Thursday, 17 December 2009

Asne Seierstad: The Bookseller of Kabul

Two weeks after September 11th, award-winning journalist Asne Seierstad went to Afghanistan to report on the conflict. In the following spring she returned to live with a bookseller and his family for several months. The Bookseller of Kabul is the fascinating account of her time spent living with the family of thirteen in their four-roomed home. Bookseller Sultan Khan defied the authorities for twenty years 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 in attics all over Kabul. But while Khan is passionate in his love of books and hatred of censorship, he is also a committed Muslim with strict views on family life. As an outsider, Seierstad is able to move between the private world of the women - including Khan's two wives - and the more public lives of the men. The result is an intimate and fascinating portrait of a family which also offers a unique perspective on a troubled country.

This book is a fantastic read and as I am currently quite heavily involved with people from Muslim background and as an Indian friend of mine got married in an arranged wedding recently, I could relate to the story incredibly well. It is an amazing and shocking story and Seierstad explained well the relationships between the family members and the difficulties of free speech and free thoughts amongst women.

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