BOOK DIARY: December 2008, some fiction at last ;)


The Kite Runner

by Khaled Hosseini
Language: English

What It’s About
It’s a novel about a boy (Aamir) who grows up in Afghanistan and moves to America with his father when the Soviet war breaks out. He has a very guilty secret that he has to eventually atone for by going back to Afghanistan during the Taliban rule and finding someone.

My Impressions
I’d seen the film about a year ago. I don’t remember it very well, but I liked the book much better ;-P I mean the film is good - it’s very nice to see an American film that shows Afghan culture in that way. But the book evoked much stronger emotions in me.
Aamir is a very particular kind of first person narrator - at least I don’t remember ever having such conflicted feelings about a narrator before (mind you, that might not be saying much as I don’t read a lot of fiction :]). In the book, much more so than in the film, I felt the gravity of the wrong that Aamir does. Perhaps it was because in the book you get to hear a lot more of what happens inside Aamir’s head - Aamir has a cruel streak inside of him, one that he’s very aware of. But he’s not all bad and there’s actually a lot of suffering inside of him too. It was strange how disgusted I could be at some of what he thought or did and yet there never was a point where I couldn’t feel for him. I had a very, very strong emotional reaction to him. A lot of the time I was literally cringing (it must have looked very strange to people on the bus/train ;) ).
I also felt a lot more for Hassan (Aamir’s friend - the one he does the wrong against). What he has to suffer is a lot more spread out than in the film. Even though the main wrong (I’m referring to it in this cryptic way cause maybe some would consider it a spoiler) is one scene like in the film, it seems to effect a lot more things afterwards.
I think the childhood part of the book is the best (I felt the same way about the film too), but I felt less of a disbalance between the childhood and adult parts than I did in the film.
Also, all the characters (even most of the minor ones) were really colourful and wonderful :)

Yes :) It’s quite simply a very good novel - the kind that will have you hooked.

Fear Up Harsh: An Army Interrogator’s Dark Journey Through Iraq

by Tony Lagouranis
Language: English

What It’s About
This is the account of Tony Lagouranis - an American military interrogator, stationed in Iraq.

My Impressions
It’s a very chilling read. I mean it does read well, but it’s also very frustrating - some of what’s described there will leave you speechless.
Unlike the other account by a military interrogator that I read, Lagouranis came into the war on terror at a much later stage. The interesting thing is that although Chris Mackey writes no violence was used on the detainees, whilst Lagouranis describes some very disturbing techniques, both accounts fit together very well when you take the time frame into account. Mackey *did* write that they used harsher techniques as time went by and apparently the team that came next started from where they finished. Lagouranis says the same, only he came in much later and so the starting point was much harsher.
The reality of how everything is done and organized matched too.
At first when I was reading it I thought this book might just be a way to grab attention and make an easy buck. But the deeper I delved into it, it became obvious that this guy has a lot of things to atone for and I think coming out with this and pointing at the people responsible (he maintains that almost everything they did was on orders of their supervisors) is in some ways the only way he can even start atoning for it. At any rate, by the end of the book I found I trusted him fully.
He’s done quite a few interviews, documentaries etc. and is one of very few US veterans to speak about this openly and under his real name. In fact you can check out the clip below which is from an interview with him:

I think one of the stories in the book that struck me the most was that of a professor at the Mosul university. Most of the prisoners that were being brought in had little if any link with the insurgents the army was trying to track down. In this case the professor was arrested in connection with a house loaded with weapons and explosives. The professor’s brother was the owner of the house, but they could not find him (he was living abroad and renting the building out to somebody). They couldn’t find the person renting the house either or even find out the person’s name. So they arrested the professor, knowing full well he was innocent. Before the professor faced interrogation he was beaten and roughed up by the arresting soldiers. Once Lagouranis started questioning him (about the person who was renting the house) and threatening him with further abuse, the professor said he knew the name, but would not give it. When asked why, he said it was because he didn’t know if that man was guilty or not and if he gave it, that man would get the same kind of treatment.
Despite further beatings and abuse, the professor never budged from his position. He was released after the intervention of his students - they organized peaceful demonstrations requesting his release. It turned out that the professor was well-known for preaching tolerance and non-violence and was much loved by Sunni, Shia and Kurds. Although he was opposed to the American occupation he regularly spoke against violence and insurgents.

Yes. Though perhaps not for the very faint-hearted. It’s not that the torture is described in great detail, but it’s told very matter-of-factly.

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