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The Bookseller of Kabul (2002)

by Åsne Seierstad

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
4,9361551,528 (3.63)336
Capturing the harsh realities of life in modern-day Afghanistan and plight of Afghan women, the Norwegian journalist provides a portrait of a committed Muslim man, a bookseller, and his family living in post-Taliban Kabul, Afghanistan. Reader's Guide included.
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» See also 336 mentions

English (136)  Spanish (6)  French (3)  Dutch (2)  Italian (2)  Swedish (1)  German (1)  Portuguese (Brazil) (1)  Catalan (1)  Danish (1)  All languages (154)
Showing 1-5 of 136 (next | show all)
1
  kristi_test_02 | Jun 16, 2020 |
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. ( )
  PDCRead | Apr 6, 2020 |
Competently written but rather judgmental and immature. I'll leave it to some of the other reviews which elaborate on the problems in more detail.
( )
  reg_lt | Feb 7, 2020 |
Disappointing in that I expected this to be about the Bookseller of the title, about how he defied the Communist and Taliban authorities to bring books to Kabul. Whereas it is actually a series of essays about members of his family, which read as fiction more than an actual account. ( )
  TheEllieMo | Jan 18, 2020 |
Although this is non-fiction, it reads like a novel. I find it a fascinating account of life in an Afghanistan household. The author remains an observer, allowing the reader to bear witness to another culture. ( )
  HelenBaker | Sep 19, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 136 (next | show all)
Norwegian journalist Seierstad casts light on the difficult, sometimes dreary, often (still) dangerous life of a bookseller in the Afghan capital, not neglecting the equal but very different tribulations of the women in his family. ... A slice of Afghanistan today, rendered with a talent for fine, sobering prose and strange, unnerving settings that recall Ryszard Kapuscinski.
added by mysterymax | editKirkus Reviews
 

» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Seierstad, Åsneprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Armand, Giskensecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Behe, RegisMedarb.secondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Berger, CarinCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Brooks, KateCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Christophersen, IngridTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Covián, MarceloTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
David, JoannaNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dworzak, ThomasPhotographersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Eschlbeck, RolandUmschlagentwurfsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Feig, Andrássecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fox, EmiliaReadersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Grit, DiederikTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hoyrup, SaraTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kiuru, Veijosecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kon, Ronald E.secondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
lter, Asnesecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Madureira, ManuelaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mänd, AndresTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Moreira, Madalena,secondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nielsen, PeterTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Paterniti, Giovannasecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Romand-Monnier, CélineTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rumberg, KorneliaUmschlagentwurfsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Salomon, Nannasecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sans Climent, CarlesTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Skevik, GreteTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stolpe, JanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
StoltzedesignCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wand, GiselaPhotographersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wolandt, Holgersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wondergem, MijkeCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Migozarad! (It will pass) - Graffito on the walls of a Kabul teahouse
Dedication
For my parents
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One of the first people I met when I arrived in Kabul in November 2001 was Sultan Khan. (Foreword)
When Sultan Khan thought the time had come to find himself a new wife, no one wanted to help him.
A few weeks after I left Kabul, the family split up. (Epilogue)
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Book description
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.
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