Lovely, Crazy Mirror: An Interview with Novelist Khaled Hosseini

By Shannon Stockwell

“There’s a collective experience that you have with an audience in the theater that is difficult [to create] anywhere else,” says novelist Khaled Hosseini, whose best-selling work A Thousand Splendid Suns is being adapted for the Geary Stage. “There’s a sense of immediacy for theater, which simply can’t be created [elsewhere]. On the right night, the room is permeated with something that’s really tangible—very difficult to describe, but very, very powerful.”

Before rehearsals for A Thousand Splendid Suns began, we spoke with Hosseini about the theater and his writing.

Khaled Hosseini. Photo by Elena Seibert.
What has attending the workshops for A Thousand Splendid Suns been like for you?
I think, as an author, if you’re allowing your work to be adapted into another art form by somebody else, you should divorce yourself from the idea that anything you said or wrote is going to appear in the other format. Some things work in one format and don’t in others. And so, for me, to come to a workshop, I’m seeing my book through this lovely, crazy mirror. Its structure is different, but it’s the same soul, the same people.

For me, it’s fascinating to see somebody else’s take on a story that otherwise would just be static in my own head. When you write a book, you’re not just telling one story, because no one’s going to read a book and have the exact same experience as another person. So there’s no real version of the book anyway. Everyone has a different experience. People respond to different characters for all sorts of different reasons.

I think it’s far more interesting to get a peek into somebody else’s interpretation of your work, so I love the workshops. I love seeing the different actors breathing life into the characters, even if they’re just sitting and talking. I love seeing how [playwright] Ursula [Rani Sarma] has worked with structure. It was just so much fun.

Why do you think the story of it still remains crucial to tell today?
We’re living in a time when we are inundated, through television and social media and smartphones and everything, with stories from that region, and they all sound the same. They’re all stories about guys that behead people, that kill minorities, and brutality and suffering.

A story like this can remind people that these are human beings; that every person under a veil, every refugee walking across plains—every single one of those [people] has a universe inside them, a life, an entire history, and a long, long history of things that they wanted, of hopes that they had. I think that’s important to understand: you can’t just categorize people [under] self-serving umbrellas. These are individual human beings. I think that’s what any [art] form, be it theater or novels or movies, can do. They can bridge that gap and transport you into the shoes of somebody else. And through that experience, you begin to view the group in a richer way.

A Thousand Splendid Suns begins February 1 at The Geary Theater. Click here to purchase tickets through our website. Join us on January 17 at The Geary Theater for Khaled Hosseini In Conversation, where he will be chatting with A.C.T. Artistic Director Carey Perloff and playwright Ursula Rani Sarma. Click here to reserve a ticket through our website.

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