Dear Amir and Hassan,

No matter what any priest may tell you, there is only one sin in this world, and that is theft. When a man is killed in war, his life is stolen; his family is robbed of a father, a husband, an uncle, a cousin, a grandfather, a brother. Cheating steals the right to fairness.

But none of these are worse than lying; the truth is stolen from you when you're told a lie. Sometimes, the truths are big. Other times—and this is often the case—the truths withheld are miniscule in weight, having little to no impact on a person's life. These truths are easy to deny. Lying is simple when your conscience will forgive you.

I have made one such lie. Throughout my life, I have tried to be as honest as possible. But unfortunately, I wasn't always able to do this. Shame, pride, even guilt, have kept me from telling you boys something that I should have told you when you were born. I hope you will forgive me for it, though I will understand if you don't. Please know that I am sorry, with every fibre of my being, for keeping this from you.

Amir, Hassan . . . the two of you are brothers.

Feeding from the same breast is not the only thing that makes you this. No, the truth is, I was not so loyal to Ali and your diseased mother, Amir. Hassan, your mother was very beautiful and used this to her advantage; she constantly tempted men, teasing them, knowing just the right things to say, movements to make. At the time, I was grieving, suffering from lack of sleep and accumulated stress. I won't use this as an excuse for betraying Ali, but those were what clouded my judgment. He forgave me, later, but I may have hurt him more than he let on.

Ali was sterile; possibly from the polio. Before marrying Sanaubar, Ali had been married to another Hazara woman. For three years, they tried to have children, but to no avail. When they divorced, and she married a different man, she bore that man three children. Ali was devastated upon hearing he couldn't have children. For a while, it left him very depressed.

So when I had an affair with his wife, and gave him a son—you, Hassan—it was both a blessing and an insult to him. Hassan, you meant everything to Ali. Though you weren't his son biologically, in every other way, you were. He loved you from the very moment you were brought onto this earth. The anger that he had previously had for me dissipated, I think, when he held you in his arms.

As you boys grew up, a bond started to develop. Even though you were classed differently, and never aware of your brotherhood, the bond appeared through friendship. It was a distinctly strong friendship, similar to that of my and Ali's. This made me happier than ever, to see the two of you get along so well. For some years, Ali and I were very afraid you would grow to hate each other. We hoped very much you would become brothers through friendship, so that it wouldn't make a difference should we one day decide to tell you.

That day never came. It was selfish, admittedly, but I couldn't—wouldn't—damage my honour or my name. That was all I had. Ali, understanding this, never pressured me to tell. A part of me still suspects that he preferred the two of you be ignorant to this fact. That way, he wouldn't have to fear his beloved son rejecting him because they weren't biologically related.

The notion is almost nonsensical, but then, fear is irrational. He and I both knew you would never reject him, Hassan.

Despite my name remaining unmarred, I do regret not telling you. There were things I wanted to do that I couldn't, because of position and pretenses. Every time I wanted to tell you I love you, Hassan, I couldn't because it would be questionable.

That's one of the reasons I was never so affectionate with you, Amir.

Having to keep it a secret frustrated me, and I can't deny that I wouldn't have been a good father anyway. I couldn't shake the thought that my sons should be exactly like me.

I realize this was too much to expect, not because you didn't posses the ability to accomplish great things, but because both of you are so different—from each other, from me—that it would be impossible to expect you to follow the same path. I realized this too late with you, Amir. So often, I found myself disappointed with you, but not because you were a bad son. I should never have tried to influence you to become like me, because it simply wasn't unique to you. The truth is, I am very proud of you. I was always proud, just confused on how to show it.

I'm proud of you, too, Hassan; as was Ali. I never got the chance to see you advance into an adult, but I bet you would have made a great father. While you were living with Amir and me, I tried to do things for you like a father would for a son. It wasn't much, but I hope I provided you with at least a bit of happiness and comfort.

Please know that, however I may have acted or whatever I may have said, I love you more than anything.

Your father.