 'that' very ongoing violence.

It is a good read as I said, but one shouldnt over look what it makes absent or forgets or for what reasons it maintains a forgetfulness in regards to its own essential sub-structures.

2] I also want to clear, that, I used the word 'Devil/daemon' in the sense of being possessed.
Again not in its religious connotation, but for example, we experience suffering, we experience passion; these experiences are 'not in our control', they befall us, in this sense we experience them, and to experience them is to stand under - to ‘understand’ is to ‘stand under” directly below.
To be controlled by something, be it words, voices, texts, by things that are usually/essentially outside of us..Invisible/absent.
To draw us in and have authority over us, grabs us, attunes us into some mood, makes us talk and speak in all manner.

3] It is in fact a Ok sort of book, I was hoping it to be of high caliber, but turned out to be like the old classic Bollywood melodramatic film. (which has its own charm and time)
I just thought Afghans need something better then this pulp fiction melodrama.

The Old Spirit

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    • rajivmudgal
Re: A Thousand Splendid Suns
« Reply #1 on: September 27, 2007, 03:41:09 PM »
I have done changes to the third Paragraph: (after much debate)

The Titanic street on the dry banks of Kabuli river was actually called China market, and still is. But interestingly, the latest and greatest bazaar today I am told is the Bush Market, named after the present President of USA, Histories are being re-written here, almost like Stalin claiming it was he and not Lenin who wrote the empirio-criticism and Lenin simply copied it from him. But apart from the obvious time lapse error; the whole Titanic episode seemed hilariously funny, and especially in the ridiculous way and in the romantic manner in which he inaugurates and inserts it, especially at such a crucial juncture (in the story line), that it almost made me laugh.
The streets and buses are never described in any detail, the Buses in particular is a feast of color and design is never mentioned, and culture, tradition is totally absent, except in passing. (and often inaccurate)