On Wednesday evening, Khaled Hosseini, author of “The Kite Runner,” spoke at Stanford as part of the School of Medicine’s “Medicine and the Muse” renewal-themed symposium.
In her opening remarks for the event, Professor of Surgery Rebecca Smith-Coggins emphasized the need for “creativity” in order to “see the world anew,” especially in the field of medicine.
The symposium featured numerous student performances – dance, spoken word, piano and opera – and artwork. Its focal point, however, was the conversation between Hosseini, author of three international bestsellers (“The Kite-Runner,” “A Thousand Splendid Suns” and “And the Mountains Echoed”) and Paul Costello, chief communications officer for the School of Medicine.
Like many other student attendees, Ghena Alhanaee and Sarah Alsaif, both masters students in energy resources engineering, learned about the event through email. Both said they attended for one reason: “Khaled Hosseini.”
Hamshika Chandrasekar, one of the medical students involved with the organization of the event, confirmed that publicity was restricted to email because they already expected a “huge interest” due to Mr. Hosseini’s presence, which event organizers had been trying to obtain for several years.
Indeed, a queue formed well before the doors opened at 5:00 p.m. During the event, numerous attendees found themselves either standing or watching from the overflow room.
The talk began with general themes of international interest and then progressed to discussions about writing and questions from the audience.
Hosseini expressed his hopes for a new beginning for Afghanistan. He highlighted the importance of the April 5 elections in showcasing the “more complex” reality of the country, which is now struggling with “uncertainty,” “anxiety” and “a fear of abandonment.”
He drew attention to the “very young population” of Afghanistan – 65 percent of the country is under the age of 25 – and the reality that that youthful population hold up Silicon Valley’s entrepreneurs as heroes rather than the war heroes of a past era. According to Hosseini, they are less interested in the past and more interested in justice, women’s rights and democracy. He emphasized, however, that what happens next will depend on security.
“If there’s a civil war, all bets are off,” Hosseini said.
Hosseini also elaborated on his recent opinion piece in The New York Times about the “massive crisis” in Syria and emphasized the need to look beyond national lines and “stand in human solidarity.”
Hosseini gave a brief account of his growth as an author – from a young boy listening to the “cadences and rhythms,” to a fifteen-year-old “stranger in a strange land” who could barely speak any English, to finally being a practicing physician.
Some of the themes he addressed along the way were memory, family relationships, the interplay between medicine and writing in his life, displacement and the process of writing.
He expressed hope that his writing had made Afghanistan a “more human place” for his readers and allowed them to “climb over the wall of their own lives” in order to explore what lay beyond.
Contact Nikhita Obeegadoo at nix19 ‘at’ stanford ‘dot’ edu.