Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled Ted Ayres' name
Khaled Hosseini’s grandmother told him stories – amazing tales. Sometimes they were about her childhood in western Afghanistan, but often they were tales of fairies and giants – folktales from her youth.
On Wednesday, best-selling novelist Hosseini will tell his own tales at Wichita State University. He’ll interweave his childhood experiences as he discusses his latest novel, “And the Mountains Echoed.”
Hosseini is the author of the best-selling novels “The Kite Runner” and “A Thousand Splendid Suns.” Both titles have sold more than 38 million copies worldwide and have been translated into 57 languages. Ted Ayres, vice president and general counsel at WSU, will speak with Hosseini about his newly-released book.
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“I jumped at the opportunity to be a moderator,” Ayres said. “He is a lyrical, beautiful writer.”
Hosseini, the son of an Afghan diplomat, grew up in Afghanistan. When he was 11, his father was stationed in Paris; the family moved to France, thinking they would come back to their cherished homeland in four years. Because war broke out back home, they remained in Paris and eventually obtained asylum in the U.S. During this trying time, Hosseini relied on the strength of his parents, stories from his grandmother and the camaraderie of his four siblings.
Through first-hand knowledge of several cultures and languages, Hosseini offers a lens into foreign lands, pulling the curtain open for readers as they travel from Afghanistan to Paris to Greece and the U.S. Even though the author has not lived in his native land for decades, he has traveled there periodically. His knowledge of the language and the people shines through as he paints a picture of a land that is interwoven with lyrical whispers and mountains that layer the terrain.
“Even when you walk through the streets and you look through abandoned buildings, very often you’ll find lines of poetry on the walls,” Hosseini said of Afghanistan. “Some come from classic works; some are homemade.”
Poetry or poetic language, Hosseini said, is part of the way Afghans express themselves.
“Poetry runs through the identity of the country as a whole. It’s part of the DNA,” he said.
“And the Mountains Echoed” interweaves familial love with agony and fear. Hosseini blends fable with realism as he tells a haunting emotional tale. From his native Afghanistan, Hosseini brings forth images of valor, compassion and resourcefulness.
Although he touches on the horrors of war, Hosseini hopes that those outside Afghanistan can look past the headlines and see the beauty of his homeland through his words and the images they conjure.
“I hope the book represents a different aspect to the reader that they won’t necessarily get from the news,” Hosseini said. “I want people to have a meaningful experience. I hope this book echoes something deep within them.”
“And the Mountains Echoed” brings readers on a journey through time, self-realization and destination – spanning miles as well as generations and decades.
Hosseini’s passion for Afghanistan is strong. Trained as a physician, Hosseini’s desire to abide by the Hippocratic Oath goes further than body and mind. Through his nonprofit organization the Khaled Hosseini Foundation, he helps reach into the soul of a people by giving Afghan children the chance to learn. The foundation, which funds nongovernmental groups, also provides food and shelter to refugees.
“Literacy rates are going up and up every year,” Hosseini said. But, he laments, there is so much more to be done.
Ayres cites both Hosseini’s inspirational prose and his humanitarianism as reasons why Watermark Books and Cafe asked WSU to host this event.
“Mr. Hosseini is a writer whose success with readers around the world justifies the opportunity to have him speak at Wichita State University,” Ayres said. Ayres hopes to focus on questions that are not only enlightening but also entertaining.