a deep fissure
I found what I was looking for. The carving had dulled, almost faded altogether, but it was still there: “Amir and Hassan. The Sultans of Kabul.” I traced the curve of each letter with my fingers. Picked small bits of bark from the tiny
In picking small bits of bark from the tiny crevasses, Amir is making the carving stand out more on the tree. This is the first step Amir takes in healing the fissure in his relationship with Hassan. Preserving Hassan's legacy by saving Sohrab and writing the memoir help Amir clear the biggest crevasse in his life (bigger than the chasm between him and his father, which had healed after emigration to America and long before Baba died).
an act that victimizes someone
He charged me $75, an unthinkable price given the run-down appearance of the place, but I didn’t mind.
Exploitation to finance a beach house in Hawaii was one thing. Doing it to feed your kids was another.
speak, pronounce, or utter in a certain way
“Every sinner must be punished in a manner befitting his sin!” the cleric repeated into the mike, lowering his voice,
enunciating each word slowly, dramatically.
The irony of this enunciation is that it precedes a punishment that doesn't fit the sin (i.e. stoning adulterers to death for dishonoring the sanctity of marriage). The punishment that better fits the enunciated words is the beating of Amir for his sin of running away from a beating that could've saved Hassan from rape (although Assef saw the beating as the price for taking Sohrab and for settling childhood conflicts).
knowing how to avoid embarrassment or distress
You’re gutless. It’s how you were made. And that's not such a bad thing because your saving grace is that you’ve never lied to yourself about it. Not about that. Nothing wrong with cowardice as long as it comes with
prudence. But when a coward stops remembering who he is...God help him.
marked by quiet and caution and secrecy
Sohrab looked down at his feet, but kept stealing shy,
furtive glances at me.
give encouragement to
I didn’t know what had
emboldened me to be so curt, maybe the fact that I thought I was going to die anyway.
the quality of being coherent and easily understood
And the end, of course. That, I still see with perfect
place in a line or arrange so as to be parallel or straight
Biting down in pain, noticing how my teeth didn’t
align like they used to.
the striking of one body against another
impact had cut your upper lip in two, clean down the middle.
Another definition of "impact" is "a forceful consequence; a strong effect"--this also fits the situation, because the impact that had cut Amir's upper lip in two required surgery that left a lasting impact, which is a scar, but more importantly, a reminder that in getting beaten up to save Sohrab, Amir had emotionally and physically become more like Hassan.
grant remission of a sin to
I know it doesn’t
absolve anyone of anything, but the Kabul we lived in in those days was a strange world, one in which some things mattered more than the truth.
exemption from punishment or loss
So he took it out on you instead—Amir, the socially legitimate half, the half that represented the riches he had inherited and the sin-with-
impunity privileges that came with them.
a feeling of deep regret, usually for some misdeed
And this is what I want you to understand, that good, real good, was born out of your father’s
the act of delivering from sin or saving from evil
Sometimes, I think everything he did, feeding the poor on the streets, building the orphanage, giving money to friends in need, it was all his way of redeeming himself. And that, I believe, is what true
redemption is, Amir jan, when guilt leads to good.
used of unskilled work, especially domestic work
Maybe that was why Baba and I had been on such better terms in the U.S., I wondered. Selling junk for petty cash, our
menial jobs, our grimy apartment—the American version of a hut; maybe in America, when Baba looked at me, he saw a little bit of Hassan.
a beam used as a main support in a structure
We passed the famous Shah Faisal Mosque on the way there, reputedly the biggest mosque in the world, with its giant concrete
girders and soaring minarets.
I remembered the way the mosque had jolted Sohrab from his
stupor when we’d driven by it, how he’d leaned out of the window looking at it.
express criticism towards
I saw myself calling the police, describing Sohrab to them under Fayyaz’s reproachful glare.
incapable of being retracted
What had happened in that room with Assef had irrevocably bound us.
foul and run-down and repulsive
I had found the boy in
squalid conditions, wasting away in an orphanage.
held in high esteem and honor
“I’m saying that if you want to help, send money to a
reputable relief organization.
freedom to act or judge on one's own
You could request a humanitarian visa. That’s at the
discretion of the attorney general and it’s not easily given.”
impossible to determine the meaning of
He wept into my shirt until his tears dried, until his shaking stopped and his frantic pleas dwindled to
showing or motivated by sympathy and understanding
There is a God, there has to be, and now I will pray, I will pray that He forgive that I have neglected Him all of these years, forgive that I have betrayed, lied, and sinned with impunity only to turn to Him now in my hour of need, I pray that He is as merciful,
benevolent, and gracious as His book says He is.
a purposeful surveillance to guard or observe
vigil at Sohrab’s bedside in the daytime and wandered through the hospital’s serpentine corridors at night, listening to my shoe heels clicking on the tiles, thinking of what I would say to Sohrab when he woke up.
Two other definitions of "vigil" are "the rite of staying awake for devotional purposes" and "a period of sleeplessness"--all three definitions fit because 1) Amir needs to watch Sohrab to make sure he doesn't attempt suicide again; 2) Amir has reconnected with God, whom Hassan and Sohrab have always worshipped, in order to pray for Sohrab's recovery; 3) Amir has been sleepless with worry and guilt.
the act of giving up and abandoning a struggle or task etc.
So what I took as a yes from him was in actuality more of a quiet surrender, not so much an acceptance as an act of
relinquishment by one too weary to decide, and far too tired to believe.
a violent disturbance
And so it was that, about a week later, we crossed a strip of warm, black tarmac and I brought Hassan’s son from Afghanistan to America, lifting him from the certainty of
turmoil and dropping him in a
turmoil of uncertainty.
having or revealing little emotion or sensibility
He was looking at us now in the
impassive way he looked at the plates of boiled rice the hospital orderly placed before him.
lacking what is considerate in dealing with others
With time, the queries about our adopted—and decidedly eccentric—little boy had mercifully ceased, and, considering how
tactless Afghan queries can be sometimes, that was a considerable relief.
understanding and entering into another's feelings
And best of all, they stopped suffocating us with their exaggerated
empathy, their slow head shaking, their tsk-tsks, their “Oh gung bichara.”
a noisy riotous fight
Behind us, kids were scampering, and a
melee of screaming kite runners was chasing the loose kite drifting high above the trees.