And the Mountains Echoed

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And the Mountains Echoed Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Khaled Hosseini's And the Mountains Echoed. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of Khaled Hosseini
 Khaled Hosseini was born in Kabul, Afghanistan. His father was a successful diplomat, and his mother was a high school teacher at an all-girls school. As a child, Hosseini loved to read and write, and was encouraged by both of his parents, particularly his mother. In 1978, Hosseini’s father moved the family to Paris. Following the start of the Soviet-Afghan War in early 1979, Hosseini’s family realized that returning to Afghanistan would be nearly impossible. As a result, they spent the next two years in Paris. At the age of fifteen, Hosseini and his family moved to the United States. He spoke no English, and found his time in the U.S. extremely uncomfortable. Nevertheless, he succeeded in learning English, attended medical school at UC San Diego, and completed his residence at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. For the next ten years, Hosseini practiced medicine while working on his first novel, The Kite Runner, which was loosely based on his childhood. When The Kite Runner was published in 2003, it made Hosseini an international literary star. In 2007 Hosseini published his second novel, A Thousand Splendid Suns, which was even more successful than The Kite Runner, and then published And the Mountains Echoed in 2013. Hosseini resides in New York and California, and is working on a fourth novel.
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Historical Context of And the Mountains Echoed
 And the Mountains Echoed alludes to many events in recent Afghan history, though its allusions are less overt than those of Hosseini’s previous two novels, The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns. Nila Wahdati mentions that her family traveled to Afghanistan to aid in the political and social reforms of King Amanullah Khan, who ruled from 1919 to 1929. Amanullah instituted sweeping changes in Afghan society, banning the institution of slavery, modernizing and Westernizing the school system, and reducing state censorship of scientific and religious texts. Amanullah was banished from Afghanistan by his own cousin, who promptly reversed the majority of Amanullah’s reforms, and Amanullah spent the remainder of his life in Switzerland. Hosseini also references the Soviet-Afghan War, which lasted from 1979 to 1989. During this long, bloody conflict, Soviet forces invaded Afghanistan, killing huge numbers of civilians and doing enormous damage to the country’s infrastructure (including that of the city of Kabul, where much of And the Mountains Echoed takes place). The United States, which was locked in a Cold War with the Soviet Union at the time, took measures to arm and train Afghan resistance armies, prolonging the war by many years. (One of these armies was headed by Osama Bin Laden, at the time an ally of the U.S.). The Soviet-Afghan War paved the way for the rise of the Taliban—a terrorist group that used violence to oppose “Westernization” of the kind that Amanullah had installed decades previously. In the late 90s and early 2000s, the United States waged war on the Taliban in Afghanistan. In the novel, Dr. Markos Varvaris travels to Kabul in the early 2000s to help the sick and dying—the casualties of their country’s numerous wars and violent conflicts since the late 70s.
Other Books Related to And the Mountains Echoed
 And the Mountains Echoed alludes to many literary works—indeed, its title is an allusion to the William Blake poem, “The Nurse’s Song”: “and the hills echoed.” In this poem, a friendly nurse watches a group of children play outside, seemingly unaware of the dangers the children could encounter. This reflects the novel’s themes of childhood, and the innocence that quickly gives way to cynical experience. It’s also useful to situate Hosseini’s novel in the recent trend of “everything is connected” fictions. Especially in the past twenty years, many novels have widened their scope to describe a greater number of characters in a larger number of settings, many of which lie outside the Western world. The characters in these novels don’t always “mingle” with each other: instead, their paths cross occasionally, reflecting the increased complexity of the world in an era of globalization. Recent examples of this genre include A Visit from the Goon Squad (2010) by Jennifer Egan, Let the Great World Spin (2009) by Colum McCann, and The Hours (1998) by Michael Cunningham. Arguably the best examples of the genre can be found in cinema (where the techniques of montage and “cutting” fit perfectly with the genre’s scope and pace). The films of Alejandro González Iñárritu—such as Amores Perros (1999), 21 Grams (2003), and Babel (2005)—and Fernando Meirelles—such as Blindness (2008) and 360 (2011)—exemplify the ensemble casts and large-scale ambitions of the “everything is connected” genre.
Key Facts about And the Mountains Echoed
  • Full Title: And the Mountains Echoed
  • Where Written: Kabul, Afghanistan and New York City, USA
  • When Published:  May 21, 2013
  • Literary Period: Globalization fictions of the early 21st century
  • Genre: Generational drama, historical novel
  •  Setting: There are many: Shadbagh, New Shadbagh, and Kabul (all in Afghanistan); Paris, France; Tinos, Greece; California, USA.
  • Climax: While And the Mountains Echoed is, in many ways, a collection of short vignettes, each of which can be said to have a climax, the climax of the entire novel arguably comes in Chapter Nine, when Pari reunites with her brother, Abdullah.
  • Antagonist: None—in the vast, interconnected world of the novel, it’s hard to separate “good” and “bad” characters.
  • Point of View: The novel consists of nine chapters, each narrated from a different point of view. One chapter is epistolary (written in the form of a letter), another is written in the first person, and several others are narrated in the third person limited point of view. The majority of the chapters are also written in the present tense, rather than the more common past tense.
Extra Credit for And the Mountains Echoed

Art and life: There’s a good reason why all of Khaled Hosseini’s novels concern the years following the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan. Hosseini has admitted to suffering from a sense of survivor’s guilt: he wishes his family hadn’t left the country before the Soviet-Afghan War began. By writing about Afghanistan’s history since that time, Hosseini controls and, he says, combats his acute sense of guilt.

Going for triple digits: You know you’re a big-time author when your least successful book spends 33 weeks on the bestseller list. This was the case with And the Mountains Echoed, which was on the New York Times Best Seller list until January 2014, often in the number one slot. Any other novelist would have viewed this as a major achievement, but compared with The Kite Runner (101 weeks) and A Thousand Splendid Suns (103 weeks), it was only a modest success for Hosseini.