Only a few, survivors, bloom again in the rose, the tulip.
Think of all those faces, gone down under the dust.
Having recently read A Thousand Splendid Suns, I immediately connected the imagery of the couplet to the imagery in Hosseini’s novel. Throughout A Thousand Splendid Suns, Hosseini alludes to some of the greatest poets in Persian literature, including Rumi, Hafez, Jami, Ghalib, and Said-e-Tabrizi, from whose poem Hosseini takes the title of his book. Laila’s father, Babi, we are told, “knew most of Rumi’s and Hafez’s ghazals by heart” and tries to instill in his daughter a love of literature. The ghazal, a form which has become increasingly popular among English language poets, is a classical Persian form adapted from the Arabic qasida, or couplet, in the tenth century. (A good explanation and some contemporary examples of the form can be found at the Academy of American Poets website: http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/5781.)
Hosseini’s other literary allusion to Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea strikes me as both oddly out of place and apt at the same time. While The Old Man and the Sea is a novel I would imagine at least a few incoming Hood students have read, it is not one I would imagine many Afghans have read. In Hosseini’s story, Hemingway’s stark image of the great fish cleaned to the bone by sharks becomes a symbol for Afghanistan itself, and its people become Santiago, heroically enduring in the face of suffering.
However, it is the leap from Hafez to Hemingway that really intrigues me. What does this range say about Hosseini as an author, his interests and influences? How does he navigate the literary waters between East and West? Where else in the novel do you see a convergence of cultures?
Dr. Elizabeth Knapp, Professor of English