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The Bookseller of Kabulby Asne Seierstad
In this remarkable portrait, Norwegian journalist Åsne Seierstad recounts with brutal honesty the day to day lives of one Afghani family persevering through life in a country beset by chaos. With the assent of the Khan family with whom she lives, Seierstad gives us intimate access to a world were women have few privileges, and where an attitude of hope seems uncommonly rare.
Synopses & Reviews
In Afghanistan, just after the fall of the Taliban, a bookseller named Sultan Khan allowed a western journalist to move into his home and experience firsthand his family's life in the newly liberated capital city of Kabul.
From that act of openness emerges this remarkable book, already an international bestseller-the most intimate look yet at ordinary life for those who have weathered Afghanistan's extraordinary upheavals. One husband, two wives, five children, and many other relatives sharing four small rooms opened up their lives, unforgettably.
First is Sultan himself, a man whose love of books has exposed him to great risks over his thirty years in the trade. He has seen his volumes censored, ripped apart, even burned in the street by the Communists and the Taliban. Each time he rebuilt his business, hiding the most controversial texts, surviving prison, traveling treacherous back roads to Pakistan to order much-needed schoolbooks. He takes joy in selling books of history, science, art, religion, and poetry, and defends his business against competitors and theft with a primal ferocity.
But Sultan is also a committed Muslim with strict views on filial respect and the role of women. We meet his wife, Sharifa, when she learns that Sultan is taking a new bride, as his status in the community dictates. Despite custom, it is agonizing for the mother of Sultan's children to see her place usurped. We follow their teenage son, Mansur, as he embarks on his first religious pilgrimage, which embodies all the excitement of youth's first rebellion. And we see Sultan's younger sisters, as one coquettishly prepares for her wedding while another seeks a job to escape her family's tight grip.
Stepping back from the page, award-winning journalist Asne Seierstad allows the Khans to speak for themselves about their joys, sorrows, rivalries, loves, dreams, and temptations. Through this close-knit household, we gain an intimate view — as few outsiders have seen it — of life in an Islamic country just beginning to find its way between the forces of modernity and tradition.
"[A]n astounding portrait....Seierstad's visceral account is equally seductive and repulsive...An international bestseller, it will likely stand as one of the best books of reportage of Afghan life after the fall of the Taliban." Publishers Weekly
"A slice of Afghanistan today, rendered with a talent for fine, sobering prose and strange, unnerving settings." Kirkus Reviews
- An international phenomenon. Translated into 17 languages, The Bookseller Of Kabul has become not only the bestselling nonfiction book ever published in the author's native Norway, but also a tremendous success throughout Europe and around the world.
- A book that honestly portrays real life behind the veil--and illuminates the plight of Afghan women as no other book does.
- Like the current bestseller Reading Lolita in Tehran, the paperback edition of The Bookseller of Kabul is certain to be popular with reading groups.
With The Bookseller of Kabul, award-winning journalist Asne Seierstad has given readers a first-hand look at Afghani life as few outsiders have seen it. Invited to live with Sultan Khan, a bookseller in Kabul, and his family for months, this account of her experience allows the Khans to speak for themselves, giving us a genuinely gripping and moving portrait of a family, and of a country of great cultural riches and extreme contradictions. For more than 20 years, Sultan Khan has defied the authorities--whether Communist or Taliban--to supply books to the people of Kabul. He has been arrested, interrogated, and imprisoned, and has watched illiterate Taliban soldiers burn piles of his books in the street. Yet he had persisted in his passion for books, shedding light in one of the world's darkest places. This is the intimate portrait of a man of principle and of his family--two wives, five children, and many relatives sharing a small four-room house in this war ravaged city. But more than that, it is a rare look at contemporary life under Islam, where even after the Taliban's collapse, the women must submit to arranged marriages, polygamous husbands, and crippling limitations on their ability to travel, learn and communicate with others.
Invited to live with a Kabul bookseller and his family for several months, an award-winning journalist now gives readers a first-hand look at Afghani life as few outsiders have seen it.
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