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The Bookseller of Kabul by Åsne Seierstad
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The Bookseller of Kabul (2002)

by Åsne Seierstad

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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English (129)  Spanish (7)  French (3)  German (1)  Swedish (1)  Danish (1)  Portuguese (Brazil) (1)  Italian (1)  Dutch (1)  All languages (145)
Showing 1-5 of 129 (next | show all)
This was a fascinating book, offering a real insight into the life of people - particularly women - in Afghanistan. The author lived alongside the family of a bookseller, and uses her insights from that time to paint a picture of a world completely different to the Western way of life. Seierstad does an incredible job of removing herself from the pages, and the people she lived beside really shine through the story. None of us can really claim ignorance about the treatment of women in the Middle East, but I know I can admit ignorance as to any understanding of how that treatment is received by those women or how it affects their lives. I found the description of life under a burkha particularly harrowing, and the story of the youngest daughter very sad. I know that the book itself is not solely focused on the life of female Afghans, but that is the aspect which got under my skin the most. I felt the struggles of the men too, but not so keenly. The Bookseller himself left me very cold as I could not understand how a man who was so passionate about the written word and expanding the mind still failed to challenge the status quo when it came to even the women in his own family.

This book is a true eye-opener to a world that you really need to see (as it were) to begin to understand. ( )
  SadieBabie | Jun 23, 2018 |
he Bookseller of Kabul, a nonfiction work written in literary form, has been out now for more than a decade, and has had its fair share of controversy. Seierstad spent six months living with the Khan family in Kabul, Afghanistan (their name has been changed), not long after the Taliban had been driven out.

Despite the title, the dominant theme of the book is the lack of freedom and autonomy for the women in Sultan Khan's family. The image presented of Sultan Khan is of a money-hungry businessman who makes his young sons work 12-hour days in his bookshops instead of going to school. He is portrayed as an autocratic patriarch of the family that virtually enslaves his 19-year old sister, and marries a 16-year old girl, bringing her into the family as a second wife.

The picture painted by Asne Seierstad in The Bookseller of Kabul is not a pretty one. And it doesn't take long for her to be sued by Sultan Khan, whose real name is Shah Muhammad Rais.

As a reader, I can not vouch for the accuracy of the author. I do not know if what she writes is an exaggerated portrayal, dramatized by an author and publicist to appeal to Western audiences...or cold, hard facts about one family in a country that has seen so much devastation and destruction over the last few decades.

The sources for all of the vignettes in The Bookseller of Kabul come primarily from three family members who speak English. Sultan Khan, the patriarch and esteemed bookseller of Kabul; his eldest son Mansur, and Khan's youngest sister, Leila.

Leila. Out of all the family members, my heart hurts the most for Leila. If what I read was accurate, she is a brave woman for speaking so openly and honestly about her treatment in the Khan household. ( )
  abergsman | Mar 20, 2018 |
I liked this book, although there is nothing to really like about the country and the way all the people in the book live in old bombed out mud huts, are controlled until the death by parents, brothers, uncles.... Women are less than zero, even the wearing of nail polish or the clicking of heels on the sidewalk under the Taliban was a cause for a beating.

I have very mixed feelings about their religion and cultural oppression and lack of education both for girls and boys, but especially for girls. Every poor country no matter where, and no matter the nationality, culture or religion faces choices that we in the West don't have to. They get electricity for a few hours a day, have no bathrooms and honor killings continue. Part of me feels badly that any woman should have to exist this way as a non-entity only made to serve and follow rules, rituals and orders. The other half of me feels that women don't band together as we did here to get the vote, and inflict what was inflicted on them to their own daughters, so it never ends.

It is a frustrating and aggravating read especially to a pro Western and feminist thinker. ( )
  REINADECOPIAYPEGA | Jan 11, 2018 |
(via Goodreads)
I'm going to take the family's side in the argument surrounding this book (see http://www.theguardian.com/world/2011...). There's nothing like a white individual with Western European values transposing her perspective onto another country, culture, ethnicity, and religion. I think some who've read the book will feel my statement is apologetic of patriarchal behavior seemingly on steroids. I assure you my feminist bones will not support such an apology. Abuse is abuse, and there is no excuse for it, including religion. Yet, I am not an Afghan, nor religious, nor a person among generations of persons who've known little else but war, subjugation, poverty, torture, and exploitation. Given this existence I feel relatively certain a person does what is needed to survive. Religion, culture, and tradition play important roles under such circumstances because they give agency -- that is, they provide a means by which people take action and intervene. I've no right to go into a country and say of cultural, religious, and traditional practice, "You're doing it wrong, so stop it now!" Yes, I realize the irony of my statement since my country's leadership feels it has a right to go anywhere it chooses and make these proclamations, usually with guns locked and loaded. Though, I think there is a valid similarity of audacity here. I think a locked-and-loaded attitude is exactly the attitude Seierstad takes. She sees things from her perspective and calls it the true perspective. The result is that Seierstad's privilege has extended her a platform from which readers can transpose her experiences of interaction and meaning making of a single case study onto the entire complex citizenry of Afghanistan. I fear this broad application was the intention and result of the previous owner of my copy of this book who underlined every single reference to female subjugation and religious practice. I can imagine this former reader smugly enjoying this found "truth" about how backward these poor people are. And, isn't it audacious of me to make such assumptions? ( )
  Christina_E_Mitchell | Jan 6, 2018 |
I'm going to take the family's side in the argument surrounding this book (see http://www.theguardian.com/world/2011/dec/13/bookseller-of-kabul-author-cleared). There's nothing like a white individual with Western European values transposing her perspective onto another country, culture, ethnicity, and religion. I think some who've read the book will feel my statement is apologetic of patriarchal behavior seemingly on steroids. I assure you my feminist bones will not support such an apology. Abuse is abuse, and there is no excuse for it, including religion. Yet, I am not an Afghan, nor religious, nor a person among generations of persons who've known little else but war, subjugation, poverty, torture, and exploitation. Given this existence I feel relatively certain a person does what is needed to survive. Religion, culture, and tradition play important roles under such circumstances because they give agency -- that is, they provide a means by which people take action and intervene. I've no right to go into a country and say of cultural, religious, and traditional practice, "You're doing it wrong, so stop it now!" Yes, I realize the irony of my statement since my country's leadership feels it has a right to go anywhere it chooses and make these proclamations, usually with guns locked and loaded. Though, I think there is a valid similarity of audacity here. I think a locked-and-loaded attitude is exactly the attitude Seierstad takes. She sees things from her perspective and calls it the true perspective. The result is that Seierstad's privilege has extended her a platform from which readers can transpose her experiences of interaction and meaning making of a single case study onto the entire complex citizenry of Afghanistan. I fear this broad application was the intention and result of the previous owner of my copy of this book who underlined every single reference to female subjugation and religious practice. I can imagine this former reader smugly enjoying this found "truth" about how backward these poor people are. And, isn't it audacious of me to make such assumptions? ( )
  Christina_E_Mitchell | Sep 9, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 129 (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 (81 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Seierstad, ÅsneAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Christophersen, IngridTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Grit, DiederikTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Romand-Monnier, CélineTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sans Climent, CarlesTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Migozarad! (It will pass) - Graffito on the walls of a Kabul teahouse
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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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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0316159417, Paperback)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:06:08 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

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.… (more)

» see all 8 descriptions

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