After “The White Massai”, the novel “A Thousand Splendid Suns” by Khaled Hosseini is another lovely work to experience a different culture. Hosseini’s first novel The Kite Runner (2003), mainly inspired by his childhood in Afghanistan, was highly praised. In A Thousand Splendid Suns (2007), Hosseini wants to explore the inner lives of women in Afghanistan, and as he sais in the book’s afterword, he hopes “the novel will leave you with some […] empathy for Afghan women whose suffering has been matched by very few groups in recent world history”.
“A Thousand Splendid Suns” tells the story of two women in Afghanistan, Mariam and Laila. It mainly takes place in the cities of Herat and Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital. It is covering a wide period of time, starting in the 1960s up to 2003 and therefore deals with all the troubles Afghanistan has been trough over the last 30 years – mainly focussing on the Soviet invasion in the 1980s and the take-over of power by the Taliban in 1996. All these political changes are central to the story, having a huge impact on the lives of the characters, the way they act and the decisions they make. The title comes from the poem “Kabul” by Saib Tabrizi, a seventeenth century Persian poet:
“Every street of Kabul is enthralling to the eye
Through the bazaars, caravans of Egypt pass
One could not count the moons that shimmer on her roofs
And the thousand splendid suns that hide behind her walls”
Due to the fact of their abusive husband and the difficult situation in their homecountry, Mariam and Laila develop a strong friendship, as strong as the ties between mother and daughter, which gives them the strength to keep going.
“A Thousand Splendid Suns” allows to experience a slice of Arabic culture and to get an insight in the way the people live(d) there, even if it’s just about such ordinary things as their food and fashion. Hosseini included many Arabic expressions such as harami or kolba, which makes his language, which is not pathetic but still touching, really vivid.
I would recommend the novel not only to everyone who is interested in the situation of women in Afghanistan and everyday life in an Arabic society, but also to everyone who wants to read a tragic-emotional story, but which holds a sparkle of hope and is totally different from any other common love-story you will find in a bookshelf.