Khaled Hosseini discusses his new book on Q

First aired on Q 13/06/13

Khaled Hosseini, Afghan-American novelist of the best sellers Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns, has just released his latest book And the Mountains Echoed. Fans of his have been waiting in anticipation for the last six years for the book. Now that it's finally out, it's riding a wave of rapturous reviews and critics are hailing it as this summer's must read. Hosseini's books are best known for showing a side of Afghanistan that isn't typically portrayed in the Western media. His latest book explores the sacrifices a family makes, and tracks a family over decades of dislocation from Kabul to Paris to San Francisco to the Greek Island of Tinos. He spoke to Q host Jian Ghomeshi about his writing process and why it took so long.

MOUNTAINS.jpgHosseini's third novel was delayed when his own father became ill and died of cancer. In the last year of his father's life, Hosseini was engulfed in caring for his father emotionally and as a trained doctor, he was providing medical assistance. Although the father in And the Mountains Echoed isn't based entirely on his own father, he told Jian Ghomeshi the theme of sacrifice in the book was informed by his own family experiences "In this book, the idea of caretaking and looking after a sick parent kind of recurs again and again and it has become something in my life, painfully more than an academic notion. It's something that I have come face to face with personally and something I've had to do." He goes on to say that the last chapter in the book is an homage to that year he spent caring for his father.

However, the original inspiration for And the Mountains Echoed did not come from Hosseini's own family, he says the inspiration began with an image he had in his mind of a faceless man walking across the desert pulling a wagon with a three year old girl inside and a ten year old boy behind them. "That's frequently how I begin to write stories, there will be a simple image that i have in my mind that i feel compelled to look into. And so I began exploring the relationship between those three characters and figured out that the little boy and girl were brother and sister and that they had an unusually strong bond--that they almost had a parent child relationship though they are siblings."

He goes on to explain that young siblings and children fascinate him as a writer and this fascination is explored in all of his novels. "l like writing about a certain period in childhood--that period of transformation when you still have one foot in childhood and you are beginning to set the other foot, not quite in adulthood but sort of adolescence. It's that period of time when the foundations of the world that you thus far understood are beginning to crack and you are beginning to see the nuances and the grayness and the layers of the world."

The nuance and grayness of the Afghan world that Hosseini writes about is informed by his work as a Good Will ambassador for the UN, as a High Commissioner for refugees and a as a co-founder of Zone Foundation which provides aid to Afghanistan's poorest. He told Ghomeshi that he feels a sense of helplessness and his work through his foundation helps alleviate that feeling. He ended the interview on a positive note about the current state of Afghanistan "I do take solace in believing that things will change in a generation--perhaps two; because Afghanistan is a young country, I mean the population is very young. The median age is something like 17...and inevitably over the next decade or two there will be an inflow of new technology and new information and new ways of thinking into Afghanistan."

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