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Khaled Husseini, author of the best-selling novel "Kite Runner," talks about his latest book, "A Thousand Splendid Suns," which focuses on life for women in Afghanistan.
From the 30-year tragedy of Afghanistan, the Soviet invasion and occupation, sectarian fighting that destroyed many parts of the country, the terror of Taliban rule came a novel that grew mostly by word of mouth into a publishing phenomenon. "The Kite Runner" has, to date, sold some four million copies.
Its author, Khaled Hosseini, was born in Kabul in 1965, but left as a boy with his family. He grew up in California and practiced medicine before turning to writing. In 2003, he made his first return trip to Afghanistan, and the experience led to a new novel, "A Thousand Splendid Suns," which portrays the trials of two generations of Afghan women.
KHALED HOSSEINI, Author, "The Kite Runner": I grew up in the '70s, back when Afghanistan was at peace, Kabul was this reasonably thriving, cosmopolitan city. When I went back to Kabul in 2003, it had been through more than two decades of warfare. So I saw an overpopulated, crowded city, much of which was neglected, some of which was non-existent.
I spent most of my time talking to people, to men, women, children, the young and the elderly, and they told me these intricate stories of what life was like under the Soviets, what life was like when the Mujahedeen were fighting, what was it like to live under the rule of the Taliban. And there were incredibly vivid stories that they told me.
For instance, one man told me that there was a painter who had these beautiful paintings of portraits, but the Taliban banned the painting of human faces. And so he used water color and painted over the faces of his human figures in his paintings. And after the Taliban left, he simply washed it off.
Washed away the water color?
Washed away the water color, and the faces came back. So I came back with this wealth of stories and anecdotes and details, so when I wrote this novel, I could reflect back on these things and try to create a convincing Kabul for these characters.
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