Khaled Hosseini on A Thousand Splendid Suns' Theatrical Debut

Posted by Cybil on February 15, 2017



It's been ten years since the publication of Khaled Hosseini's bestselling novel A Thousand Splendid Suns. This month, the novel about three generations of Afghan women living in the war-torn Kabul is being adapted into a stage play, premiering at the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco.

A review of the play in The San Francisco Chronicle said of the production, "So often in our stories, be they fairy tales or kitchen sink dramas or founding myths, heroism, which is male, is possible only through a sacrifice, which is female and promptly forgotten. In this play, to be a hero is to love; in a world of hate and fear—in any world—there is no more courageous act."

We asked Hosseini, who also wrote The Kite Runner, to tell us what it was like to see his novel come to the stage:


"The idea of adapting A Thousand Splendid Suns for the stage holds great appeal for me. Both as a fan of theater, as someone who appreciates the immense communal joy of this ancient art form, but also as the book's author, one of the first things I made clear to Carey Perloff and Ursula Rani Sarma—the artistic director and the playwright, respectively—was that I wished for this production to be their vision. I wanted to grant them the creative license to explore the story rather than feel constricted by it, the freedom to tell it as it lived in their minds when they first read it.

To me, the point never was to have them prop up Mariam and Laila intact from the novel on the stage but to let the audience experience the story anew through this other portal, to hear what it said to someone other than its original creator.

And then there is the unexpected timeliness of a theatrical adaptation of A Thousand Splendid Suns. It's a tale being retold at a time when we are engaged as a nation in a sometimes contentious debate about the plight of refugees and, among other things, the very nature of our relationship with the Middle East and its people.

It strikes me as a good time to be reminded that whether we worship in a church or a temple or a mosque, or nowhere at all, there are core elements that make up the human experience, things we all share as creatures on this planet that far outweigh our differences. Storytelling reminds us of this easily forgotten fact. And it is all too easy to forget that Laila, Mariam, Aziza, Tariq, and Zalmai might as well be the countless individuals who, at this very moment, are fleeing extremism and violence, the desperate souls crossing the Mediterranean, and other borders and frontiers, risking life and limb, searching for a measure of safety, peace, and dignity.

Political rhetoric has a way of trampling all over human beings as individuals, people with faces. It falls to the artist to shine a light on these faces instead. I hope this play accomplishes that."

Discover more of Khaled Hosseini's works and add them to your Want to Read shelf.

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What has Hosseini's writing meant to you? Share your thoughts in the comments.

And check out more recent blogs:
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Comments Showing 1-22 of 22 (22 new)

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Florence Ganter There are some people who feel that novels are just fluff and read only non fiction. Reading only facts cannot convey the emotion that a novel like this can. I first read The Kite Runner and that book made me so much more sympathetic to the people of Afghanistan. I have read several more books , fiction and non- fiction about that area of the world but this book, A Thousand Splendid Suns,remains my favorite and I hope the play will do it justice.


message 2: by siriusedward (new)

siriusedward t strikes me as a good time to be reminded that whether we worship in a church or a temple or a mosque, or nowhere at all, there are core elements that make up the human experience, things we all share as creatures on this planet that far outweigh our differences. Storytelling reminds us of this easily forgotten fact. And it is all too easy to forget that Laila, Mariam, Aziza, Tariq, and Zalmai might as well be the countless individuals who, at this very moment, are fleeing extremism and violence, the desperate souls crossing the Mediterranean, and other borders and frontiers, risking life and limb, searching for a measure of safety, peace, and dignity.

beautifully said


message 3: by Biblio (new)

Biblio Curious This gem far surpasses Kite Runner!

It has to become a movie. Please, please adapt this for film.


message 4: by Angie (new)

Angie Lara La lectura de este libro me sorprendió en todo sentido, la inmersión que realiza el autor en un mundo desconocido para la mayoría de personas que vivimos en países latinoamericanos fue impecable y no deja duda de la variedad de pensamientos que encontramos en las distintas culturas. Una novela que expresa en muchos momentos la crueldad del ser humano.


message 5: by Abhiruchi (new)

Abhiruchi The most amazing novels I have read are by Khaled! Reading 'The Thousand Splendid Suns' filled me with melancholy and the taste of it stayed with me. I mourned for the characters while reading this book. It was an experience. 'And the mountains echoed' on the other hand is such a fresh piece of literature, with similar genuine characters entangled in that complex space. And thus the writing of each chapter with a different characters point of view, drove the point home! My dream would be to meet Khaled Hosseini in person and the theatre adaptation of such a powerful piece of work doesn't seem lesser than a dream either!


message 6: by Kasa (new)

Kasa Cotugno Having had the pleasure of attending the opening night presentation of this magnificent production, I recommend it to anyone in the San Francisco area. Don't pass it up.


message 7: by Candace (new)

Candace I always figured A Thousand Splendid Suns, unlike The Kite Runner, would never be made into a movie because there are two female leads. Ethnic female leads. I'd love to see the theater version. Maybe it will translate to the big screen soon. It's important.

Kudos to the author's generous spirit for encouraging the artistic director and playwright to explore the story as they first envisioned it.


message 8: by Isha (new)

Isha Gupta Biblio wrote: "This gem far surpasses Kite Runner!

It has to become a movie. Please, please adapt this for film."


I so wish the same! This ought to be turned into a movie. I hope they so that soon.


message 9: by Caroline (new)

Caroline Biblio wrote: "This gem far surpasses Kite Runner!

It has to become a movie. Please, please adapt this for film."


If this is better than the Kite Runner Biblio, it must be fantastic as I loved that book.
I have A Thousand Splendid Suns ,this blog has made determined to read it in the near future.


message 10: by Wayward Child (last edited Feb 16, 2017 02:16AM) (new)

Wayward Child Very few novels have captured my attention as much as Khaled Hosseini's ones. They've more than captured my attention; they've completely changed my views and shall always remain in my heart. A Thousand Splendid Suns happens to be my favourite of his works. I've tried to write a review for Goodreads (and myself) many times, but failed to each time. Some feelings are too complicated to put to words, at least by amateurs like myself. No matter how much I tried, I never could sum up this novel and its themes. It's endless and every time I reread it, I discover something new. Sometimes, the human emotion defeats the written word and renders it unnecessary. That's how I feel about this novel and its siblings. I've recently begun volunteering with refugees from Syria and Afghanistan travelling through Europe. After my first attempt, I came home and cried for three hours, completely overwhelmed by the atmosphere I had encountered in the refugee centre. It's rundown, overcrowded, doesn't have the best odour in the world and it makes you feel somewhat silly, perhaps even frightened, seeing how you're basically the only female in a room overflowing with males wrapped in blankets, watching your every step. But, after a while, you get used to the stares, you learn to read the atmosphere in the room and your own stench seamlessly blends in. A few more days pass and you begin remembering people's names and faces. You learn a few words in Pastho or Farsi or Urdu, discover the fact that carrots are red in the Middle East and not orange and that 90% of the guys aged 12 and up can ride a horse. A few more weeks pass, people come to see you as a regular and they start opening up to you. Some people want to take pictures with you, others shy away from the camera because they're afraid their uncles who're with the Taliban or the extremists will find them and kill them. You learn to steer away from taboo topics such as food and family, unless they bring them up first. You learn how they're the only surviving sibling, how their houses were demolished and how terrified they are for the loved ones they've left behind. You learn of their sacrifices and how some of them volunteered to stay behind, because their mothers weren't allowed to cross the border with more than one child. You see them wearing skirts and high heels and ill-fitted clothes, because that's the only thing they could get their hands on. At the end of the day, you say goodbye to them and head home to a warm room and a warm meal already prepared and served by your mum, while they head out to an abandoned parking lot or under the bridge, fighting just barely against the harsh European winter. It's difficult. Sometimes I don't feel like doing it. Sometimes I want to stay home and binge watch a show or read or simply waste my day away on the internet. But, it doesn't last for long. I always come back. I'm in too deep and I've grown too attached to certain people to stop going to the shelter and trying to help them, in whichever small way. Khaled Hosseini's novels are wonderful and heartbreaking at the same time and there's never been a better, more fitting time to read them than now. I conjure up his characters in my mind as I'm putting my boots on and when I reach the shelter, I get to talk to them in person. I get to hand them out blankets and shoes, I get to serve tea, I get to hold classes and help them with their English. Now, more than ever, is the time to learn from Hosseini's works, to apply that knowledge and to make a change, however small it may be. I had a class full of grumpy, hungry men to teach the other week. As I was trying to explain the verb 'run' to them, I began running, tripped over a chair somebody had left there and knocked over a huge panel. They all burst out laughing. Even though I was slightly embarrassed, I also felt extremely pleased that I've managed to put a smile on their faces and draw out the inner child. Nothing I've ever done has meant more to me than this. That feeling of accomplishment is rewarding in ways I could never even begin to describe. My work means the world to me and I'm sure there are gobs of humanitarians out there sharing my feelings. War will never end, I'm certain of it, not as long as there are people breathing on this planet. I guess it's in our nature to point a finger at another human being and declare them an enemy, to squabble with them, to get physical with them, to go to war with them for a plethora of different reasons. But, just as there are people out there who are capable of cruelty and bloodshed, there are people out there capable of kindness, tolerance and understanding. Conflicts keep repeating throughout history, yet these people remain. I am so happy to be one of those people and I am so grateful that Hosseini's works have prepared me, at least in some ways, for all the challenges that lie ahead.


message 11: by xotic3 (new)

xotic3 Florence Ganter wrote: "There are some people who feel that novels are just fluff and read only non fiction. Reading only facts cannot convey the emotion that a novel like this can. I first read The Kite Runner and that b..."

I have to second this, your books all in all have changed me into feeling sympathetic for the people over there, it exposed me to a whole new world I never imagined I would be reading about, it encouraged me to stick up to what I believe and think is right, as long as I am sticking to my morals and beliefs, there is nothing wrong in doing what I want. The first book I read what "And the Mountains Echoed" I found that book very different and at first did not know what I got myself into, so I eventually stopped reading it for sometime. After a while I sat myself in our living room and decided to actually finish it, because I remember thinking to myself "You might be missing out on something pretty huge if you skip this book." And I finished it and felt so happy to have done so, that book is simply the book you need to wake you up and remind you that anything is possible in life. Then I decided to read "The Kite Runner" which was simply the breaking point of your work. Regardless of what comes out, this book not only shows you what real friendship, sacrifice, and loyalty is, it also teaches you that you do not have to graduate school or college to actually be loyal and faithful. There are a lot of various degree holders that sadly do not reflect the true meaning of being humans, and by reading this book I have learned so much, till the very end I remember being on the beach on sunset and gripping the book way too hard and flipping through the pages. That feeling was really satisfying because it was then that I really knew that that was what it feels like to be attached to a book.

"A Thousand Splendid Suns" was the bomb, the very last book I read and boy wasn't it something. It made me feel grateful, and thankful at the same time for being who I am as a woman. The fight Mariam went through till the very end is very praiseworthy, she stood up in the end and after all those years of struggle, she decided to take action. How many years has it been? I think quite a lot, she decided to to a courageous young girl and live to be powerful woman who after a lot of years, said enough was enough after endless struggles.

Your books made me travel and live in a place I never thought a book would help me travel while being at home, the way you write is unique, powerful and simply satisfying! I'm hoping you're in the process of writing yet another traveler for us anticipating readers!!

Thank you, and thank you again!


message 12: by Florence Ganter (new)

Florence Ganter Caroline wrote: "Biblio wrote: "This gem far surpasses Kite Runner!

It has to become a movie. Please, please adapt this for film."

If this is better than the Kite Runner Biblio, it must be fantastic as I loved t..."

I was disappointed in the movie version of the Kite Runner but I would still like to see this made into a movie.


message 13: by Caroline (new)

Caroline So was I Florence!!


message 14: by Ranjana (last edited Feb 17, 2017 09:19AM) (new)

Ranjana Thakur After Kite Runner, I was eagerly waiting for Khaled's second book and wanted it to be as engaging as the first one. The second book proved to be better than the first one.

Some books make an indelible mark on you. Books by Khaled have that power.

Read this book ages back but I can read it time and again. Flawless writing with engaging characters. How I wish I was in San Francisco for the theatrical adaptation. Pure Catharsis!

Loved the book and waiting to watch it on the big screen.


message 15: by Candace (new)

Candace Wayward wrote: "Very few novels have captured my attention as much as Khaled Hosseini's ones. They've more than captured my attention; they've completely changed my views and shall always remain in my heart. A Tho..."

Do you have this on a blog somewhere? It should be widely read!


message 16: by Biblio (new)

Biblio Curious Florence, Kite Runner is small potatoes compared to this masterpiece! Mr. Legendary Author can craft a story like nobody's business :D


message 17: by Wayward Child (new)

Wayward Child Candace wrote: "Wayward wrote: "Very few novels have captured my attention as much as Khaled Hosseini's ones. They've more than captured my attention; they've completely changed my views and shall always remain in..."

I'm not exactly sure what you mean by 'having it on a blog'. I was moved to express my opinion and wrote it in a comment. I'm way too computer illiterate for anything more.


message 18: by Candace (new)

Candace Wayward wrote: "Candace wrote: "Wayward wrote: "Very few novels have captured my attention as much as Khaled Hosseini's ones. They've more than captured my attention; they've completely changed my views and shall ..."

If your comment existed pn a blog, it would be possible for people to copy the url and share it on, say, their own blogs, twitter, facebook, etc. Your very moving comment touched me, and i know others would feel the same and want to share it. Your sentiments and writing are powerful and timely.

You could copy and paste your comment and use it as a review of this book here on GR. It could be shared from there. If you dont know how to do that pleasr message me and i can walk you through it, if you wish.

Please excuse typos (tiny screen.)


message 19: by Wayward Child (new)

Wayward Child Candace wrote: "Wayward wrote: "Candace wrote: "Wayward wrote: "Very few novels have captured my attention as much as Khaled Hosseini's ones. They've more than captured my attention; they've completely changed my ..."

Thank you very much for your kind words, I really appreciate them, but I wouldn't feel comfortable with that. :)


message 20: by Candace (new)

Candace Wayward wrote: "Candace wrote: "Wayward wrote: "Candace wrote: "Wayward wrote: "Very few novels have captured my attention as much as Khaled Hosseini's ones. They've more than captured my attention; they've comple..."

Understood. :)


message 21: by Biblio (new)

Biblio Curious I agree that Kite Runner as a movie wasn't as good as the book. The movie included many of the key parts of the book and was an excellent adaptation for people who've never read the book. Hopefully, it encouraged more folks to read it :)

The movie was immensely successful at drawing in much needed attention to Afghan and Persian lit. *happy dance*


message 22: by Florence Ganter (new)

Florence Ganter Nadia Hashima wrote When the Moon is Low and The Pearl that Broke it's Shell two more excellent books about Afghan women


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