Two weeks after September 11th, award-winning journalist Asne Seierstad went to Afghanistan to report on the conflict there. In the following spring she returned to live with an Afghan family for several months. For more than twenty years Sultan Khan defied the authorities - be they communist or Taliban - to supply books to the people of Kabul. He ...
Two weeks after September 11th, award-winning journalist Asne Seierstad went to Afghanistan to report on the conflict there. In the following spring she returned to live with an Afghan family for several months. 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 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. And so we learn of proposals and marriages, suppression and abuse of power, crime and punishment. The result is a gripping and moving portrait of a family, and a clear-eyed assessment of a country struggling to free itself from history.
I am glad Asne wrote this book. We need to know more about the life style of families in the middle east. I am loaning to friends and suggested the book for a book club I belong to.
Apr 13, 2008
Perhaps I shouldn't have read this book just on the heels of Persian Girls because it was too easy to make comparisons. Although not as well written as PG I found it very educational. I liked the juxtaposition of admiration and disgust I felt for the "Bookseller". It just illuminated how cultures are so vastly different--how someone "advanced" in one society can be seen as "backward" in another. Initially I was afraid the book would only focus on the oppression of women but I was glad to see it depicted problems the men have as well (when you aren't the eldest male of the family). Again, makes me thankful to be where I am today. May have given it 5 stars except it seemed somewhat fictionalized (my take only) compared to other non-fiction books I've read.
Jun 7, 2007
This is a fantastic book to read. I finished reading it in two days because I was not able to put it down, and I have recommended the book to everyone I know. It has opened my eyes to a different way of life outside the US, and it has inspired me to continue reading more books about Middle Eastern culture.
Apr 3, 2007
Just the beginning
This is an interesting book describing life inside an Afghan household. The writer has a chance to live with a family in Kabul and share everyday life with the member of the family. She writes about the challenges of being a family member in Afghanistan -- not only women but also men under the rule of a patriarch. However, the most interesting part of this book is the research to be done afterwards. The fallout after the book touches everyone -- the family and the author. As with most situations in life, there are two sides -- if not more -- to the story. It is a good lesson on the effects of the observer on the observed.
Publishers Weekly, 2003-09-29 After living for three months with the Kabul bookseller Sultan Khan in the spring of 2002, Norwegian journalist Seierstad penned this astounding portrait of a nation recovering from war, undergoing political flux and mired in misogyny and poverty. As a Westerner, she has the privilege of traveling between the worlds of men and women, and though the book is ostensibly a portrait of Khan, its real strength is the intimacy and brutal honesty with which it portrays the lives of Afghani living under fundamentalist Islam. Seierstad also expertly outlines Sultan's fight to preserve whatever he can of the literary life of the capital during its numerous decades of warfare (he stashed some 10,000 books in attics around town). Seierstad, though only 31, is a veteran war reporter and a skilled observer; as she hides behind her burqa, the men in the Sultan's family become so comfortable with her presence that she accompanies one of Sultan's sons on a religious pilgrimage and witnesses another buy sex from a beggar girl-then offer her to his brother. This is only one of many equally shocking stories Seierstad uncovers. In another, an adulteress is suffocated by her three brothers as ordered by their mother. Seierstad's visceral account is equally seductive and repulsive and resembles the work of Martha Gellhorn. An international bestseller, it will likely stand as one of the best books of reportage of Afghan life after the fall of the Taliban. (Oct. 29) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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