Khaled Hosseini, The kite runner

Énoncé

« I was flipping through a worn copy of a Mike Hammer mystery when I heard a screaming and glass breaking. I dropped the book and hurried across the street. I found the Nguyens behind the counter, all the way against the wall, faces ashen, Mr. Nguyen's arms wrapped around his wife. On the floor: oranges, an overturned magazine rack, a broken jar of beef jerky, and shards of glass at Baba's feet. It turned out that Baba had had no cash on him for the oranges. He'd written Mr. Nguyen a check and Mr. Nguyen had asked for an ID. "He wants to see my license," Baba bellowed (1) in Farsi, "Almost two years we've bought his damn fruits and put money in his pocket and the son of a dog wants to see my license!" "Baba, it's not personal." I said smiling at the Nguyens. "They're supposed to ask for an ID." "I don't want you here," Mr. Nguyen said, stepping in front of his wife. He was pointing at Baba with his cane. He turned to me. "You're nice young man but your father, he's crazy. Not welcome anymore." "Does he think I'm a thief?" Baba said, his voice rising. People had gathered outside. They were staring. "What kind of a country is this? No one trusts anybody!" "I call police," Mrs. Nguyen said, poking out her face. "You get out or I call police." "Please, Mrs. Nguyen, don't call the police. I'll take him home. Just don't call the police, okay? Please?" "Yes, you take him home. Good idea," Mr. Nguyen said. His eyes, behind his wire-rimmed bifocals, never left Baba. I led Baba through the doors. He kicked a magazine on his way out, After I'd made him promise he wouldn't go back in. I returned to the store and apologized to the Nguyens. Told them my father was going through a difficult time. I gave Mrs. Nguyen our telephone number and address, and told her to get an estimate for the damages. "Please call as soon as you know. I'll pay for everything Mrs. Nguyen I'm so sorry." Mrs. Nguyen took the sheet of paper from me and nodded. I saw her hands were shaking more than usual, and that made me angry at Baba, his causing an old woman to shake like that. My father is still adjusting to life in America," I said, by way of explanation. I wanted to tell them that, in Kabul, we snapped a tree branch and used it as a credit card. Hassan and I would take the wooden stick to the bread maker. He'd carve notches on our stick with his knife, one notch for each loaf of naan he'd pull for us from the tandoor's roaring flames. At the end of the month, my father paid him for the number of notches on the stick. That was it. No ID. But I didn't tell them. I thanked Mr. Nguyen for not calling the cops. Took Baba home. He sulked (2) and smoked on the balcony while I made rice with chicken neck stew. A year and a half since we'd stepped off the Boeing from Peshawar, and Baba was still adjusting. We ate in silence that night. After two bites, Baba pushed away his plate. I glanced at him across the table, his nails chipped and black with engine oil, his knuckles scraped, the smells of the gas station – dust, sweat, and gasoline – on his clothes. Baba was like the widower who remarries but can't let go of his dead wife. He missed the sugarcane fields of Jalalabad and the gardens of Paghman. He missed people milling in and out of his house, missed walking down the bustling aisles of Shor Bazaar and greeting people who knew him and his father, knew his grandfather, people who shared ancestors with him, whose pasts intertwined with his. For me, America was a place to bury my memories. For Baba, a place to mourn his. »
Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner, 2003

Compréhension de l'écrit
1. When possible, give the names and jobs of the four main characters. Say how they are related to each other.
2. 
a) In which country does the story take place? Justify with a quote from the text.
b) How long has the narrator been living in this country? Justify with a quote from the text.
3. Where does the incident take place? Justify with a quote from the text.
4. 
a) Why did the narrator hurry across the street?
b) What did he find there?
5. 
a) In your own words, describe what has just happened. (30 words)
b) Use your own words to explain why Baba had this reaction. (30 words)
6. 
a) Would you say that Baba reacted like an adult or in a childish manner (justify your answer by quoting the text)?
b) How did Mrs Nguyen react to the incident? (justify your answer by quoting the text)?
c) How did they pay for the bread in Kabul?
d) What kind of explanation did the narrator feel like giving to the Nguyens as an excuse for Baba's behavior?
e) Why didn't the Nguyens call the police?
7. What details show that life is really different in Afghanistan and the USA and that Baba can hardly integrate? (justify your answer by quoting the text).
8. 
a) What does the incident with Mr. and Mrs. Nguyen reveal about Baba and the narrator's relationship? (30 words)
b) Illustrate your answer with two examples from the text.
9. Baba and the narrator have not adapted to their new environment in the same way. Comment on this statement in your own words. (40 words)
10. Why is Baba sad to have left his country of origin? (30 words)
Expression écrite
The narrator says "For me, America was a place to bury my memories. For Baba, a place to mourn his." . Do you think a new country means a new start? (300 words)
(1)Bellow: shout.
(2)Sulk: look angry and refuse to speak.

Corrigé

Compréhension de l'écrit
1. The four main characters are: Mr. And Mrs. Nguyen who are grocers, they run the grocery shop where Baba, who is a mechanic, and his son, the narrator, are used to doing their shopping.
2. 
a) The story takes place in America/ the USA.
"My father is still adjusting to life in America […]" .
"For me, America was a place to bury my memories. For Baba, a place to mourn his" .
b) The narrator has been living in America for a year and a half.
"A year and a half since we'd stepped off the Boeing from Peshawar […]" .
3. The incident takes place at the Nguyens' store.
"I found the Nguyens behind the counter […] On the floor: oranges, an overturned magazine rack, a broken jar of beef jelly, and sharks of glass at Baba's feet." .
"I led Baba through the doors. He kicked a magazine on his way out […]" .
"I returned to the store and apologized to the Nguyens." .
4. 
a) The narrator hurried across the street because he heard an argument/ outbursts/ shouts coming from the Nguyens' store where his father was.
b) There he found the Nguyens who were frightened and Baba who was upset and different things on the floor which shows they had been knocked over.
5. 
a) Baba went to the store to buy oranges but he had no cash with him so he wanted to pay with a cheque, but the Nguyens asked for an ID and as a result Baba became furious and knocked things over.
b) Baba reacted that way because he is used to buying things at the Nguyens' and he doesn't understand, as they know him, why they asked him for an ID. Moreover in his native country such an attitude from shop owners is not common.
6. 
a) Baba behaved in a childish manner and his son reacted as if he were a child, I quote: "I led Baba through the doors. He kicked a magazine on his way out. After I made him promise he wouldn't go back in, I returned to the store and apologized to the Nguyens".
b) Mrs Nguyen threatened to call the police because she was scared, I quote: "all the way against the wall, faces ashen", "I saw her hands were shaking more than usual […] his causing an old woman to shake like that".
c) In Kabul they would use a tree branch to replace the credit card or chequebook, the bread maker would carve notches (one for each loaf of bread) on the stick with his knife and at the end of the month Baba would pay him. It means people trusted each other.
d) The narrator felt like telling them about their life in Kabul, more precisely about the way they paid bread.
e) They finally didn't call the police because they know the narrator and they appreciate him, I quote "You're nice young man". And they didn't want to hurt him.
7. Indeed life is very different in both countries. Baba is an old man and he lives with his memories of Afghanistan, he is uprooted, I quote "He missed the sugarcane fields of Jalalabad and the gardens of Paghman […] people who shared ancestors with him, whose past intertwined with him", "Baba was still adjusting".
8. 
a) The incident reveals that Baba and the narrator have a relationship which is the opposite of what it should be. The narrator behaves like an adult and takes care of his father as he is young and adapts quite well to the american culture whereas the father behaves more or less like a child. He has to be taken care of since he can't adapt to that new country where he now lives.
b) "I led Baba through the doors. He kicked a magazine on his way out" .
"I returned to the store and apologized to the Nguyens." .
"A year and a half since we'd stepped off the Boeing from Peshawar, and Baba was still adjusting" .
"For me, America was a place to bury my memories. For Baba, a place to mourn his" .
9. Baba and the narrator have not adapted in the same way because it is much more difficult for an adult to change life radically overnight. The person is really used to living in a culture and an environment which can be totally different all of a sudden. As a consequence, it may take quite a long time to fit in a new culture whereas it is much easier for a young person to adapt which is the case of the narrator.
10. Baba is sad because he has spent quite a long part of his life in Afghanistan and he feels uprooted, he has lost his landmarks, the culture he now lives in is totally new to him and radically different from the one he has left behind. Somehow he feels homesick and nostalgic.
Expression écrite
At first, I would say that being about to start a new life can be an exciting experience but it can also be confusing and bewildering. It certainly all depends on where you start your new life and why, but also if the country where you start that new life is a country which has a close culture to yours or not. However it may prove to be much more difficult for an adult who has his own definite personality and his habits than for a young person who can generally adapt to situations more easily. If you're about to start a new life in a foreign country which is often the case for immigrants for instance, we may think that it is a rather puzzling experience. In that case, you have to give up your way of living and abandon your familiar surroundings. This new country isn't the place where you have your roots as a consequence you would probably miss your relatives and friends. You have to start anew, to adapt to new customs, to get used to speaking and understanding another language and making other friends. So you may feel lost and torn between two cultures and different ways of thinking. In that case, you may feel more confused and puzzled, if not apprehensive, than excited because you may feel totally uprooted and homesick as well as nostalgic. Of course these feelings may be part of the excitement but it would probably be closer to agitation than to enthusiasm.