A great book, no matter how simple its language, is never an easy read. That’s what I thought, again and again, while reading ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns‘ a heart-wrenching novel by Afghan-American author Khaled Hosseini.
These days, all the reading time that I can conjure up is in bits and pieces of 15-20 minutes here and there. I wonder how much difficult this book would have felt had I been able to read it with a better focus and uninterrupted reading time. But even as it is, the feelings that the book rose were strong enough for me to stop reading after reaching to its middle. The pain and sorrow I imagined ahead felt just too dreadful. I did not dare experience it, even through a book of fiction. I just could not dare. And at least twenty days passed before I picked up the book again, with a more firmer resolve to read it to the end, no matter what. And yet, I almost gave it up again three times. A Thousand Splendid Suns is so full of one hurt after the other. And it has been written with such brilliance that I could not but feel each of that hurt as if it was being experienced by someone close to my heart.
A Thousand Splendid Suns is a book depicting a tragedy of a nation. And a tragedy of a nation always, always rises up on the bones of innumerable sorrows and losses of its citizens. The book has its focus on the sufferings of women through the course of almost half a century that saw Afghanistan getting plundered by one power after another.
But it is not a political book. It tells its tale through the tragedy of two women. Two very different women who began their lives in a contrasting way, and yet ended up facing the same pain as their land was plundered and the women were robbed of all their rights and freedom. And yet, the book shows, no matter how tough the times, love can still survive, friendship and affection can sustain a person even through the bitterest times and that no matter under what burden a person is buried, an indomitable human spirit can still rise and resurrect its own life, and that of the others.
Since my novel Dream’s Sake was published in 2011, I have had the opportunity to be joined by many writers on social networking sites. One thing I have noticed in the writings of many is their choice of vocabulary and style. some seem to deliberately choose the most difficult words and most abstract style. I confess, reading those pieces often made me feel inadequate in my own writing. But then I sat and thought. Among all the books that I love and admire, there’s not one that has passages upon passages of abstract thought and intricate symbolism. I love books that have powerful stories, amazing characterization and words that touch my heart, instead of getting entangled in the mesh of my brain cells.
A Thousand Splendid Suns has all of this, simple and concise narration, no wasting of words in abstract thought or symbolism, a very poignant and powerful story, and characters that are real and alive, and absolutely believable. Just the sort of book I love reading.
And yet, I almost wish I had not read it. Because even though it’s been two days since I finished the book, I can feel the shade of its sorrow on my heart still. And as I went about my day, bits and pieces of it kept on rising up in my mind. A dialogue from here, an incident from there, a loss of this chapter, a hurt of that chapter. Just like the memory of a dear departed soul, I feel it resting heavily on me, and for now I am finding myself totally incapable of escaping from the painful remembrances.
But I must. I must. Because right now, it’s not as if I myself am under any bright or shiny sun. I sometimes actually feel as if trapped in a deep cave, with just my hands to claw my way out. I cannot bear any more gloom. I must not.
Well, to overcome the grief that this book has left throbbing in my heart, I have turned my focus on an emotion even stronger. Fear!
Yes, I am now reading the horror tales of Edgar Allan Poe. Not just reading them, but reading them on an Android app (iPoe Collection – a thrilling app, but not very smooth functioning) that also adds to the tales some very terrifying sound effects, horrifying interactive graphics, animations and even vibrations! Let’s see, if the ghosts of Edgar Allan Poe can manage to shoo off the shadows that Hosseini’s Splendid Suns have left lingering on my heart.
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