The Bookseller of Kabul

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Click for availability and more information The Bookseller of Kabul, by Asne Seierstad

This highly recommended book gives the reader great insight into the culture of Afghanistan both during and after the Taliban's rule. The central character is indeed a bookseller and is based on a real person who Seierstad, a Norwegian journalist, met while in Kabul in 2002. Given the name Sultan Khan by the author, the bookseller is not only a voracious reader, but dedicated to making books available for purchase in his country. His stubborn determination to survive as a bookseller under the stifling censorship of the Taliban fascinated Seierstad. Eventually Khan allowed Seierstad to live with his family and that experience becomes the subject of the book.
Participating in the daily life of Khan's family allowed Seierstad, and thus the reader, to experience Afghan life firsthand. Particular attention is given to the plight of women, both in Khan's family and in Afghan society. One example is when Seierstad dons a burka, stumbles around Kabul and vividly writes about the difficulties of navigating the streets under that covering.
The view of Afghan society presented in the books is multifaceted - the dictatorship of Khan, much like many other male heads of Afghani families, over his wife and children, the eventual introduction of Khan's second wife into his growing family structure and the emotional toll of having multi-wives in a family, and the increasingly growing pressures on the family as Afghanistan moves away from the controlling rule of the Taliban.
Seierstad's writing is clear, engrossing and compelling. Those readers who loved The Kite Runner will perhaps want to read this book. While that book had men as its main characters, women become central to The Bookseller of Kabul. By reading both books, one can get a more balanced view of Afghan society. Seierstad has written a great book, which is very readable, interesting and rewarding.
-Roy

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry published on April 8, 2007 4:50 PM.

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