A Thousand Splendid Suns

A Thousand Splendid Suns

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Saib-e-Tabrizi’s Poem Symbol Analysis

Saib-e-Tabrizi’s Poem Symbol Icon
In fact, the entire seventeenth-century poem is not reprinted in the novel, since Babi can only remember two lines: “One could not count the moons that shimmer on her roofs, / Or the thousand splendid suns that hide behind her walls.” The poem is an ode to Kabul, and Babi first recites it just before his death, when he is preparing to leave the city. The second time we hear it is when Laila recalls these lines as she is moving back to Kabul from Murree, Pakistan at the end of the novel. The poem represents the powerful allure of Kabul, which is Laila’s home and becomes a home for Mariam, especially once she befriends Laila. Its description of Kabul’s beauty can be seen as achingly ironic, since for much of the novel Kabul is hardly splendid but instead a bombed-out bloody shell; but the poem also evokes the “real” Kabul that remains beneath the destruction. Finally, the poem underlines the importance Babi places on literary and cultural heritage, and the necessity for Laila—as for women in general—to be educated and to be able to transmit this heritage.

Saib-e-Tabrizi’s Poem Quotes in A Thousand Splendid Suns

The A Thousand Splendid Suns quotes below all refer to the symbol of Saib-e-Tabrizi’s Poem. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
History and Memory in Afghanistan Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Riverhead Books edition of A Thousand Splendid Suns published in 2007.
Part II: Chapter 26 Quotes

All day, this poem about Kabul has been bouncing around in my head. Saib-e-Tabrizi wrote it back in the seventeenth century, I think. I used to known the whole poem, but all I can remember now is two lines:

One could not count the moons that shimmer on her roofs,

Or the thousand splendid suns that hide behind her walls.’”

Related Characters: Hakim (Babi) (speaker)
Related Symbols: Saib-e-Tabrizi’s Poem
Page Number: 191-192
Explanation and Analysis:

As Babi is mourning what has become of the country that he loves so much, he confides in Laila and shares something that consoles him in times of difficulty: a poem. This classic work from the seventeenth century is what gives the novel its title. The poem itself is beautiful, but its significance for Babi lies also in the image of Afghanistan that the work calls up, an image that shares nothing with the violent destructiveness that now seems to characterize Kabul and the nation at large.

These two lines in particular suggest that suffering is not the only thing shared by Kabul’s inhabitants. The “moons that shimmer” and the “splendid suns” underline the beauty of daily life in the city—a spectacle that repeats with each rising of the sun and view of the moon at night. But these beauties are not always readily available, remaining at times “hidden” behind the various walls of the city. The diversity of experiences and lives is to be marveled at, but one should also understand the inability of ever knowing all that takes place behind the physical walls of Kabul and behind the walls of its inhabitants' memories. Even in a time of war, however, it is possible to acknowledge the persistence of such daily histories.


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Saib-e-Tabrizi’s Poem Symbol Timeline in A Thousand Splendid Suns

The timeline below shows where the symbol Saib-e-Tabrizi’s Poem appears in A Thousand Splendid Suns. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part II: Chapter 26
History and Memory in Afghanistan Theme Icon
Suffering and Perseverance Theme Icon
...leaving Kabul, where he’s lived, studied, and taught. He recites two lines of a seventeenth-century poem by Saib-e-Tabrizi , which talks about Kabul as the city where a “thousand splendid suns” hide behind... (full context)
Part IV: Chapter 50
History and Memory in Afghanistan Theme Icon
Suffering and Perseverance Theme Icon
...if they’re really right to leave the safety of Murree. But she recalls Babi’s    ode   by Saib-e-Tabrizi to Kabul, about the thousand splendid suns, and she’s convinced that they’re making the right... (full context)