the ruler of a Muslim country
They change the name of the lake after that, and call it the ‘Lake of Amir and Hassan,
Sultans of Kabul,’ and we get to charge people money for swimming in it.”
Hassan is telling Amir about a dream he had, which includes a phrase that Amir had actually carved into a tree. Born a servant and humbly devoted to his earthly and divine masters, Hassan is unlikely to really wish he were a sultan, but he would indulge in the dream to please Amir and give encouragement for the upcoming tournament.
become smaller or lose substance
Within another hour, the number of surviving kites
dwindled from maybe fifty to a dozen.
rescuing or protecting someone or something from harm
All I smelled was victory.
Salvation. Redemption. If Baba was wrong and there was a God like they said in school, then He’d let me win.
Another definition of "salvation" is "the act of delivering from sin or saving from evil"--this goes with the idea of redemption. But at this point, Amir is more concerned with stopping his own pain of being ignored by his father. Amir's real need for salvation and redemption come later, not because of who he is but because of what he has done.
cause to become awake or conscious
In a moment, I’d blink and
rouse from this beautiful dream, get out of bed, march down to the kitchen to eat breakfast with no one to talk to but Hassan.
The next time I saw him smile unabashedly like that was twenty-six years later, in a faded Polaroid photograph.
the act of defending against criticism or censure
Then the old warrior would walk to the young one, embrace him, acknowledge his worthiness.
Vindication. Salvation. Redemption. And then? Well...happily ever after, of course. What else?
Another definition of "vindication" is "the justification for some act or belief"--this could also fit the example sentence, because in addition to wanting to defend himself against his father's disappointment in his lack of athletic ability, Amir seeks justification just for being alive, since his mother had died giving birth to him.
boldly resisting authority or an opposing force
Hassan was standing at the blind end of the alley in a
defiant stance: fists curled, legs slightly apart.
an involuntary vibration, as if from illness or fear
He was trying to sound like Assef, except there was a
tremor in his voice.
give off a weakly shining reflection, as of silk
I look up and see the clear sky is filled with kites, green, yellow, red, orange. They
shimmer in the afternoon light.
worn away as by water or ice or wind
But there were two things amid the garbage that I couldn’t stop looking at: One was the blue kite resting against the wall, close to the cast-iron stove; the other was Hassan’s brown corduroy pants thrown on a heap of
refuse to stop
I don’t know why I watch this yearly ritual in our backyard; my nightmares
persist long after the bloodstains on the grass have faded.
close in time; about to occur
I imagine the animal sees that its
imminent demise is for a higher purpose.
free of deceit
Did he know I knew? And if he knew, then what would I see if I did look in his eyes? Blame? Indignation? Or, God forbid, what I feared most:
not properly maintained or cared for
That should have been fun, spending a day like that with Baba, hearing his stories. I finally had what I’d wanted all those years. Except now that I had it, I felt as empty as this
unkempt pool I was dangling my legs into.
dark or gloomy
There was a monster in the lake. It had grabbed Hassan by the ankles, dragged him to the
murky bottom. I was that monster.
thrust or throw into
For at least a few months after the kite tournament, Baba and I
immersed ourselves in a sweet illusion, saw each other in a way that we never had before.
a deep opening in the earth's surface
We’d actually deceived ourselves into thinking that a toy made of tissue paper, glue, and bamboo could somehow close the
chasm between us.
marked by firm determination or resolution
Everywhere I turned, I saw signs of his loyalty, his goddamn
Usually, "unwavering loyalty" would be a quality to be appreciated and not cursed at. But Hassan's unwavering loyalty reminds Amir of his own cowardly betrayal and unworthiness.
plead or ask for earnestly
I wished he’d give me the punishment I
craved, so maybe I'd finally sleep at night.
Amir doesn't exactly ask for the punishment so much as demand and curse at Hassan to hit him back. When Hassan instead crushes a pomegranate against his own forehead and asks "Are you satisfied?" the definition of "crave" as "have an appetite or great desire for" is emphasized.
an intervening period or episode
I regretted saying it—I really did—but I think even if I hadn’t, our happy little
interlude would have come to an end.
pathetically lacking in force or effectiveness
I tried to fake a smile, but all I could manage was a
feeble upturning of the corners of my mouth—my stomach was turning at the sight of my father bonding with Assef.
move hesitatingly, as if about to give way
When I looked into them, the facade
faltered, revealed a glimpse of the madness hiding behind them.
My innards had been
roiling since we’d left Kabul just after two in the morning.
carefully thought out in advance
Even at the dinner table, in the privacy of their home, people had to speak in a
calculated manner—the rafiqs were in the classrooms too; they’d taught children to spy on their parents, what to listen for, whom to tell.
harshly uninviting or formidable in manner or appearance
Tomorrow morning, I’d wake up, peek out the window: No
grim-faced Russian soldiers patrolling the sidewalks, no tanks rolling up and down the streets of my city, their turrets swiveling like accusing fingers, no rubble, no curfews, no Russian Army Personnel Carriers weaving through the bazaars.
marked by rude or peremptory shortness
Karim gave a
curt reply in Russian, which the soldier returned with an even
greatly annoyed; out of patience
He gave the younger officer the rueful look of a father
exasperated with his misbehaving son.
enclose in or as if in a small container
I only knew the memory lived in me, a perfectly
encapsulated morsel of a good past, a brushstroke of color on the gray, barren canvas that our lives had become.
a distinctive odor that is offensively unpleasant
The rest of that ride is scattered bits and pieces of memory that come and go, most of it sounds and smells: MiGs roaring past overhead; staccatos of gunfire; a donkey braying nearby; the jingling of bells and mewling of sheep; gravel crushed under the truck’s tires; a baby wailing in the dark; the
stench of gasoline, vomit, and shit.
the final aggregate
After everything he’d built, planned, fought for, fretted over, dreamed of, this was the
summation of his life: one disappointing son and two suitcases.