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The Problem with the Exploitation of Afghani Trauma in Khaled Hosseini's Work

With the ongoing situation in Afghanistan, I've come across several tweets and posts praising Hosseini's work and depending solely (or mostly) on what they have learnt from The Kite Runner, and The Mountains Echoed and A Thousand Splendid Suns to inform themselves about the situation, and echoing his views from each of those books. No one can argue that Hosseini's work is captivating and moving and invokes sympathy for the plight of Afghani women under the Taliban. I do, however, take issue with people's knowledge of the Afghans coming solely from the work of a man who I can't help but feel has commodified Afghan suffering for a primarily Western consciousness.

We've discussed the importance of representation and how representation of colonized people and their values plays a crucial role in the distortion of realities, a phenomenon that occurs increasingly often in and by the West. Hosseini's work largely misrepresents Pshtuns, a group that represents over 40 percent of Afghanistan. He presents them as selfish and immoral people to justify the occupation of the country by American forces who (as per usual) are presented as 'saviors.' The image of these people and their culture that Hosseini presents in his books has played a major role in molding stereotypes among his readers. He seems to be deeply inspired (to a fault) by the West and his writing seems to be paving grounds for American intrusion into Afghanistan. He is a native informer, but his prejudices are disorienting and do more harm than good in educating people about the situation and history of Afghanistan. While reading his books, I think it is extremely important to remember that he is a storyteller, not a historian.

If you're reading this, I would also urge you to read into Afghani views and critiques of his work for more insight on why it's so problematic.

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As a reader and as an observer it is our duty to realize the difference between fiction and facts. I totally agree with you that his stories can never capture the essence of what is happening in Afghanistan.

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You have rightly pointed out that he is a storyteller and not a historian. There is indeed a huge difference between fiction and history. But these lines are getting blurred since sometimes storytellers seem more realistic than the historians and history books. For example, whole history of Indo-Pak partition seems like story as it has been created in that way. So, yes, we should not rely totally on any one source of information.

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I agree. This is very similar to how many South-Asian writers based in the West produce stories about South Asia in a way that would make them eagerly consumed and "sensationalized" by the Western consciousness. These stories come to appease the orientalist mindset of the West and strengthen the already existing stereotypes. In reality, they are far away from the realistic experiences of the natives.


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Have to agree with you, because someone experiencing a conflict is totally different from someone who is presenting that conflict based on incomplete information.

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Hosseini shifted to France when he was just a kid. He currently lives in the West and has done all his education and professional work there. So he cannot represent the local experience or the reality of the Afghan people since his vision is always filtered by the Western news and his early upbringing in Afghanistan (which was also very limited due to his high socio-economic status. His stories have contributed to the Western public opinion in favor of intervention in Afghanistan and pushed the need to 'liberate' the women and oppressed minorities from the 'barbaric' Pashtuns (a classic Imperialism justification)

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I feel like all his work is centered around gaining sympathy from the white neo-liberal audience. In a sense the West chose to propagate his stories because it fit their narrative and justify their brutal militarist intervention policies. This relates to my point of how his representation only became a tool for the Western Imperialist system to further oppress the Afghan people

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