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
"The most intimate description of an Afghan household ever produced by a Western journalist. . . . Seierstad is a sharp and often lyrical observer."--Richard McGill Murphy, New York Times Book Review
"An admirable, revealing portrait of daily life in a country that Washington claims to have liberated but does not begin to understand. Seierstad writes of individuals, but her message is larger."--Mark Hertsgaard, Washington Post Book World
"A compelling portrait of a country at a crossroads - desperate for tranquillity, factionalized beyond imagination, struggling both to uphold tradition and to modernize, hoping to prove to itself and the rest of the world that it knows peace and stability."--Scott W. Helman, Boston Globe
"An unusually intimate glimpse of a traditional Afghan family. . . . Seierstad imbues a grim story with language of desolate beauty."--S. L. Allen, Entertainment Weekly
"A compelling book. . . . Seierstad infiltrated a world most readers will never see."--Steve Weinberg, Denver Post
"Six pages into this book, I said to myself, if Anthony Shadid continues like this, this book will be a classic. And page by page, he did continue, and he wrote a honest-to-God, hands-down, undeniable and instant classic. This is a book about war, and terrible loss, and a troubled region, and his own tattered family history, yes, but its written with the kind of levity and candor and lyricism we associate with, say, Junot Diaz — and that makes the book, improbably, both a compulsive read and one you dont want to end. I have no idea how Shadid pulled all this off while talking about the history of modern Lebanon, how he balanced ribald humor and great warmth with the sorrow woven into a story like this, but anyway, we should all be grateful that he did."
— Dave Eggers, author of Zeitoun and What Is the What "Anthony Shadids beautifully rendered memoir is a rich account of a mans gradual immersion into the world of the Middle East and the culture of the Levant, a kingdom almost unrecognizable today, where the rooms and hallways of his great-grandfathers house tell stories that will linger with every reader for decades." — André Aciman, author of Out of Egypt "House of Stone is poignant, aching, and at times laugh-out-loud funny . . . Shadid's writing is so lyrical it's like hearing a song." — David Finkel, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Good Soldier "House of Stone is a haunting, beautifully realized piece of writing." — Nick Flynn, author of The Ticking Is the Bomb "What a beautiful introduction to a world that I knew so little about. House of Stone is engaging, poignant, and funny." — Abraham Verghese, author of Cutting for Stone
"I was captivated, instantly, by Anthony Shadid's lushly evocative prose. Crumbling Ottoman outposts, doomed pashas, and roving bandits feel immediate, familiar, and relevant. Lose yourself in these pages, where empires linger, grandparents wander, and a battered Lebanon beckons us home. Savor it all. If Márquez had explored nonfiction, Macondo would feel as real as Marjayoun."
— Dave Cullen, author of Columbine
"Evocative and beautifully written, House of Stone . . . should be read by anyone who wishes to understand the agonies and hopes of the Middle East."
— Kai Bird, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and author of Crossing Mandelbaum Gate
"In rebuilding his family home in southern Lebanon, Shadid commits an extraordinarily generous act of restoration for his wounded land, and for us all."
— Annia Ciezadlo, author of Day of Honey
"Few books provide such a subtle, yet powerful insight into the tragedy of todays Middle East."
— Amin Maalouf, author of Origins: A Memoir
"A riveting, soulful, and candid journey . . ."
— Robin Wright, author of Rock the Casbah
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.
- 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.
This mesmerizing portrait of a proud man who, through three decades and successive repressive regimes, heroically braved persecution to bring books to the people of Kabul has elicited extraordinary praise throughout the world and become a phenomenal international bestseller. The Bookseller of Kabul is startling in its intimacy and its details - a revelation of the plight of Afghan women and a window into the surprising realities of daily life in today's Afghanistan.
A compelling saga of redemption and renewal from two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner Anthony Shadid tells the story of rebuilding his family's ancestral home in Lebanon amid political strife, and his eventual understanding of the emotions behind the turbulence in the Middle East.
“Evocative and beautifully written, House of Stone
. . . should be read by anyone who wishes to understand the agonies and hopes of the Middle East.” — Kai Bird, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and author of Crossing Mandelbaum Gate
“In rebuilding his family home in southern Lebanon, Shadid commits an extraordinarily generous act of restoration for his wounded land, and for us all.” — Annia Ciezadlo, author of Day of Honey
In spring 2011, Anthony Shadid was one of four New York Times reporters captured in Libya, cuffed and beaten, as that country was seized by revolution. When he was freed, he went home. Not to Boston or Beirut—where he lives— or to Oklahoma City, where his Lebanese-American family had settled and where he was raised. Instead, he returned to his great-grandfathers estate, a house that, over three years earlier, Shadid had begun to rebuild.
House of Stone is the story of a battle-scarred home and a war correspondents jostled spirit, and of how reconstructing the one came to fortify the other. In this poignant and resonant memoir, the author of the award-winning Night Draws Near creates a mosaic of past and present, tracing the houses renewal alongside his familys flight from Lebanon and resettlement in America. In the process, Shadid memorializes a lost world, documents the shifting Middle East, and provides profound insights into this volatile landscape. House of Stone is an unforgettable meditation on war, exile, rebirth, and the universal yearning for home.
About the Author
ANTHONY SHADID (1968-2012), author of Night Draws Near, was an unparalleled chronicler of the human stories behind the news. He gained attention and awards, including the Pulitzer Prize, for his front-page reports in the Washington Post from Iraq. More recently, as Middle East correspondent for the New York Times, he covered the Arab Spring from Egypt to Libya (where he was held captive in March, 2011) to Syria. In 2010, he earned his second Pulitzer. Tragically, on February 16, 2012, he died while on assignment in Syria.
Table of Contents
Introduction: Bayt xiii
PART ONE: RETURNING
1. What the Silence Knows, July 30, 2006 3
2. Little Olive, August 10, 2007 14
3. Three Birds 35
4. Our Last Gentleman 49
5. Gold 65
6. Early Harvest 77
7. Dont Tell the Neighbors 88
8. Abu Jean, Does This Please You? 99
9. Mr. Chaya Appears 112
10. Last Whispers 128
11. Khairallas Oud 142
12. Citadels 155
PART TWO: AT HOME
13. Homesick 171
14. A Bush Called Rozana 181
15. Stupid Cat 197
16. Sitara 205
17. Salted Miqta 216
18. Passing Danger 232
19. Home 240
20. Worse Times 249
21. In the Name of the Father 259
22. Coming Home 269
23. Oh Laila 278
24. My Jedeida 286
Note to Readers 309