Khaled Hosseini. THE KITE RUNNER. Riverhead Books, New York/ Bloomsbury, London 2003.
ISBN: 0747566526 (U.K. ed) & 1573222453 (U.S. ed)
Current Selling Prices
$200 + /£100+
MODERN FIRST EDITION / AFGHANISTAN WAR
Beneath the all important first edition line for this book (it must be 1 3 5 7 9 10 8 6 4 2) there is a summary, presumably for librarians, of the categories that the book fits into--they give a succinct snapshot of the books content:-
Kabol (Afghanistan)--Fiction. 2. Male Friendship --Fiction. 3. Social Classes --Fiction. 4. Afghanistan --Fiction. 5. Betrayal --Fiction. 6. Boys --Fiction.It is in fact a world ecompassing epic tale of fathers and sons, of childhood friendship and betrayal, taking the reader from Afghanistan in the final days of the monarchy to the Taliban atrocities of the present. The final third of the book (which underwent some serious rewriting) is full of haunting images: a man, desperate to feed his children, trying to sell his artificial leg in the market; an adulterous couple stoned to death in a stadium during the halftime of a football match; a rouged young boy forced into prostitution, dancing 'the sort of steps once performed by an organ grinder's monkey.'
The book is said to have sold way over 500,000 copies without benefit of TV ads, Oprah or other celebrity endorsements. Its success was due to word-of-mouth recommendations of librarians and independent book sellers and especially the strength of local book clubs and community reading programs -where one book is chosen by a city or region. The ordinary reading public bought and read the book and passed on the good news. Gradually the book became a best seller, justifying the $500,000 advance. Khaled Hosseini, whose story is not far removed from the book, came from Afghanistan with his formerly wealthy parents at age 15. They ended up on welfare in Fremont, California--an area close by Silicon Valley known as 'Little Kabul'. Khaled became an M.D. (family doctor) but also began to write, rising at 5 a.m. working at short stories and, later, his novel, before going to work. A half-dozen stories, mainly thrillers or gothic horror tales, were published online or in experimental zines. But submissions to The New Yorker, Harper's, Esquire and other mainstream publications were soundly rejected. After the success of 'Kite Runner' at 40 he became a fulltime writer, enjoying the American Dream - he has met the President and has seen the book made into a highly rated movie.
VALUE? I became aware of this book's collectability at the San Franciso Book Fair last weekend on seeing copies on the stands of dealers in hypermodern fiction. Several had the book in what looked like pristine condition and signed by Hossein in Farsi and English---the prices were between $600 and $1500. There are copies on the web priced at $1000+ with a couple of chancers at $2000+. Meanwhile last week a copy signed in English and Farsi and appearing fine was sold on Ebay at $189 and copies go through at around the $100 mark fairly regularly, possibly twice that signed and a little more with added ephemera like signing tickets etc.,
It is not a rare book, Hosseini has done several signing sessions, the first edition print run of the US first was 50,000. Copies can show up as first editions with a black remainder mark on the edge--these are best avoided or valued at considerably less than unspoilt firsts. By the way - the US precedes the UK edition by about 3 months although there is as yet no great difference in price--the US is marginally favoured. The outlook is good, fiction about this part of the world will probably become increasingly collectable--however the online dealer who referred to the book as 'ultra rare' was either sadly deceived or 'having a laugh.'