The chapter begins where the last left off, Amir was left speechless after Hassan’s criticism. Before Amir could respond to Hassan’s criticism of his story, gunfire erupted outside. The boys huddled together with Ali until Baba came home. For the first time, Amir saw fear on his father’s face. He was even glad for the violence for a moment, because Baba held him and Hassan close. The events of that night, July 17, 1973, were a precursor to the end of life as Afghanis knew it. What would follow was the Communist coup d’etat of 1978, followed by the Russian occupation beginning in December of 1979.
On that July night, the king’s brother, Daoud Khan, had seized Zahir Shah’s kingdom while he was away. Afghanistan had gone overnight from a monarchy to a republic. Tired of listening to the radio news, Amir and Hassan went to climb their favourite tree. On the way, a young “sociopath” named Assef and his friends confronted them. He taunted Hassan for being a Hazara; Assef also had a habit of taunting Ali, whom he called Babalu. He praised Hitler and then said that he wanted to finish what Hitler started and rid Afghanistan of Hazaras. He called Amir and Baba “a disgrace to Afghanistan” for taking in Hazaras.
Just as Assef threatened to punch Amir with his brass knuckles, Hassan pointed his slingshot at the bully and threatened to take out his eye. Assef and his friends retreated, but promised to come back for Amir and Hassan later. On Hassan’s birthday, Baba summoned him to the house as usual to collect his present. To Hassan, Amir, and Ali’s shock, Baba had hired a plastic surgeon to correct Hassan’s harelip. Amir was jealous that Baba was giving Hassan such special attention. The surgery went well and Hassan could finally smile an unbroken smile. Ironically, Amir explains, it was soon after that Hassan stopped smiling for good.
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