The Sting that Led Me to Afghanistan

For the Daily Prompt:

Franz Kafka said, “we ought to read only books that bite and sting us.” What’s the last thing you read that bit and stung you?

When it comes to reading books, I can be a bit “polygamous”. I usually commit myself to reading several books at the same time. Right now I am in between books. On my way to work, I read A Dance with Dragons by George R R. Martin and when I am at home, I read Casual Vacancy. In addition to this, I also read and re-read a couple of short stories to past the time. Answering the first part of the question is a bit difficult to figure out for me so I think I’ll go to the second part first.

So, what does it mean to be bitten and stung? Imagine being stung by a bee. You don’t just shrug and move on. You stop, take notice and perhaps even scream the pain away. Heck, you might even a shed a tear or two. I guess for a novel/book, it must be something that screams for attention, something that draws you in. a story that leaves a mark, albeit a figurative one.

Okay, so that settles it then.  The last book I finished that did just that was the Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini.

A gripping story about love, friendship, human frailty and redemption; the tragic story line, and well woven plot was enough to glue my attention. But the most stinging revelation from this book is Afghanistan. Through Hosseini’s words, Afghanistan became one of the key characters in the novel and not simply where the story is set. Here, Afghanistan is not just a place, it is a living entity rich in culture and tradition.

Coming from the other side of the world,  the middle east can be a very interesting point of conversation among us. But I do not really see any connection between my life here and those that live there. Most of the things I know about Afghanistan are those that I saw on TV. Extremism, the Taliban, poverty, and war are just some of the things I closely associate with this country.

This novel has given me a glimpse of how Afghanistan transformed from what it was before to the Afghanistan we now know. I do understand that the novel is not a complete and perfectly accurate depiction of the entire Afghan culture; but I believe it was successful in providing a certain degree of familiarity and enlightenment about a nation that has been radically changed in the past few decades.

While the book did provide certain knowledge and “inside” information on some basic dynamics of the Afghan culture, it has also lead me to ask more question. Just like the pain and itch from the bee sting, I found myself fixated by this new discovery. I want to know more and the understand better. I want to find out how similar we are as a nation and as a culture

I believe the writer has done a good job when it inspire this kind of reaction. After having read this book, I was certainly moved, bitten and stung.


Oh, and this is also a post for the Weekly Writing Challenge. So far so good =)


5 thoughts on “The Sting that Led Me to Afghanistan

    1. I haven’t. I was actually planning on reading A Thousand splendid Suns. I’ll sure add them on my book list in 2013. Thanks! ^^

  1. Yes, a definite yes to this book. What I remember was about “Lies” when you tell lies it’s just like killing a person… something to that effect. I’m glad you choose this, I was about to.

    1. A really satisfying read for me. I think it was ‘stealing’ though, lying- you steal the truth. killing you steal a life…not too sure, maybe I can just re-read it, but really the message was about the same I guess, 😀

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