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A Thousand Splendid Suns

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This text is a historical  bildungsroman focalised through the two central protagonists- Maryam and Laila. The plot centres around how, together, these female protagonists overcome the tyrannical rule of their husband Rasheed within a political landscape in Afghanistan that is constantly changing.

A Thousand Splendid Suns captured my interest through its ability to be both nostalgic in a sense for its Western readers, particularly for those who read this from an ethnocentric point of view. The novel is heartbreaking in its portrayal of womanhood for those in the third world who are restrained by their gender, colour and class. The novel begins with ‘Mariam was five years old the first time she heard the word’ harami’ this very term ‘harami’ goes on to haunt Maryam until the very last moment of her life. Whereas Laila comes from a middle-class household- one that is very modern and parallels Western culture, through which she receives an elitist education that was only available to certain ‘progressive’ households at the time. Hosseini intertwines these narratives (which otherwise may never have been linked) to convey the oppression of the women in Afghanistan to a global Western audience and provide a voice for the subaltern by virtue of Afghanistan’s political history.

From postcolonial writers such as Edward Said, we gain a new perspective of Hosseini’s seemingly underlying Orientalism. Hosseini overwhelmingly neglects the vibrant past of Afghanistan when he chooses to begin the novel itself in 1974- the initiation of the subjugation of women. On account of this, the novel depicts Afghanistan as a nation submerged in plight and in desperate need of Western intervention to ‘cure’ it. This is conveyed through the parallels drawn by Mariam (representing the archetypal Afghanistani submissive woman) and Laila who embodies the colonialist, capitalist notions of progression and resistance, which also become explicit in Mariam towards the end of the novel when she decides to kill Rasheed.

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