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De boekhandelaar van Kaboel: een familie in Afghanistan

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Na de val van de Taliban in Afghanistan bracht de Noorse journaliste Åsne Seierstad een aantal maanden door bij de familie van een boekhandelaar in Kaboel. Ze werd in zijn gezin opgenomen, droeg een boerka en voelde zich een van de vrouwen. Wat zich in het gezin afspeelt, loopt parallel met de ontwikkelingen in Afghanistan. Een land dat verwoest is, maar de hoop op een bet Na de val van de Taliban in Afghanistan bracht de Noorse journaliste Åsne Seierstad een aantal maanden door bij de familie van een boekhandelaar in Kaboel. Ze werd in zijn gezin opgenomen, droeg een boerka en voelde zich een van de vrouwen. Wat zich in het gezin afspeelt, loopt parallel met de ontwikkelingen in Afghanistan. Een land dat verwoest is, maar de hoop op een betere toekomst levend houdt.


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Na de val van de Taliban in Afghanistan bracht de Noorse journaliste Åsne Seierstad een aantal maanden door bij de familie van een boekhandelaar in Kaboel. Ze werd in zijn gezin opgenomen, droeg een boerka en voelde zich een van de vrouwen. Wat zich in het gezin afspeelt, loopt parallel met de ontwikkelingen in Afghanistan. Een land dat verwoest is, maar de hoop op een bet Na de val van de Taliban in Afghanistan bracht de Noorse journaliste Åsne Seierstad een aantal maanden door bij de familie van een boekhandelaar in Kaboel. Ze werd in zijn gezin opgenomen, droeg een boerka en voelde zich een van de vrouwen. Wat zich in het gezin afspeelt, loopt parallel met de ontwikkelingen in Afghanistan. Een land dat verwoest is, maar de hoop op een betere toekomst levend houdt.

30 review for De boekhandelaar van Kaboel: een familie in Afghanistan

  1. 4 out of 5

    Prithvi Shams

    After finishing the book, I was quite surprised at the number of negative reviews here in Goodreads. Maybe a huge culture shock is at play here. Many in the West may be put off by the realization that the values that they take for granted may be totally unheard of in certain parts of the world. There *are* certain cultures where children are nothing but tools for parents and as such, are actively denied education. There *are* cultures where falling in love is a greater "crime" than sawing off a After finishing the book, I was quite surprised at the number of negative reviews here in Goodreads. Maybe a huge culture shock is at play here. Many in the West may be put off by the realization that the values that they take for granted may be totally unheard of in certain parts of the world. There *are* certain cultures where children are nothing but tools for parents and as such, are actively denied education. There *are* cultures where falling in love is a greater "crime" than sawing off a person's head. I know for a fact that people in my culture have gotten used to murders and negligence of human rights, but if a couple were caught kissing in public, as it were the very fabric of society would be shred to smithereens. There *are* societies where women are nothing more than baby-making and house-keeping machines, commodities which are to be sold off in the financial ritual of marriage. Since I grew up in a culture not vastly different from the one portrayed in this book, I find it hard to dismiss this account as prejudiced hogwash. That, and I also steer clear of any sort of cultural relativism. I know for a fact that no one in the comparatively progressive world would want to be a woman in Afghan society after reading this book, even more so after living in the country for some time by himself/herself. The author may not have captured Afghan culture in its entirety(and no where has she made that claim), but she has been anything but prejudiced. For me, the pathos in this book lies in the hopes and aspirations of the members of the Khan family living in a post-Taliban Afghanistan. The women want education and a job, the children want to play, young men and women of the country want to fall in love in spite of knowing the dire consequences, and Sultan Khan wants to contribute towards building a better and liberal Afghanistan, a country which he can boast of to the world. This book draws a very humane picture of an obscure society, a picture that very often fails to filter through the coloured glasses of mainstream media.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Ariel

    I was irritated early on by the way this book was written. I think it encompasses all my other grips about the book. Basically the situation is like this: a woman journalist is in Kabul after 9/11. She meets this bookseller, lives with his family a few months with only 3 people in the family speaking English and then she writes a book about them. First of all, having lived abroad and lived abroad with families, you can't know a family the way this author pretends to in that time. We don't even kn I was irritated early on by the way this book was written. I think it encompasses all my other grips about the book. Basically the situation is like this: a woman journalist is in Kabul after 9/11. She meets this bookseller, lives with his family a few months with only 3 people in the family speaking English and then she writes a book about them. First of all, having lived abroad and lived abroad with families, you can't know a family the way this author pretends to in that time. We don't even know how she interacted with the family because she writes herself out of the book entirely. She somehow thinks that she hasn't effected the family's life and that she can just describe them as if there is not some strange white woman sitting on the floor taking notes as they live their lives. The book is written with such heavy condescension that I wanted to throw up. The moral I took away from the book is that life in Afghanistan sucks, especially if you are a woman, and it's all due to their stupid culture. Warning, this is not what I think, this is what I think the author was telling me to think. The author says in the preface that she was inspired by this family. But from how she wrote the book it seems she was disgusted. I don't understand how she can write that way without even writing herself in, therefore allowing the follies of inter cultural miscommunication and misunderstanding play a part.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Ahmad Sharabiani

    Bokhandleren i Kabul = The Bookseller of Kabul, Åsne Seierstad The Bookseller of Kabul is a non-fiction book written by Norwegian journalist Åsne Seierstad, about a bookseller, Shah Muhammad Rais (whose name was changed to Sultan Khan), and his family in Kabul, Afghanistan, published in Norwegian in 2002 and English in 2003. It takes a novelistic approach, focusing on characters and the daily issues that they face. تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز سی ام ماه ژانویه سال 2005 میلادی عنوان: کتابفروش کابل؛ نویسن Bokhandleren i Kabul = The Bookseller of Kabul, Åsne Seierstad The Bookseller of Kabul is a non-fiction book written by Norwegian journalist Åsne Seierstad, about a bookseller, Shah Muhammad Rais (whose name was changed to Sultan Khan), and his family in Kabul, Afghanistan, published in Norwegian in 2002 and English in 2003. It takes a novelistic approach, focusing on characters and the daily issues that they face. تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز سی ام ماه ژانویه سال 2005 میلادی عنوان: کتابفروش کابل؛ نویسنده: اسن سیراستاد (سی شتاد)؛ برگردان: زهره خلیلی؛ مشخصات نشر: تهران، قطره، 1384، در 328، صفحه، موضوع: افغانستان، آداب و رسوم، زندگی اجتماعی، خاطرات، کابل، افغانستان، سیر و سیاحت - سده 21 م گزارش نویسنده در سفر به افغانستان، پس از براندازی طالبان، و شرح مشاهدات ایشان است. نویسنده به آشنایی از زندگی مردم افغانستان، و دوستی با كتابفروش شهر كابل، علاقمند می‌شود، تا داستانی بر اساس واقعیت زندگی مردم افغانستان بنویسد، به همین دلیل تصمیم‌ می‌گیرد تا با خانواده‌ ی «سلطان» زندگی كند، و مشاهدات و یافته‌ های خود را، در قالب داستان بازگو نماید. ا. شربیانی

  4. 5 out of 5

    Will Byrnes

    A very interesting, journalistic depiction of life in Afghanistan as told from inside the tent of a relatively well-to-do family, with particular attention to the experiences of females. It is compelling reading, and should be mandatory for anyone who wants to know about life in Afghanistan. It is not a good thing to be a female there.

  5. 5 out of 5

    F

    Loved

  6. 4 out of 5

    Margitte

    Enter the world of the Norwegian journalist, Åsne Seierstad, who covers the aftermath of the Taliban on society in Afghanistan, and you get what you could expect, but still hope you're wrong: a 'pseudo-novelistic' attempt at exposing the life of a country in turmoil / vicious power struggles / chaos. Coming from a liberal Norwegian society, and being a young journalist, it is expected that the book will be written from a pessimistic, typical journalistic point of view. In fact, I struggled to get Enter the world of the Norwegian journalist, Åsne Seierstad, who covers the aftermath of the Taliban on society in Afghanistan, and you get what you could expect, but still hope you're wrong: a 'pseudo-novelistic' attempt at exposing the life of a country in turmoil / vicious power struggles / chaos. Coming from a liberal Norwegian society, and being a young journalist, it is expected that the book will be written from a pessimistic, typical journalistic point of view. In fact, I struggled to get into this 'novel' - for nothing in the book presented any characteristics expected of a novel. There was no story line at all to begin with. No plot, no highs and lows, no lyrical prose, no good or bad, no character building - NOTHING. But it was a best seller. Ya well no fine! It was obviously a best seller for reasons beyond my understanding, but as a novel, or well-written one? - nope, sorry. The question remains though: WHY was it promoted and sold as a novel? It is an expanded set of articles(dare it be called essays?) which became long enough to fill up a book. It wasn't a story. It was a bundle of interviews with all the characters blanketed by a liberal, inexperienced viewpoint from observing filth, poverty, oppression, cruelty, and whatever adjectives or synonyms for it could be found in a journalist's vocabulary. Neither the male, nor the female interviewees were good people, according to the interpretation of their family life by the author. Bottom line: the journalist was disgusted with the whole set-up and pushed it down my throat with my consent. After all, I wanted to finish the book, right!? In retrospect I am more annoyed with myself for wasting valuable time and energy in allowing it to happen! Compared to "A Thousand Splendid Suns" written by Khaled Hosseini, this was a memoir, an optimistic attempt by a writer to cross the bridge between being an investigative journalist to novelist and just not succeeding very well. It is not a type of biography either, and not even remotely on par with a real novelist such as Hosseini, who wrote from within his own community to start off with. But okay, so it wasn't a novel, so let me at least credit the author for her effort: It is an in-depth look at the typical Afghan family experiencing and surviving different occupations of their country. The fact that she stayed three months with Sultan, the book seller, and his extended family, allowed her insight into their lives that is not showered upon many westerners. Although she is not present in the book, the situation is presented from her viewpoint. It is splashed all over the book. Her observations are detailed. The book highlights the effect of suppression on human lives. In this case, freedom of choice for the men, mostly,was taken away first by the Communists, then Mujahedeen and lastly the Taliban. Women never had any freedom neither choice anyway. The impact on the people is enormous as far as restructuring their lives is concerned. And then 9/11 happened and the Americans came. But if I really want to know what is happening now, I will have to consult the internet and the Al Jazeera news channel. It will be an extension of this book. An investigative journalistic report. I did endure until the last full stop. So you wonder how the book ends? Well, what do you expect?! It is always a matter of choice if you want to find out. Expectations differ from person to person, after all. I will respect your point of view no matter what. I apologize for pushing my annoyance down your throat in case you have opted to read to this point ;-)

  7. 4 out of 5

    Jan-Maat

    Delivering pizzas in Germany is far more lucrative than working as a flight engineer [in Afghanistan] (p58) Seierstad, a Norwegian journalist, stayed as a guest of the bookseller of Kabul of the title shortly after the fall of the Taliban. (view spoiler)[It is odd really that the USA ended up raining bombs on the Taliban. There's a common current between some political persuasions in the USA and the Taliban, both really dislike women having pre-martial sex, both are strongly inspired by the Bible Delivering pizzas in Germany is far more lucrative than working as a flight engineer [in Afghanistan] (p58) Seierstad, a Norwegian journalist, stayed as a guest of the bookseller of Kabul of the title shortly after the fall of the Taliban. (view spoiler)[It is odd really that the USA ended up raining bombs on the Taliban. There's a common current between some political persuasions in the USA and the Taliban, both really dislike women having pre-martial sex, both are strongly inspired by the Bible and want to see religion at the heart of their national cultures, both believe in saying no to drugs, yet perhaps when it came down to it the Americans were just too jealous of the Taliban's free and easy gun culture. But that's the nature of war, to make strange allies and stranger enemies. (hide spoiler)] Seierstad lived in his home with his extended family - his mother, two wives, a sister, children of various ages. The home was a flat in a Soviet built block in Kabul. Running water and electricity were casualties of the on and off warfare going on since the 1970s. Seierstad calls the bookseller Sultan. He was an ambitious and energetic man, or depending on your perspective - simply an overbearing patriarch. He had been to school, and had studied engineering at university, while there had fallen into the booktrade supplying his fellow students with textbooks. During the time that Seierstad was his guest he had three bookshops doing a roaring trade in selling postcards to coalition soldiers, a confectionery concession in a lifeless hotel, and was bidding for the textbook contract for the whole of Afghanistan - here he ended up loosing out to the University of Oxford. The businesses were staffed by his sons, none of whom he sent to school. Sultan, his sister Leila, and his son Mansur were the only people in the household who spoke English. Seierstad in her introduction admits that she didn't master Dari so there is a difference between this book and One Hundred and One Days. There everything she describes she either saw herself or is related by other journalists she spoke to. Here her presence is elusive in the text. She tells us that she was present on certain occasions (view spoiler)[ the visit with Mansur to Mazar-i-Sharif, at the bathhouse, the visits to the central police station and the ministry of Education, the road trip with American journalist 'Bob' and his interpreter to find Osama Bin Ladin (view spoiler)[they don't (hide spoiler)] (hide spoiler)] in the introduction, for the rest we are in a grey zone of stories related and potentially misunderstood in translation between members of the family and Seierstad. Luckily for us, perhaps, some of the potential uncertainty is removed by a court case launched by Sultan second, and much younger wife, in 2010 against Seierstad. The grounds of her complaint was not that Seierstad's account was inaccurate, but rather that she had unfairly shared her private thoughts and opinions with a wider public. Eventually in 2013 a court decided that this was what journalists do. Anyroad, and I am sorry if this is a gross spoiler for you, Afghanistan, it turns out, was not a happy place (view spoiler)[ shockingly despite its lack of control over gun ownership and the near complete ability of people to resist central government (hide spoiler)] . Leila has a plan to become an English teacher, to which end the responsible Minister is duly and appropriately bribed to sign the relevant paperwork unfortunately because the ministers spend large parts of the day signing the papers of people who have bribed their way in, their signatures become progressively less valuable (p269), so by the end of the book she hasn't managed to make it to the front of a classroom and get chalk on her fingers. A carpenter hired to build sloping bookshelves for one of the shops is repeatedly beaten for stealing some of those valuable postcards by his elderly father. Eventually having confessed that he stole them for one of Sultan's rivals he gets a few years in prison. "Don't forget, under the Taliban he would have had his hand cut off," the chief constable emphasises (p226) the modern Afghan police, happily, is all about community policing "Once we surprised a couple in a car. We, or rather the parents, forced them to marry," he says. "That was fair, don't you think? After all, we're not the Taliban...we must try to avoid stoning people. The Afghans have suffered enough" (p228). Luckily for Seierstad she manages to travel in a car on separate occasions with 'Bob' and Mansur (view spoiler)[ this is the journey to Mazar-i-Sharif when she sees the remains of Soviet tanks destroyed by Mujahadeen who had swarmed down the mountainside like goats (hide spoiler)] without getting stopped by the police and obliged to marry. Partly maybe because when with 'Bob' they are in a region were homosexually is all the rage among the warlord's army, but I'm anticipating myself with my comparisons with ancient Greece, let me make you wait until the next paragraph, here major jealous dramas develop around the young men; many blood feuds have been fought over a young lover who divided his favours between two men. On one occasion two commanders launched a tank battle in the bazaar in a feud over a young lover. The result was several dozen killed (p250). It was Leila in her burka pausing to hire an urchin to accompany her to the market as a chaperone that put me in mind of the well to do ladies of ancient Athens. Seierstad says that the burka was only introduced in the 20th century to Kabul by one of the Kings of Afghanistan who decreed that the 200 women of his harem should each wear one when ever they left the palace to wander about town. No-one wanted to be seen as any less dignified and decent than one of the women of the King's harem and so the practice of wearing a small tent with a small grill to see out of trickled down from the uppermost social class over time to very lowest. The world of the burka, Seierstad tell us, is a smelly one, with restricted vision an added bonus. No sooner have the women of the household - The whole Khan family are on the plump side, certainly compared to Afghan standards. The fat and the cooking oil they pour over their food are manifested on their bodies (p163), swabbed themselves down in the municipal bathhouse in it is back inside their old clothes. The women are spotlessly clean under the burkas and the clothes, but the soft soap and the pink shampoo desperately fight against heavy odds. The women's own smell is soon restored; the burkas force it down over them (p168), as they walk along the dry and dusty streets. It is a closed and cautious country in which marriage negotiations are conducted by a man's nearest female relative - except in cases of utmost need, and in which the brides family can be expected to say no on the first attempt merely as a matter of form anything else would be to sell short to this rich unknown suitor whom Sultan recommended so warmly. It would not do to appear too keen. But they knew Sultan would return; Sonya was young and beautiful (p13). One mustn't appear too eager after-all. History is a constant theme (view spoiler)[ not that Seierstad is herself a good example, early on writing that the British invaded India from the north via the Khyber Pass, no doubt they would have done if they could, however geography intervened to make that an impractical proposition (hide spoiler)] , Leila declaring that she will not wear a burka again once the king has returned, the ignorance of the people of their own past, leaving us to wonder quite what can be rebuilt, it is a more absolute year zero than we can imagine. Outside Kabul war continues in different forms, while within the coalition soldiers are a source of ready income. A world in which a Matriarch orders her sons to smother her daughter for the sake of the families honour and in which Mansur's work colleague offers a beggar girl money for sex - provided she has a wash first (view spoiler)[ witnessing this incident is the impetus for Mansur to visit Mazar-i-Sharif and get spiritually cleansed (hide spoiler)] , a man must have a code it seems, however twisted. Seierstad, although she is often humorous in tone (view spoiler)[ unless this is down to the translation (hide spoiler)] , doesn't seem to have much enjoyed her time with the bookseller of Kabul. Which is not surprising. Living in a small flat with a large family, all traumatised in different ways by the experience of war and exile in Pakistan - occasionally dreaming of the bright lights of Tehran - while obliged to wear a burka when out on the streets is not an easy experience for an outsider. The stories she tells are claustrophobic. The social releases limited to quail fighting and watching buzkashi fights - something rather like polo, except with a headless calf rather than a ball.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Gary

    Asne Seirstadt writes an honest and candid account of her four months of life with an Afghan family, following the fall of the Taliban and the end of the reign of terror they subjected the Afghan people to. She spent these months with the family of Sultan Khan who- for twenty years-defied the tyranny of the Communists and then the Taliban by selling books on the black market because the tyrants did not allow books except those which subscribed to their narrow minded and sick ideas. Afghanistan was Asne Seirstadt writes an honest and candid account of her four months of life with an Afghan family, following the fall of the Taliban and the end of the reign of terror they subjected the Afghan people to. She spent these months with the family of Sultan Khan who- for twenty years-defied the tyranny of the Communists and then the Taliban by selling books on the black market because the tyrants did not allow books except those which subscribed to their narrow minded and sick ideas. Afghanistan was a great, progressive and vibrant country during the reign of King Zahir Shah who was overthrown by Mohammed Daoud Khan in 1973 after which followed 5 years of instability and then the sheer hell of Communist repression followed shortly thereafter by the Taliban's reign of terror. During the 70s already under-dressed women risked being shot in the legs or having acid sprayed in their faces by the fundamentalists. After the civil war broke out more and more women had to cover up. After the Taliban seized power all female faces disappeared from the streets of Kabul. My heart really hurts for these women and girls who suffered so under the Islamists and had to be hidden away and obey through fear. And I point an accusing finger at all those leftists who claim to believe in feminism but defend excesses Should women in these countries got less rights than what you people take for granted? Even after the Taliban were overthrown women and girls feared going out alone or dressing as they pleased, because of the residue of terror that the Taliban had left behind. During the Taliban era one of the most hated buildings in Kabul was the "Department for the Promotion of Virtue and Extermination of Sin". Here women who had walked unescorted by a male relative, or who wore makeup under their burkas, and men who cut their beards, languished under torture and many died. Before that these had once bee the headquarters of the equally brutal Soviets. No wonder Leftists and Islamo-Fascists love each other so much. They both have the mania for cruelty and destruction and the death impulse. Asne Seirstadt witnessed the destruction and death left behind by the Taliban. The Taliban engaged in ethnic cleansing of the Tajiks and other minorities in northern Afghanistan, raising entire villages to the ground and poisoning water wells and blowing water pipes and dams (vital for survival in these dry plains) before they withdrew. Seirstadt masterfully covers the sights, sounds and smells of Afghanistan from the cramped life in people's houses where extended families lived together to the bazaars and the 'hamman', the massive communal bath, where thousands of women cleaned themselves and their children on certain days of the week. Seirstadt captures much of Afghanistan's history and life and culture in these pages. It is an excellent book for those who want to learn about this country.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Eileen

    I think I learned more from this one book than from any news story or other examination of Afghanistan. You think, after reading the forward and the beginning of the book, that the bookseller will be a progressive man, but his love for his country's history and its literary heritage is his only redeeming quality and yet the very reason he is such a bastard toward his family. Everything comes second to his passion. In the wake of the Taliban's withdrawal we see them slowly try to regain their f I think I learned more from this one book than from any news story or other examination of Afghanistan. You think, after reading the forward and the beginning of the book, that the bookseller will be a progressive man, but his love for his country's history and its literary heritage is his only redeeming quality and yet the very reason he is such a bastard toward his family. Everything comes second to his passion. In the wake of the Taliban's withdrawal we see them slowly try to regain their freedoms, but after years of outside oppression, the feeling has slowly sunk inward. Sultan's sister is too repressed to speak up in her own defense. His sons do not speak up against their father's wishes which prevent them from having a decent childhood as they slave away in his shops. And his own wife, once a respected professor, must bow to the will of her firstborn who says he does not want to work, even though it is her only desire. There are glimmers of hope along the way as fate does give the women, who become the true stars of this book a chance. And there are some wiser people amongst the Khan family who have figured out what the country truly needs and that peace is dependent upon throwing off the desire for power that has caused so much war in the country. Ironically, at one point in the book, a hotel guard in the worst territory in Afghanistan, observing one of Khan's family members helping an American journalist operate a satellite phone, the likes of which the hotel guard has never seen, says "Do you know what our problem is? We know everything about our weapons but we know nothing about how to use a telephone." Lack of communication seems to be the greatest obstacle in the book and the one that holds the country back. Hopefully that will soon change. But in the meantime, if you really want to get a glimpse into true Afghan life, buy this book.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Miriam

    my issues with this book are basically ideological/political -- in spite of an introduction justifying her decision to erase herself from the story, the author also says that she spent a significant period of her time in the household arguing with its male members (presumably about gender politics and the subordinate status of the family's women). i think including these disagreements would have made for a far stronger and more compelling story (not to mention more honest) -- as it is, this is j my issues with this book are basically ideological/political -- in spite of an introduction justifying her decision to erase herself from the story, the author also says that she spent a significant period of her time in the household arguing with its male members (presumably about gender politics and the subordinate status of the family's women). i think including these disagreements would have made for a far stronger and more compelling story (not to mention more honest) -- as it is, this is just another piece of quasi-anthropological boo-hoo over the oppression of afghan women from an admitted cultural and linguistic outsider. hey, how about letting said women speak for themselves for once?

  11. 4 out of 5

    Miramira Endevall

    Valerie - I found a used copy of this book for your Christmas present (since I raved about it to you) so don't go buying it! :-) I wasn't going to write a review of this book at all until I read some of the other reviews posted here and became horrified at their castigation of Ms. Seierstad. A rebuttal: I liked this book BECAUSE it doesn't read like investigative journalism. Seirstad never once pretends that she's being unbiased and doesn't apologize for the obvious slant. Frankly, her slant is wha Valerie - I found a used copy of this book for your Christmas present (since I raved about it to you) so don't go buying it! :-) I wasn't going to write a review of this book at all until I read some of the other reviews posted here and became horrified at their castigation of Ms. Seierstad. A rebuttal: I liked this book BECAUSE it doesn't read like investigative journalism. Seirstad never once pretends that she's being unbiased and doesn't apologize for the obvious slant. Frankly, her slant is what I believe mine would be, as I can't deal with overbearing ANYBODY deciding what's best for me or telling me how I must live. What impressed me the most was her willingness as a naive Western woman to go off by herself and live in an Afghan family, which is something I could never do. Living in a family of religious extremists (of any stripe) is not the same as living as an exchange student. Her experience doing so is her experience - sorry it wasn't pretty. The fact is, she lived in Afghanistan and managed not to get killed, raped, sold, or go stark raving mad. She is living proof that Western women can survive in Afghanistan. As for her book "feeling hopeless" - perhaps that's because she didn't see any hope. Thinking that world peace is possible (it's not) and that every bad situation will eventually work out (they don't all) to make butterflies and rainbows is a serious failing of American "investigative" journalism. Folks who think and write that way should take a lesson from George Orwell and Upton Sinclair. If you want a hope-filled answer then create one, but don't despise the woman for pointing out that a bad situation is a bad situation. Oh, and have you read "Not Without My Daughter"?

  12. 4 out of 5

    W

    I like Asne Seierstad's books. She is a Norwegian journalist who is no stranger to conflict zones. Infact,she seems to revel in putting herself in dangerous situations. She actually opted to stay on in Baghdad after the US invasion in 2003,as bombs rained down from the sky. In this book,she chose to go to Afghanistan soon after the US invasion and stayed on with the family of an Afghan bookseller. This man had two wives. It is a fascinating account of the trials and tribulations of this family's li I like Asne Seierstad's books. She is a Norwegian journalist who is no stranger to conflict zones. Infact,she seems to revel in putting herself in dangerous situations. She actually opted to stay on in Baghdad after the US invasion in 2003,as bombs rained down from the sky. In this book,she chose to go to Afghanistan soon after the US invasion and stayed on with the family of an Afghan bookseller. This man had two wives. It is a fascinating account of the trials and tribulations of this family's life in a country which has remained a war zone for decades. The booseller carries on with his rather unusual business in Kabul where relatively few would be interested in reading. The details of the women's lives provide plenty of interest too.This was among the first books on the subject,later there would be a deluge of similar books. But it does appear that her book made life difficult for the real life bookseller in Kabul,as the book was translated locally. He sued the author for defamation and won initially,before the verdict was overturned on appeal.He later wrote his own version of the story. As one reviewer put it,"it is quite unlike anything else." It is a compelling portrait of Afghan people,a family,the ravages of war and the hardships they have had to endure. Seierstad has great story telling skills and puts them to good use in this international bestseller,written when interest in Afghanistan was at its peak,following 9/11 and the US invasion.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Aditi

    “She couldn't survey the wreck of the world with an air of casual unconcern.” ----Margaret Mitchell Åsne Seierstad, an Award winning journalist-turned-Norwegian-author, has penned a delectable and slightly captivating account of her stay with an Afghan family, who owned a bookshop in a terror-stricken and on-the-verge-of-a-civil-war type Kabul in the year 2002, in the book called, The Bookseller of Kabul. This is the personal story of almost every human being, mainly women of the household, from “She couldn't survey the wreck of the world with an air of casual unconcern.” ----Margaret Mitchell Åsne Seierstad, an Award winning journalist-turned-Norwegian-author, has penned a delectable and slightly captivating account of her stay with an Afghan family, who owned a bookshop in a terror-stricken and on-the-verge-of-a-civil-war type Kabul in the year 2002, in the book called, The Bookseller of Kabul. This is the personal story of almost every human being, mainly women of the household, from the bookseller family, with two wives and tons of children and an equally great number of siblings, the bookseller is a subtly liberal man of his times, that only demanded women of each and every household to stay indoors and keep giving birth until their last dying breath. Synopsis: In spring 2002, following the fall of the Taliban, Asne Seierstad spent four months living with a bookseller and his family in Kabul. For more than twenty years Sultan Khan defied the authorities - be they communist or Taliban - to supply books to the people of Kabul. He was arrested, interrogated and imprisoned by the communists, and watched illiterate Taliban soldiers burn piles of his books in the street. He even resorted to hiding most of his stock - almost ten thousand books - in attics all over Kabul. But while Khan is passionate in his love of books and his hatred of censorship, he also has strict views on family life and the role of women. As an outsider, Asne Seierstad found herself in a unique position, able to move freely between the private, restricted sphere of the women - including Khan's two wives - and the freer, more public lives of the men. It is an experience that Seierstad finds both fascinating and frustrating. As she steps back from the page and allows the Khans to speak for themselves, we learn of proposals and marriages, hope and fear, crime and punishment. The result is a genuinely gripping and moving portrait of a family, and a clear-eyed assessment of a country struggling to free itself from history. The household of Sultan Khan in Kabul, ruled under the communist party, which is later succeeded by the Taliban's dictatorial rule, is not a happy place for the women, with two wives and a handful of children from the wives and lots of siblings and grandparents. This house is more like a time warp with one generation after another shares their journeys together, despite of unhappiness and constraints. Although Sultan Khan who is a reputed bookshop owner, selling modern Afghan books, some controversial Afghan books and a lot of history books about Afghanistan, is a free-thinker and a liberal man about politics and his patriotism, yet he is a very tyrannical man when it comes to the women of his household, be it his wives or his daughters or his sisters or his own mother, he dominates them all with old customs and difficult rules as set in the Holy Quran by the Prophet. Sultan Khan never believed in women's equal rights or their right to education or their right to choose their own husbands or their right to live freely, only in the right to obey the man of the house with their heads bowing-down-to-their-feet. Seierstad has lived with this particular Muslim family for four months to experience their grueling lifestyle both in a repressive household as well as in a country dominated by warlords and religious dictators. Always being on the verge of a civil war, Afghanistan has forever suffered a lot, lost a lot of its history in the dust and the bloodshed, and so are the country's women, who too have suffered silently through ages. The author has brought out and have captured vividly those pain of both the country as well as of the women always clad and bound behind a black veil and a burka, evocatively. The author's personal account definitely moved me and that too very deeply, but has failed to stir any emotions or my thoughts towards the women or the men from this book. The author's writing style is eloquent and evocative enough to make the readers feel and comprehend with her story line. The narrative is very mush realistic, and it will feel like the characters voicing their honest opinions discreetly in the ears of the author. Even though it has been translated into English, I felt that the charm of the author and her flair has not been lost in translation. The prose is articulate and really strong and that which leaves room for the readers' own judgement and thoughts. The backdrop of an unhinged Kabul is portrayed strikingly by the author in her story line, and have successfully captured both the rugged and golden terrains and landscape as well as the struggle of the country's citizens, especially the women. While reading, the book transported me straight in front of Sultan's bookshop as well as right in the middle of his large brick house, and felt the scenes unraveling right before my own eyes. The author not only did her research well enough to strike a cord into the hearts of her readers, but have also arrested them in a fascinating way to let the readers experience a troubled and terror-stricken country from their minds' eyes. The characters are the most disappointing fact of this book as they will not only fail to impress the readers of the book, but will only irk them up with their lack of development. As for me, I lost interest in their tragedy or in their lights, what kept me engaged is the country's disturbing politics and religious extremist ideals. The lives of the female characters could have been written with much more depth, so that they could leave an imprint in the minds of the readers. The accounts of the women are very scattered and disoriented, hence at times, I felt very bored to keep reading the book. In a nutshell, even though this is non fictional account of a journalist-turned-author's experience of living in a dangerous and repressive Muslim country, yet somehow, this book is not that great enough to read and explore about such a country. I do not recommend this to any reader. Verdict: A behind-the-veil and an honest story of a bookseller and his family in Kabul.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Reem Ghabbany

    This was a different kind of book. my very first non-fiction. I loved the characters. Sultan Khan who's the bookseller is a hard working very strict man who has a heart of stone. the author talks about him and his family's life. which consist of his 2 wives, children, mother, and sisters. they live in a four-room tiny apartment. I enjoyed reading about their lives even though I was so frustrated with Sultan at times. I felt so sorry for the women of Afghanistan. I was so angry with the amount of This was a different kind of book. my very first non-fiction. I loved the characters. Sultan Khan who's the bookseller is a hard working very strict man who has a heart of stone. the author talks about him and his family's life. which consist of his 2 wives, children, mother, and sisters. they live in a four-room tiny apartment. I enjoyed reading about their lives even though I was so frustrated with Sultan at times. I felt so sorry for the women of Afghanistan. I was so angry with the amount of misogyny in this book and disgusted at a how a 28-year man insists on marrying a 13-year-old girl. to some degree, the traditions of Afghanistan resembles that in Saudi but even me, who's lived all her life in Saudi, is astonished by the amount of misogyny. I hated that there was no real ending the characters who I could relate to on some level. I need closure. but can one get closure with non-fiction?

  15. 5 out of 5

    Emma

    Two and a half stars... I may round up to 3. An interesting view on life in Afghanistan in the early 2000s. My feeling on finishing the book was one of overwhelming sadness. Life is so hard for some, and reading the book made me feel extremely grateful for the life I have, where I can be independent woman and be in charge of my own choices and destiny. I felt desperately sorry for Leila, and the chapter on the carpenter left me in tears. I wouldn’t say it was an enjoyable read, but it made me th Two and a half stars... I may round up to 3. An interesting view on life in Afghanistan in the early 2000s. My feeling on finishing the book was one of overwhelming sadness. Life is so hard for some, and reading the book made me feel extremely grateful for the life I have, where I can be independent woman and be in charge of my own choices and destiny. I felt desperately sorry for Leila, and the chapter on the carpenter left me in tears. I wouldn’t say it was an enjoyable read, but it made me think and appreciate the choices I have in life

  16. 4 out of 5

    Paige

    The story starts out with the chapter “The Proposal” in which Sultan Khan, the bookseller, feels that he is ready for a new wife although he already has one. And while Afghan customs permit more than one wife, some of his family are against his decision. The author concentrates on Sultans decision and the effects it has on his family. The reader is taken inside the head of the first wife, Sharifa, and his new young bride. Through their voices, we see a glimpse of the caste system. “A wedding The story starts out with the chapter “The Proposal” in which Sultan Khan, the bookseller, feels that he is ready for a new wife although he already has one. And while Afghan customs permit more than one wife, some of his family are against his decision. The author concentrates on Sultans decision and the effects it has on his family. The reader is taken inside the head of the first wife, Sharifa, and his new young bride. Through their voices, we see a glimpse of the caste system. “A wedding is like a small death.” While emphasizing Afghanistan customs through the tangled emotions that the family experiences because of Sultans marriage decision, its culture is revealed through the occurrences in the bookshop. With Mansur Khan working in his father’s bookshop, the reader sees a colorful and vibrant city that sometimes weeps for its people. He sees the effects of war surrounding them and craves a different reality. Though not nonfiction, I still found the information and story enticing. The author writes with a journalists touch and has an affinity for incorporating political thought through the dialogue. The Foreword at the beginning of this book explains how the author ended up living with the Khan family in Kabul. It is a must read before beginning the story since the story is based on real events and people, although considered a work of fiction. Being only 288 pages, it is a short read for those pressed with time.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Mikey B.

    This book is not about books or the selling of books – its much more about the inner life of a middle-class family in Afghanistan shortly after the Allied invasion in October of 2001. The author visited a bookstall in Kabul and after striking up a conversation with the owner asked if she could spend time with his family and this request was accepted. She lived with them for a few months and this book encapsulates her observations of their lifestyle and interactions. It is somewhat similar to an a This book is not about books or the selling of books – its much more about the inner life of a middle-class family in Afghanistan shortly after the Allied invasion in October of 2001. The author visited a bookstall in Kabul and after striking up a conversation with the owner asked if she could spend time with his family and this request was accepted. She lived with them for a few months and this book encapsulates her observations of their lifestyle and interactions. It is somewhat similar to an anthropological study. What we experience from reading about this family is patriarchy a l’extreme. Women have no voice – they cook and they clean. They cannot go out of the house without being accompanied by a male. What their desires and wishes are is of little consequence. They are verbally abused by the male members of the family. Their lives appear helpless with very little in the way of choice. So, this makes for rather depressing reading. In another book I read (The Taliban Don’t Wave) about Afghanistan a Canadian soldier described it as: “If the commercials are true and Disneyland is the happiest place on earth, and if everything in life must have an opposite, then the saddest place on earth must be Afghanistan.” The family that the author lived with is middle class by Afghanistan standards. Some are literate and have a knowledge of English. The author acknowledges that because her bookseller sponsor ran a bookstore (mostly selling a variety of books in Persian) she had assumed that he was “enlightened and liberal” – but she quickly realized how false this assumption was once she entered the inner sanctum of the household. Among other customs the bookseller (he was the oldest male) would choose, negotiate and approve who both his sons and daughters would marry – in the case of his daughters this would be to much older men. And of course, for any of his daughters or sisters to have any type of social contact with males prior to marriage was forbidden. We are provided with examples of some of these transgressions in the book. This book is a compelling ground level look at a family in Afghanistan. I doubt much has changed since this was written in 2002. Perhaps more men and women have had access to and received an education. We are also provided with a view to the poverty surrounding the household – lack of electricity, heating, drinking water… all within a corrupt bureaucracy. Safety is a constant issue, more so for women. Like the author I felt hostility to the male members –their privileged and dominant position went unchallenged. This is a searing and sad book giving an inside view of an Afghan household.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Em

    Okay so the author seems very naive, and that's a pretty safe bet. She is knowledgeable however, so I'll give her that. I wouldn't take this book seriously if you're looking for some real social or historical insight into Afghanistan. It really pales in that sense. If you're looking for a light read and a good story, in that sense, it's good and can offer some inspiration. So it's all right so far. -- All right, just finished it. It was interesting and page-turning, but the author's tone really ag Okay so the author seems very naive, and that's a pretty safe bet. She is knowledgeable however, so I'll give her that. I wouldn't take this book seriously if you're looking for some real social or historical insight into Afghanistan. It really pales in that sense. If you're looking for a light read and a good story, in that sense, it's good and can offer some inspiration. So it's all right so far. -- All right, just finished it. It was interesting and page-turning, but the author's tone really aggravated me. She spoke sardonically of situations that held little humour. Also, she assumed a sort of deep knowledge of her subjects and largely oversimplified the context in which the Khan family lived. She started to speak in like a personal third person, as if she understood deeply the characters' thoughts. I do not believe she had this understanding and therefore do not think she should have conveyed it as such. It is trespassing; even the best journalist/reporters cannot assume the character's inner beliefs and feelings. She presupposes a lot. Living with a family for a few months and only interacting with the three English-speaking members of the family does not merit her sweeping generalizations. Granted, she makes a disclaimer that the Khan family does not represent all Afghanis. She has an obvious oversight with regard to her generalizing her own observations to proclaim so much about the family. Not only does she entirely write herself out of the story, which completely limits the reader's ability to validate whether or not her interactions yielded this much understanding about the family, but she disregards the fact that many of her observations might be from an oblique angle and that her presence itself undoubtedly must have affected the family. Her observations are without citation, in that sense, because she does not give her analysis any supporting framework or context. It also lacked a central theme or a point. After reading it, I can't say there was some message she got across to me, just a series of loosely related anecdotes. No real declaration, but there were some beautiful nuances. Other than that, no real thesis. Pros: she described characters beautifully. It was surprising how you could at once hate and love a character, know nothing about them and then second guess yourself and find yourself completely enthralled in their identities. She talked about real people and she made them real in her pages with her intimate detailing of idiosyncratic observations. You got a sense of the reality of her characters in their interactions. I couldn't quite tell if she translated the characters' stories with love or contempt, but I guess it doesn't really matter in the end, because it's the reader. And I guess as a reader I loved them and hated them so...hey. The book was really despondent. There wasn't anything really hopeful about it, and any hope I could manage to find, the author emphatically dashed. I think she was actively propagating that Afghanistan was a place with no hope of improving and that it stagnated in archaic traditions and had no way out. Most exposes will at least bestow a sense of felicity upon the reader in the form of some meager optimism, but this author was not that geneous. In this way, I disagree with her portrayal. Albeit it being a nonfiction, and although she can't embellish with happy moments, her narrations of anything good were few and far between. I think that even in the worst of scenarios, which the Khan family did not represent, there could be some light shed, but she just made the whole story dismal and lacking any connection to a future ambition for the country, like she was just telling a tragedy and leaving. I guess I'm happy I read it. I guess I kinda liked it--but somewhat grudgingly.

  19. 4 out of 5

    ☮Karen

    It being Banned Books Week when I began this book,  I don't think I could have chosen a more appropriate book to read than The Bookseller of Kabul.  The book was banned in 2008 by the Wyandotte, Michigan, Board  of Education; it tells of actual instances of banning and burning books in Afghanistan; and the main character Sultan Khan was a bookseller who himself specialized in selling illegal books and writings, often right under the noses of the illiterate Taliban a-holes.  Learning that most Ta It being Banned Books Week when I began this book,  I don't think I could have chosen a more appropriate book to read than The Bookseller of Kabul.  The book was banned in 2008 by the Wyandotte, Michigan, Board  of Education; it tells of actual instances of banning and burning books in Afghanistan; and the main character Sultan Khan was a bookseller who himself specialized in selling illegal books and writings, often right under the noses of the illiterate Taliban a-holes.  Learning that most Taliban cannot read, which presumably means not even their Koran, explains quite a lot! Then the book veers off to describe what seems like every relative of Sultan's on earth, with names all starting with S, so it was a bit hard to follow, but I followed. It was most interesting to read how women and young girls are treated, or mistreated really; and even when the Taliban is not in power, it doesn't change much.  They are servants, they have no free will, subjects of the men in their families.  Burkas were purposefully designed -- by a man -- to cut off peripheral vision, so that the wearer must turn her head directly at whatever she wants to see so that her man then knows at all times what she is looking at. Some chapters delved deeper into family members' individual  stories.  The men bored me, but Leila's story stuck out for me.  She perfectly illustrated the unmarried female, aka servant, with no life choices.  With this  written in 2002, I wonder what has happened to her most of all.  I read on line that Sultan had to move out of the country because, even though the author used a fake name for him, his real identity came out and life was made too difficult for him.   If only all of the women had that option.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Julian Lees

    I enjoyed reading about the overbearing Sultan and his family, especially Leila. Well researched but overall quite depressing.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Daniela

    This is the kind of book that must be read with caution. The author chose to write it as though it was a novel and not a journalistic account. This incurs the risk - as it is obvious when one reads other reviews - of having readers confusing it with actual fiction. Then there's the whole "western gaze". This is a norwegian woman writing on a society she does not belong to, a society that is very different from hers, and it can perfectly be argued that five months spent amongst a family are not s This is the kind of book that must be read with caution. The author chose to write it as though it was a novel and not a journalistic account. This incurs the risk - as it is obvious when one reads other reviews - of having readers confusing it with actual fiction. Then there's the whole "western gaze". This is a norwegian woman writing on a society she does not belong to, a society that is very different from hers, and it can perfectly be argued that five months spent amongst a family are not sufficient to actually know them or the society they live in. There's also the question of privacy: is it right for someone to expose the inner life of a family in such a way? Perhaps a more interesting question, wasn't it incredibly naive of Sultan Khan (Shah Rais in real life) to accept a European journalist into his own house and think that the portray she d'paint would be positive? And wasn't it naive of Seierstad to think that Rais would gladly go along with the portrayal of his family in the book? Perhaps Seierstad didn't care. She probably should have. There is something very unkind in the way she exposes the thoughts of the people - especially the women - who are already suffering under the pressure of living in a such a patriarchal society. Oppressed people don't have to be exposed to prove their oppression. Especially not in such an undignified way. The most important question that Seierstad manages to ask, however, is how can an educated man, who wants to edit school textbooks and who believes in a (limited) form of free thought (after all, Sultan Khan would never sell Salman Rushdie at his bookshop) be so unable to understand the oppressive nature of the society he lives in and so blind to his own personal contribution to it? I would very much like to not believe this book. I would very much like to believe, like other reviewers do, that she can't possibly know all the things she claims to know, because why would people confide in a foreigner like this, why do all these people speak English? I would love to be able to dismiss this book based on her condescending tone and on her belief in the superiority of the western world. And I am ready to believe that there are "embellishments" and exaggerations. Seierstad admits as much in a interview to the Guardian: "If I write a book in future, I may decide to take the precaution of going back to every person I interview, reading their quotes back to them and asking them to sign a letter, saying it is accurate... In everything I write, ever again, I need to make sure I am 100% accurate. A journalist can get away with this sort of controversy once, but I can't survive it again." ( https://www.theguardian.com/theguardi... ) However, at the same time I also can't help but think that it would be incredibly naive to believe that many situations portrayed here aren't horrifying real. It is precisely for this reason that they deserve a better journalistic treatment than the one given by Seierstad.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Tera

    The most depressing book about the area that I have read. Most of the characters have little to no redeeming qualities or likeablity. The bookseller was the least likeable of all. The ones that were likeable and you wanted to root for you realize have no chance for happiness or an existance other than servitude and repression. The book didn't flow very well either. At times I wasn't sure if I was reading a book or a collection of magazine articles. The author represents the people and events as The most depressing book about the area that I have read. Most of the characters have little to no redeeming qualities or likeablity. The bookseller was the least likeable of all. The ones that were likeable and you wanted to root for you realize have no chance for happiness or an existance other than servitude and repression. The book didn't flow very well either. At times I wasn't sure if I was reading a book or a collection of magazine articles. The author represents the people and events as actual but I was reminded through this that most of the stories had to be told to her second or third hand. When she goes into the head of the characters and explores their thoughts and feelings you know that she must be taking liberties. You know that such things would never be discussed to such detail and depth as she describes with a foreigner, a writer, and a woman of all things.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Michel

    We all know those travel books who pretend to teach you about a culture of which the writer doesn't even speak the language: if you travel using this "guide", I can only feel sorry for you (alright, I'll drop the pretense of anonymity: I mean Rick Steeve). Only this isn't about tourism, it's about the pain and suffering of an entire country that hasn't known peace and respect for as long as they can remember. Patronizing them and their "inferior" culture isn't just tasteless, it's downright damna We all know those travel books who pretend to teach you about a culture of which the writer doesn't even speak the language: if you travel using this "guide", I can only feel sorry for you (alright, I'll drop the pretense of anonymity: I mean Rick Steeve). Only this isn't about tourism, it's about the pain and suffering of an entire country that hasn't known peace and respect for as long as they can remember. Patronizing them and their "inferior" culture isn't just tasteless, it's downright damnable. And doing so without acknowledging that you write from the Pov of one unknowing foreigner is misleading too. I stopped reading this book about one third of the way. Actually threw it away angrily.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Louise

    My knowledge of Afghan culture is really minimal so cannot really say how accurate a portrayal it is. I did however get a strong sense of judgement and superiority from this author which I didn't like.

  25. 5 out of 5

    H.A. Leuschel

    This was a difficult book to read for me. The kind of subjugation women have to contend with, the violence leashed out on them if they don't can never be justified, no matter how holy the words are said to be. It was very well written, the way of life in Kabul vividly brought to life. I recommend it and hope since the writing of the book, life in Kabul has improved for everyone in every way!

  26. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    Over two decades Sultan Khan sold books in defiance of the authorities. The authority changed from Afghans to communists to Taliban, but the persecutions remained the same; imprisonment, arrest, beatings and regular interrogation. He suffered watching illiterate Taliban thugs burn piles of his books in the streets of Kabul, so he hid them. His collection and stock was secreted across attics and rooms across the capital. Whilst he abhorred censorship and was passionate about all things literary h Over two decades Sultan Khan sold books in defiance of the authorities. The authority changed from Afghans to communists to Taliban, but the persecutions remained the same; imprisonment, arrest, beatings and regular interrogation. He suffered watching illiterate Taliban thugs burn piles of his books in the streets of Kabul, so he hid them. His collection and stock was secreted across attics and rooms across the capital. Whilst he abhorred censorship and was passionate about all things literary he was also an Afghan man. He had strict and immovable views on family life, the role of women in society and the home and how he treated people and expected them to treat him with due deference. It is into this family that Seierstad comes. In her unique position as a Western woman, she is able to move between the two hemispheres of male and female life in the home and the city, something that no male journalist would have been able to achieve. It is a time of huge change too, she arrived in 2002, just after the Taliban had be routed by the Americans, and whilst society had thrown of some of the shackles, many cultural norms still remained. In this she takes a step back and lets the Khans speak for themselves, and you see a very private life inside an Afghan family. It is not the easiest book to read, not because it isn’t well written and translated, but because the society and culture that she describes is so very different to ours. It is brutal at times, heavily restricting women in what they can do, say and achieve in society, as well as having tribal fighting, harsh justice, precious little infrastructure and at times no hope. They have decades of oppression there and to make steps towards a society that has those opportunities that we take for granted will take many years and need deep fundamental changes to political and culture to bring it about. I had hoped that it would be more about the perils of the book business there, and whilst it made for a fascinating account, didn’t live up to what I had hoped for.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Dem

    I was slightly confused about this book as when I read the blurb I thought the book was going to be about the bookseller himself and his book shop and about how he defied the authorities to supply books to the people of Kabul but this book sways away from the blurb and concentrates more on Sultan Khan's family. I am not sure I like the way the story reads, In spring 2002 award winning journalist Asne Seiratad spent four months living with the bookseller and his family but while the story is told I was slightly confused about this book as when I read the blurb I thought the book was going to be about the bookseller himself and his book shop and about how he defied the authorities to supply books to the people of Kabul but this book sways away from the blurb and concentrates more on Sultan Khan's family. I am not sure I like the way the story reads, In spring 2002 award winning journalist Asne Seiratad spent four months living with the bookseller and his family but while the story is told by Seierstad about the Khan family she does not appear in the book and I found this off putting as sometimes I felt I was reading a novel as I can’t believe that the characters especially the Afghan men would discuss or trust a western female journalist. Throughout the book I was waiting for something to happen or for conclusions to individual stories and I know this was my expectations so therefore perhaps this is the reason that I found the book lacking. I did find the historical content of the book really interesting and felt such sadness for some of the characters especially the women who are treated so badly and have no control over their futures, I found the power fathers, husbands, brothers and sons have over their wives mothers, sisters and daughters so disturbing that I found it difficult reading as I wanted these women to triumph over these self obsessed men but that I am afraid this would not be true in the society they live in. This is an interesting book and I think would make an excellent book club read as there is plenty to discuss here.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Bloodorange

    I understand people might be skipping this because it used to be, perhaps still is, a bestseller. I have heard this title a while ago, and until recently (view spoiler)[ Final note: my rationale for reading this was to find a book that would complement The Handmaid's Tale on my curriculum; the match is so good I am afraid it is too good, we will see what my students make of it) (hide spoiler)] never felt the urge to read this, because of an underlying suspicion that it might be a bestseller of th I understand people might be skipping this because it used to be, perhaps still is, a bestseller. I have heard this title a while ago, and until recently (view spoiler)[ Final note: my rationale for reading this was to find a book that would complement The Handmaid's Tale on my curriculum; the match is so good I am afraid it is too good, we will see what my students make of it) (hide spoiler)] never felt the urge to read this, because of an underlying suspicion that it might be a bestseller of the 'paint-by-numbers' variety. This isn't the case. Seierstad's specialty are, according to Wikipedia, "accounts of everyday life in war zones – most notably Kabul after 2001, Baghdad in 2002 and the ruined Grozny in 2006". She has seen things; she skilfully avoids naivete, sensationalism or indifference, and is better than many other journalists in removing herself from the picture (it is mainly in the scenes when she describes the physical realities of wearing a burka, for example, when one understands this was her own bodily experience). She has a good writing style, alternates between viewpoints - of females and males of the family she describes, but also sometimes adopting a 'neutral narrator' stance, gives a good amount of detail, varies her writing (I liked the short chapter which quotes female love poetry, and another, in which she 'accompanies' women doing their shopping in burkas). The themes that stand out for me are the power of the family as the ultimate policing mechanism in this very restrictive society (it is important to note that she describes the plight of men as well as the plight of women), the kind of 'fake power' that women may gain, with some luck, over their family members, and the terrible capriciousness that one's family might have on one's life, despite of your gender, as everything is ultimately decided upon by very powerful, very capricious family members. My only qualm re: this book is that while she gives quite a lot of political background, she gives very little of the religious background. I think this book could use an explanation that there are different factions of Muslims, more conservative and more progressive ones, and the explanation of the religious factor in conflicts she represents. On the whole, however, I would recommend this book. (Note: you may want to read about how the head of the family Seierstad describes in the book took her to court for untrue and innacurate representation of the thoughts and story of his second wife, humiliating his first wife, and misrepresenting him as capricious and domineering). https://www.theguardian.com/theguardi... (Interestingly, this seems to be the first case when a person described in a book of journalism focusing on a 'less developed' country takes the matter to court.)

  29. 5 out of 5

    Ana

    4,5 stars: this was not an easy read, and this was not because the English was difficult, the prose was dense or any other such reason. I read this book in just 3 days (which is very fast for me), but I had a hard time reading it, because I empathized with the people – especially the women – portrayed here and gosh… do they have a hard life… Even so, I did not like what I read in the introductory text by the author in which she says that although she’s written the book in literary form, it is ba 4,5 stars: this was not an easy read, and this was not because the English was difficult, the prose was dense or any other such reason. I read this book in just 3 days (which is very fast for me), but I had a hard time reading it, because I empathized with the people – especially the women – portrayed here and gosh… do they have a hard life… Even so, I did not like what I read in the introductory text by the author in which she says that although she’s written the book in literary form, it is based on real events or what was told to her by people who took part in those events and then justifies the description of thoughts and feelings, as having used as point of departure what people told her they thought or felt. I think this is going too far, especially because even though she used different names, everybody now knows who the bookseller and his family are. The book I read just before this one, by a Portuguese journalist who was in Kabul a few years after the publication of The Bookseller of Kabul, includes a short mention to a visit to this bookshop. Not surprisingly, the bookseller told the Portuguese journalist he did not like the book, and I can only imagine what the consequences of this read have been for some of his family members... This being said, this was nevertheless a very good read that I recommend to everyone who likes to know more about other people’s culture and history and who like reading fiction and non-fiction alike, because as mentioned above, it is written as a fiction book, but one can easily feel that the characters are based on real people.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Pooja Singh

    "In Afghanistan a woman’s longing for love is taboo. It is forbidden by the tribes’ notion of honor and by the mullahs. Young people have no right to meet, to love, or to choose. Love has little to do with romance; on the contrary, love can be interpreted as committing a serious crime, punishable by death." - Asne Seirstad, The Bookseller of Kabul 🍂 In the spring of 2002, following the Taliban's fall, the author spends four months living in Kabul with a bookseller's family. Sultan Khan, the owner "In Afghanistan a woman’s longing for love is taboo. It is forbidden by the tribes’ notion of honor and by the mullahs. Young people have no right to meet, to love, or to choose. Love has little to do with romance; on the contrary, love can be interpreted as committing a serious crime, punishable by death." - Asne Seirstad, The Bookseller of Kabul 🍂 In the spring of 2002, following the Taliban's fall, the author spends four months living in Kabul with a bookseller's family. Sultan Khan, the owner of the bookshop has defied the authorities time and again to protect his books, sometimes hiding them to prevent the illiterate soldiers from burning them. 🍂 As an outsider, Asne gets an in-depth view of the status of woman in Afghan society and the family structure that reinforces the age-old traditions and patriarchy deep-rooted in the society. 🍂 The narration is fairly easy to follow, but with a lot of characters, the storylines kind of mixes up at places. The men might bore you, but the women's stories stick with you. Having read and loved "A thousand splendid suns" I was hoping for more, but the book somewhat disappointed me. I just couldn't connect with the characters the same way. But with all that said, the story does create awareness about the situation in Afghanistan, especially the treatment meted out to women, to some extent. . . . . Genre: non-fiction, memoir, biography Rating: ⭐⭐⭐/5 Reading Difficulty: ⭐⭐⭐/5

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