Task 12 – the learning process

Well, then we have all reach the “final task”. It`s kind of a mixed feeling, finishing the blog – in some way it`s nice to step back, leave it behind, and just enjoy what you have accomplished. On the other hand, I have actually enjoyed this work a lot – shaping my own blog, making a quite huge, comprehensive assignment. It has actually been quite okay to work on one big task for a longer period of time, which has made us able to shape it the way we want to, individually. Each and one of us has ended up with different results, we have put different amount of work in to it, as well as a different degree of commitment and passion.

First of all, I have (for the first time ever) written a blog. The blog-genre allows you to use an oral form of writing, which I have appreciated. You don`t need to write all formal and “boring”, and this also affects the creativity. As long as you answer the main task, you have much scope for your own inputs. I can also use it to write my analysis, almost like a “mind map”, with all my thoughts gathered in one place. We can define the blog as a “research” and the analysis as a reduced summary, containing only the most crucial.

Another side effect of using this kind of genre is the fact that it is online. You got access to all your classmates` blogs, in the same way as they got access to yours. As well as writing and answering task individually, another part of this project has been to read and comment on the others` blogs. This is a bidirectional learning process, where one of you may learn something new, as well as getting some inspiration, at the same time as the other part gets constructive criticism to help them improve their work – it`s a win-win situation! If you are able to reflect upon how the others are working, and actually learn something from it, you can use it to improve your own work and maybe to get some new, exciting ideas and views.

You are not just writing for yourself or for a teacher – you actually got an audience (a critical one!). In some ways, it feels more “meaningful” just because of that – knowing that somebody is actually reading your writing. As I shorty mentioned, not just the feedback you give, but also the feedback you get, is both a help/an indication and a little pressure. I can only speak for myself, but knowing that someone is reading and criticising my work, it makes me wanting to perfect it even better. Maybe not to “impress”, but rather to make a good impression in some way – by performing your very best, you will probably get satisfied with your work, and therefor it`s not that intimidating showing it off to others. I think this kind of pressure is good, as it pushes you to make the most out of it, when you at the same time get criticism from a “safe” level – your classmates.

In that way you can`t just write whatever you want to; Because of the comments, you need to be able to explain your statements to prove their trueness (you actually need to read the book, as well as understanding your own statements). You need a clear insight in your own book, so you can explain the task properly and understandable to your classmates. Some questions is also harder to answer, and may force you to reflect on a deeper level than you are mainly used to. This is a quite complicated learning process in itself, and an important part of the entire project, by my opinion.

If you haven`t already noticed my enthusiasm for the project by now, I actually have even more positive criticism on my mind. I absolutely find it as a productive way of working with a book; you read with a more critical eye, searching for clues and a deeper meaning, aware of that you are supposed to reflect upon it later (in the task/analysis). It has for sure made me into a more observant reader, as I have written about my thoughts and impressions, not just after, but also during the reading process. I have been taking notes while reading and I have been picking up details I normally would have missed.

I have chosen a quite long book, and I`m not quite finished reading it. Despite that, I do not feel like running out of time either. Because of the blog, my analysis is already shaped and on its way, and I can now just relax reading the last few pages, and then puzzle all my pieces together to the final picture – my analysis.

reading

Task 10 – theme

To be honest, this is the first book I`ve read where I find it rather hard to pick a theme. As I have talked about in my previous posts, the story is told by many different characters. This result in many different views, descriptions, experiences and thoughts, where every little story and character got its own theme, in a way. However, I have done a lot of thinking, and are finally starting to agree with myself. I certainly have to look beyond the details and the different stories. I need to look for something that connects them, the true feeling of the book.

As in many other stories and books, “love” is also a prominent theme in this book. Every little story in the book, are built on love. Not always happily, fair and reasonable love, but love, in different levels, ways, and colours. A little girl, who with genuine kindness takes care of an outcast dog, and becomes its friend. A little boy who raises this little girl, his little sister, and protects her for whatever may come. A young woman who sacrifices herself for her sister`s happiness. A servant who takes care of a sick, old man, and stands up to him when everyone leaves – a servant who through years and years has become a dear friend to him. Though the love may be hidden sometimes, you can feel it everywhere in this book, and that`s why it is an overarching theme.

Another, slightly less prominent theme, I will define as “contrasts”. I know that “contrasts” are often used as a literary technique, but in this setting, I will use it as a theme. Let me explain it a little deeper.

I find “contrasts” as a theme in itself, as it, on the same line as “love”, is what the story is mainly about. The stories are about fighting contrast, about overcoming differences, about living peacefully side by side despite differences, and about being curious to the unknown, as well as accepting both who you are, and others. With differences and contrasts, I mean almost the same. To capture the soul of the story, you will have to be aware of, and pay attention to the contrasts. It can be contrast as rich and poor, a servant and a wealthy family, a cheeky and a humble brother, and so on. This contrasts, or differences we could say, symbolises different relationships. In the book, we are always told the story through the eyes of the poor, the humble, the vulnerable – the “weakest” part in all these relationships. Therefor we experience all this differences, and the “unfair” or curious feeling of them. The “good side”, or the wealthy people, are often portrayed as superficial, unlike the poor ones, who are portrayed as grateful and happy about their “deficient” lives.

To make it completely clear, “contrasts” is as well an overarching theme, because this is so central to the story in general. All the stories (the overall main story) are about some sort of love, and some sort of differences, and how this effects the characters, the plot and us – the readers. This is what shapes the novel, and what shapes our overall impression.

The last theme, is the one more connected to the book`s content – which includes specifically both the first chapter and the title. If we take a quick look back to my second post, about “the first chapter”, I told you about the fairy tale, about the “Div”, the father who had to sacrifice his son, and about his journey through the mountains. Already then, I suspected this to reflect in the main story, which it did. Despite the different stories you are told through the book, it all leads up to the one between the two little kids, the brother and the sister – Abdullah and Pari. In the first part of the book they are separated (the father is forced to sell Pari to this rich couple living in Kabul), then we follow their two different lives, growing up and living apart from each other (though Abdullah spends his entire life searching for, and missing his sister). We follow the stories to the other persons in their lives (mainly to Pari), which later on leads to the sister`s and the brother`s grownup-lives. This is where the puzzles are slowly, but finally coming together, and in the last part of the book, they are reunited as two old persons. Though this was the “cold, uninspiring, short version”, I`m sure you get the point. The “theme” of the first chapter, is also a theme to the entire book – about sacrifice, yarning, about searching and missing, and about a hole to the heart, about something absent.

Regarding the title, “And the mountains echoed”, it took some time before this came clear to me, but when it did, the book made just perfectly sense, (and I couldn`t stop smiling!).

Though Pari and Abdullah were separated, torn apart, and given different lives, different destinies, they were in the end brought together again. They lost each other in the desert of helplessness, blindfolded for the decisions that would affect the rest of their lives, but still they fought their way through, and back to each other in the end. They lived their separated lives on each side of the mountains, one on the poor and one on the wealthy side. Pari didn’t even remember having a brother, but she always carried the feeling of something missing. Referring to “the mountains echoed,” I will connect it to “a light in the dark” – something showing way, maybe destiny. The mountains separated them, but the mountains also carried their hopes, their wishes, their missing and their prayers. The echo, a quiet, indistinct voice from the inner of their heart, was what brought them together in the end. “The mountains” can also be referred to as their lives, simply enough. Their lives, and all the other people around them, was a mountain chain, where the echoes of their memories resonated in the cliff sides, further on leading back to them, and in the end finding them, and bringing them back to each other. That is why the last, and maybe most important/prominent theme of the book, is “hope and yarning”.

Task 8 – point of view

The book is mainly written from a third person-point of view, where an unknown narrator tells the story. However, two of the chapters is “reprinted” as a letter, word for word, which is the same as direct speech. As well, the two last chapters are written in a first person-point of view – these two not as a letter. “The point of view” is a quite prominent effect in the novel – and this is where it gets interesting; through the book, the narrator is chancing from chapter to chapter. Sometimes the person telling the story, changes in the middle of a chapter as well. This means we both got an “omniscient point of view” and an “alternating point of view”, in the very same book.

To prove my claims, I will show you three random examples, from the beginning of chapter 2, 4 and 8:

“Father had never before hit Abdullah. So when he did, when he whacked the side of his head, just above the ear – hard, suddenly, and with an open palm – tears of surprise sprung to Abdullah`s eyes.”

(From chapter 2, which is a story told “about” Abdullah – third person-point of view.)

“I know that I will be gone when you read this letter, Mr. Markos, for when I gave it to you I requested that you not open it until after my death.”

(From chapter 4, which is a story just like the other chapters, while built up like a letter.)

“This evening, I come home from the clinic and find a message from Thalia on the landline phone in my bedroom. I play it as I slip off my shoes and sit at my desk.”

(From chapter 8, which is a story told by Markos – first person-point of view)

In the beginning, I found this somehow a bit confusing, and sometimes difficult to get. Every chapter starts out “In medias res”, with no information on who tells the story, and the time setting is also going back and forth between the chapters. You need to pay attention to which year the specific story is from, to place the setting. As well, you need to read a few lines, at least, to understand who is telling the story.

After a while, you realize that it`s all the same story, just told from different perspectives/point of views. We are told the story from different characters – how they experienced the situation, and how it affected them. If some questions are unanswered in the end of a chapter, you will most likely find the solution in the next chapter, from a different character.

Though I said this can be experienced as a bit confusing, it is also a big part of the book`s identity. It makes it special, and interesting. At one point, you can feel totally lost, with no clue on what you are actually reading, while in the next second, it all makes perfectly sense. I will almost describe it as a piece of art – where making the readers go from totally confused to absolutely in love with the story, is a huge accomplishment in itself.

Task 7 – book analysis vs. book report

In the end of this blog-project, we are expected to write either a book analysis or a book report, as a final task. We are to choose by own wish, and in my case, I made the decision just by reading the first couple of pages.

This book is full of literary techniques, crossing and reflective themes, and interpretation of a greater meaning. Therefore, in my opinion, it demands a more supplementary submission – which is why I have chosen to write a book analysis. An analysis gives me more space for own thoughts and reflection upon the book and its themes. It gives me the opportunity to look deeper into the novel, with its structure, its characters, its message and its dissemination – what that does to our emotions, and how it makes us react.

Task 5 – setting

The novel is defined to be a historical fiction/drama, which indicates that the setting is set to the world as we know it – without magic, aliens, parallel worlds etc. Every chapter is headlined with season and year, and as far as I have read, the time is set to the 1950s.

The story takes place in Afghanistan, within mainly two different areas. The book, or journey we could say, begins in Abdullah`s (the main character) home village, where we meet poverty and struggle. The children are not going to school, and are expected to contribute at home. The houses are built of mud, the toys are mainly rocks and sticks, their sandals are worn out, and so on – I`m sure you get the picture. Further on, Abdullah, his sister and his father arrive in Kabul – the capital of Afghanistan, as well as a huge city with lots of facilities, compared to their conditions.

Shadbagh
Shadbagh
Kabul
Kabul

These differences give the story perspective, and the kids` thoughts and reflections upon what they see and experience make an impression, on me, as well as to every person who find themselves reading the book, I believe. What we, or I, take for granted, is like a movie to them. They cope with the life they are given, without drowning in complains. And when they get the opportunity to face wealth and abundance, they express amazement and amusement.

The novel is actually showing us a wealthy society, similar to our own, through the eyes of the less fortunate ones. At first, we are presented with a setting we can find it difficult relating to, which creates distance between “us” and the characters. This is somehow turned a bit upside down, as we reach the new setting, in Kabul, where we are able to relate in a greater manner. We are “forced” into the story, as a “second part”, and by filling that “part”, we are also getting more aware of the first setting, and how the same people relate to this changeover, just in the opposite direction.

Task 3 – The first chapter

The first chapter is rather special, and quite out of the ordinary, compared to other books I`ve read. The first chapter is actually not the beginning of the main story, but a story told by one of the characters in the main story. Let me explain it a bit more understandable…

The book opens “In Medias Res”, where we in seven short lines get an insight in what seems to be a quite ordinary setting; Somebody (we don’t get to know who, but it`s probably a grown-up-character, connected to the family) is going to tell a goodnight story for some eager kids. He tells them to listen well, and not to interrupt. Then the story begins…

Fairy tale book

The story is an adventure, like a tale, “a long, long time ago”. It`s about a father who is forced to sacrifice his youngest son to this “devilish-creature”. After many years of grief and sorrow, the father makes the long journey, across valleys, several deserts, and two mountain chains, with the mission of finding, and rescuing his son. He finds his son, but still he returns empty-handed, by choice (I`m not going to spoil the story!).

The story, or rather “fairy tale” if you like, is about grief and yearning, and about sacrificing yourself on behalf of someone you love. It`s about adding selfishness aside, by giving somebody else an opportunity you never had, and never will have. This “story in the story”-way of opening the book is somehow appealing to me. It makes me interested, and eager to read more. Moreover, if I`m not totally lost, I guess I`ll meet some comparisons to this little “fairy tale” later on in the book.

Task 1 – Choice of book

I actually bought the book by coincident, in a hurry at the airport on my way to France last summer. In fact, I bought three books in total, so this one has just been laying on my shelf, waiting to be read. I have tried to start reading it, or at least thought about it twice or so, but obviously, I never came right that far, before now! Since I spontaneously bought the book, I have heard quite a lot about it.

The book was published in 2013 – which means it`s relatively new on the marked, and it`s quite easy to find reviews and recommendations. As well as all the information online, one of my friends read it, and highly recommended it. So did my mother, who has read some of the other books by the same author. Khaled Hosseini is also the author behind «The Kite Runner” and “A Thousand Splendid Suns”.

A thousand splendid sunsThe Kite Runner

Of the three books, only “The Kite Runner” is made into a movie. I have decided to watch the movie as soon as I am finished reading “And the Mountains Echoed”, but if you may be interested in watching it during the holidays, I know that it has gotten good reviews!

Check out the trailer here:

Besides the coincident and the recommendations, the mean reason of why I chose this exactly book, is the story. The synopsis/the backside of the book caught my interest, as the story seems both touching and interesting. The story is about love and friendship, but also about injustice, brutality and difference in the world – I think the story will reflect upon great problems we in the “wealthy-world” never need to face. I have high expectations to this book – expectations of learning something new, as well as being able to reflect upon new subjects, foreign to my present mind.