The Bookseller of Kabul

( 39 )

Overview

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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Overview

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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Editorial Reviews

Richard McGill Murphy
The most intimate description of an Afghan household ever produced by a Western journalist. . . . Seierstad is a sharp and often lyrical observer.
New York Times Book Review
Mark Hertsgaard
An admirable, revealing portrait of daily life in a country that Washington claims to have liberated but does not begin to understand. Seierstad writes of individuals, but her message is larger.
Washington Post Book World
Scott W. Helman
A compelling portrait of a country at a crossroads - desperate for tranquillity, factionalized beyond imagination, struggling both to uphold tradition and to modernize, hoping to prove to itself and the rest of the world that it knows peace and stability.
Boston Globe
S. L. Allen
An unusually intimate glimpse of a traditional Afghan family. . . . Seierstad imbues a grim story with language of desolate beauty.
Entertainment Weekly
Steve Weinberg
A compelling book. . . . Seierstad infiltrated a world most readers will never see.
Denver Post
Steve Weinberg - Denver Post
"A compelling book. . . . Seierstad infiltrated a world most readers will never see."
Scott W. Helman - Boston Globe
"A compelling portrait of a country at a crossroads - desperate for tranquillity, factionalized beyond imagination, struggling both to uphold tradition and to modernize, hoping to prove to itself and the rest of the world that it knows peace and stability."
S. L. Allen - Entertainment Weekly
"An unusually intimate glimpse of a traditional Afghan family. . . . Seierstad imbues a grim story with language of desolate beauty."
Richard McGill Murphy - New York Times Book Review
"The most intimate description of an Afghan household ever produced by a Western journalist. . . . Seierstad is a sharp and often lyrical observer."
Mark Hertsgaard - Washington Post Book World
"An admirable, revealing portrait of daily life in a country that Washington claims to have liberated but does not begin to understand. Seierstad writes of individuals, but her message is larger."
The New York Times Book Review
Seierstad is a sharp and often lyrical observer of Afghan domestic life. Even in Ingrid Christophersen's slightly stiff translation, ''The Bookseller of Kabul'' reads like a novel and is absorbing reportage.

....From a strictly literary perspective, ''The Bookseller of Kabul'' is an effective portrait of one rather unhappy Afghan family. It is certainly the most intimate description of an Afghan household ever produced by a Western journalist. — Richard McGill

The Washington Post
… [Seierstad's] closely observed, affecting account of the family's daily life, and especially of the virtual slavery its females endure, suggests that change will come slowly if at all to Afghanistan … Seierstad writes of individuals, but her message is larger, and no one who reads it will be sanguine about transforming this very traditional culture into a modern democracy anytime soon. — Mark Hertsgaard
Publishers Weekly
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) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Sultan Khan, the title's bookseller, and his extended family are comparatively well educated and well off, yet their experiences exemplify the difficulties of effecting change in post-Taliban Kabul. Norwegian journalist Seirestad lived with the Khan family for several months in the spring of 2002, accompanying family members to work, school, shops, weddings, and more. Sultan's business trip to Pakistan, son Mansur's religious pilgrimage, and nephew Tajmir's work as a translator give her opportunities to comment on postwar life beyond Kabul. For more than 30 years, Khan risked arrest by selling books and other printed materials. Yet at home, in a cramped, war-battered apartment shared by mother, siblings, wives, children, and nephews, Sultan is a tyrant. With the exception of Sultan's mother, women in the Khan family have especially grim prospects: the birth of a daughter is considered a tragedy, and marriage, always arranged, confers status but often means trading one form of drudgery for another. Seirestad presents a vivid, intimate, yet frustrating picture of family life after the Taliban. Her book has been translated into 14 languages and is sure to be of interest to general readers here who are curious about life in Afghanistan. Recommended for public libraries.-Lucille M. Boone, San Jose P.L., CA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-A female journalist from Norway moved in with the Khan family in Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban. Disguised as she was behind the bulky, shapeless burka and escorted always by a man and even in Western dress, she was somehow anonymous and accepted readily into the bookseller's large extended family. Her account is of the tragedy, contradictions, rivalries, and daily frustrations of a middle-class Afghan family. She accompanied the women as they shopped and dressed for a wedding and was privy to the negotiations for the marriage. She tells of the death by suffocation of a young woman who met her lover in secret, the bored meanderings of a 12-year-old boy forced to work 12-hour days selling candy in a hotel lobby, and of going on a religious pilgrimage with a restless, frustrated teen. All this is recounted with journalistic objectivity in spite of her close ties to the Khans. Events that the author doesn't actually witness or participate in, she recounts from conversations with members of the family, primarily Sultan Khan's sister. There is much irony here-Sultan, who has risked his life to protect and disseminate books with diverse points of view, denies his sons the right to pursue an education and subjects his female relatives to drudgery and humiliation.-Jackie Gropman, Chantilly Regional Library, VA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
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. While covering the Northern Alliance's push south into Kabul after routing the Taliban, the author made the acquaintance of Sultan Khan, a bookseller who had been thrown into jail under both the communist and Taliban regimes. When it comes to literature, Sultan is "a freethinker . . . of the opinion that everyone had the right to be heard," and he paid the price for his beliefs. On the home front, however, he's an ingrained patriarch. It's easy to both admire and to loathe this complex character. On the one hand, Sultan puts himself in harm's way to save a few bits of Afghan heritage and to fight against Afghanistan's more obtuse traditions: "All we know is how to scream, pray and fight," he declares. "We search blindly for a holy man, and find a lot of hot air." But he is also hidebound by notions of honor and his repressive attitude toward women—not just repressive from a Western perspective, Seierstad points out, but stifling to the women's own aspirations, which she portrays with a grim vividness. Taking advantage of her position as a European reporter who can spend time with both men and women, Seierstad moves uneasily between their two worlds, and this tension gives her account its air of otherworldly reality. Quail fights alternate with henna nights, the law of warlords gives way to a day at the bath house, and we see a fundamental clash in Sultan's house between the dreams of women and those of men. A slice of Afghanistan today, rendered with atalent for fine, sobering prose and strange, unnerving settings that recall Ryszard Kapuscinski.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780316159418
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
  • Publication date: 10/6/2004
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 361,960
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.25 (h) x 0.87 (d)

Read an Excerpt



The Bookseller of Kabul




By Asne Seierstad


Time Warner



Copyright © 2002

Asne Seierstad
All right reserved.



ISBN: 0-316-73450-0






Chapter One


The Proposal


When Sultan Khan thought the time had come to find himself a new
wife, no one wanted to help him. First he approached his mother.

"You will have to make do with the one you have," she said.

Then he went to his eldest sister. "I'm fond of your first wife,"
she said. His other sisters replied in the same vein.

"It's shaming for Sharifa," said his aunt.

Sultan needed help. A suitor cannot himself ask for a girl's hand.
It is an Afghan custom that one of the women of the family convey
the proposal and give the girl the once-over to assure herself that
she is capable, well brought up, and suitable wife material. But
none of Sultan's close female relations wanted to have anything to
do with this offer of marriage.

Sultan had picked out three young girls he thought might fit the
bill. They were all healthy and good-looking, and of his own tribe.
In Sultan's family it was rare to marry outside the clan; it was
considered prudent and safe to marry relatives, preferably cousins.

Sultan's first candidate was sixteen-year-old Sonya. Her eyes were
dark and almond-shaped and her hair shining black. She was shapely,
voluptuous, and it was said of her that she was a good worker. Her
family was poor and they were reasonably closely related. Her
mother's grandmother and Sultan's mother's grandmother were sisters.

While Sultan ruminated over how to ask for the hand of the chosen
one without the help of family women, his first wife was blissfully
ignorant that a mere chit of a girl, born the same year she and
Sultan were married, was Sultan's constant preoccupation. Sharifa
was getting old. Like Sultan, she was a few years over fifty. She
had borne him three sons and a daughter. The time had come for a man
of Sultan's standing to find a new wife.

"Do it yourself," his brother said finally.

After some thought, Sultan realized that this was his only solution,
and early one morning he made his way to the house of the
sixteen-year-old. Her parents greeted him with open arms. Sultan was
considered a generous man and a visit from him was always welcome.
Sonya's mother boiled water and made tea. They reclined on flat
cushions in the mud cottage and exchanged pleasantries until Sultan
thought the time had come to make his proposal.

"A friend of mine would like to marry Sonya," he told the parents.

It was not the first time someone had asked for their daughter's
hand. She was beautiful and diligent, but they thought she was still
a bit young. Sonya's father was no longer able to work. During a
brawl a knife had severed some of the nerves in his back. His
beautiful daughter could be used as a bargaining chip in the
marriage stakes, and he and his wife were always expecting the next
bid to be even higher.

"He is rich," said Sultan. "He's in the same business as I am. He is
well educated and has three sons. But his wife is starting to grow
old."

"What's the state of his teeth?" the parents asked immediately,
alluding to the friend's age.

"About like mine," said Sultan. "You be the judge."

Old, the parents thought. But that was not necessarily a
disadvantage. The older the man, the higher the price for their
daughter. A bride's price is calculated according to age, beauty,
and skill and according to the status of the family.
When Sultan Khan had delivered his message, the parents said, as
could be expected, "She is too young."

Anything else would be to sell short to this rich, unknown suitor
whom Sultan recommended so warmly. It would not do to appear too
eager. But they knew Sultan would return; Sonya was young and
beautiful.

He returned the next day and repeated the proposal. The same
conversation, the same answers. But this time he got to meet Sonya,
whom he had not seen since she was a young girl.

She kissed his hand, in the custom of showing respect for an elder
relative, and he blessed the top of her head with a kiss. Sonya was
aware of the charged atmosphere and flinched under Uncle Sultan's
searching look.

"I have found you a rich man, what do you think of that?" he asked.
Sonya looked down at the floor. A young girl has no right to have an
opinion about a suitor.

Sultan returned the third day, and this time he made known the
suitor's proposition: a ring, a necklace, earrings, and bracelet,
all in red gold; as many clothes as she wanted; 600 pounds of rice,
300 pounds of cooking oil, a cow, a few sheep, and 15 million
afghani, approximately $500.

Sonya's father was more than satisfied with the price and asked to
meet this mysterious man who was prepared to pay so much for his
daughter. According to Sultan, he even belonged to their tribe, in
spite of their not being able to place him or remember that they had
ever met him.

"Tomorrow," said Sultan, "I will show you a picture of him."

The next day, fortified by a sweetener, Sultan's aunt agreed to
reveal to Sonya's parents the identity of the suitor. She took a
photograph with her-a picture of Sultan Khan himself-and with it the
uncompromising message that they had no more than an hour to make up
their minds. If the answer was yes, he would be very grateful, and
if it was no, there would be no bad blood between them. What he
wanted to avoid at all costs was everlasting bargaining about maybe,
maybe not.

The parents agreed within the hour. They were keen on Sultan Khan,
his money, and his position. Sonya sat in the attic and waited. When
the mystery surrounding the suitor had been solved and the parents
had decided to accept, her father's brother came up to the attic.
"Uncle Sultan is your wooer," he said. "Do you consent?"

Not a sound escaped Sonya's lips. With tearful eyes and bowed head,
she hid behind her long shawl.

"Your parents have accepted the suitor," her uncle said. "Now is
your only chance to express an opinion."

She was petrified, paralyzed by fear. She did not want the man but
she knew she had to obey her parents. As Sultan's wife, her standing
in Afghan society would go up considerably. The bride money would
solve many of her family's problems. The money would help her
parents buy good wives for their sons.

Sonya held her tongue, and with that her fate was sealed. To say
nothing means to give one's consent. The agreement was drawn up, the
date fixed.

Sultan went home to inform his family of the news. His wife,
Sharifa, his mother, and his sisters were seated around a dish of
rice and spinach. Sharifa thought he was joking and laughed and
cracked some jokes in return. His mother too laughed at Sultan's
joke. She could not believe that he had entered into a proposal of
marriage without her blessing. The sisters were dumbfounded.

No one believed him, not until he showed them the kerchief and
sweetmeats the parents of a bride give the suitor as proof of the
engagement.

Sharifa cried for twenty days. "What have I done? What a disgrace.
Why are you dissatisfied with me?"

Sultan told her to pull herself together. No one in the family
backed him up, not even his own sons. Nevertheless, no one dared
speak out against him-he always got his own way.

Sharifa was inconsolable. What really rankled was the fact that the
man had picked an illiterate, someone who had not even completed
nursery school. She, Sharifa, was a qualified Persian language
teacher. "What has she got that I haven't got?" she sobbed.

Sultan rose above his wife's tears.

No one wanted to attend the engagement party. But Sharifa had to
bite the bullet and dress up for the celebrations.

"I want everyone to see that you agree and support me. In the future
we will all be living under the same roof and you must show that
Sonya is welcome," he demanded. Sharifa had always humored her
husband, and now too, in this worst circumstance, giving him to
someone else, she knuckled under. He even demanded that Sharifa
should put the rings on his and Sonya's fingers.

Twenty days after the proposal of marriage the solemn engagement
ritual took place. Sharifa pulled herself together and put on a
brave face. Her female relatives did their best to unsettle her.
"How awful for you," they said. "How badly he has treated you. You
must be suffering."

The wedding took place two months after the engagement, on the day
of the Muslim New Year's Eve. This time Sharifa refused to attend.

"I can't," she told her husband.

The female family members backed her up. No one bought new dresses
or applied the normal amount of makeup required at wedding
ceremonies. They wore simple coiffures and stiff smiles-in deference
to the superannuated wife who would no longer share Sultan Khan's
bed. It was now reserved for the young, terrified bride-but they
would all be under the same roof, until death did them part.

(Continues...)




Excerpted from The Bookseller of Kabul
by Asne Seierstad
Copyright © 2002 by Asne Seierstad.
Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Foreword ix
The Proposal 3
Burning Books 9
Crime and Punishment 23
Suicide and Song 37
The Business Trip 41
Do You Want to Make Me Sad? 67
No Admission to Heaven 80
Billowing, Fluttering, Winding 84
A Third-Rate Wedding 94
The Matriarch 106
Temptations 122
The Call from Ali 131
The Smell of Dust 163
An Attempt 181
Can God Die? 194
The Dreary Room 204
The Carpenter 214
My Mother Osama 245
A Broken Heart 267
Epilogue 285
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 39 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(10)

4 Star

(21)

3 Star

(6)

2 Star

(2)

1 Star

(0)

Your Rating:

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 39 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 10, 2009

    I would read this book again...

    This book opened my eyes to many things that I would have never learned about Afghanistan from American media or literature. It was very enlightening, and I felt that for once I was getting truly expositional and objective information on the country, it's culture and beliefs etc. The author actually lives with an Afghani family and writes down what she witnesses. Much different than what we see on the CNN headlines. I would read this book again, it was very stimulating and made for interesting and intelligent conversations.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 8, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    A Thrilling Adventure of a lifetime

    I'm a soon to be junior at Holt High School. I'm doing a review in English class for the book The Bookseller of Kabul by Asne Seirstad. I came across this book one day in my school library when I was looking for a silent reading book. I told our librarian that I really liked the book The Kite Runner which had similar themes and she introduced me to this new book that had not even been put in our school library system yet. When she told me about the book and how it has a lot of connections with Afghan culture it made me want to read it more because that subject interests me.
    This book is about a family living in Afghanistan during the rise of the Taliban. They allow a reporter to come and stay with them for several months and shadow them as they go about their lives. The main character is Sultan Khan, a bookseller in Kabul. During the Taliban rule all books were banned besides the ones given by the Taliban. He is so in live with his books that throughout the book you will find yourself following him to prison and conflict. Another character in the book is Sultans wife Sharifa and his main wife Jamila. You also follow them as they demonstrate the strong principles of the role of women. You will get to experience Sultans son's first rebellion as a youth and his younger sisters as they get married and find jobs to escape their family's tight grip on their lives.
    Overall I give this book 3.5 stars because it is a very hard book to read and I would only suggest for advanced readers. It is interesting if you truly want to read but if you are not enjoying it the book will not make sense so a book I might suggest for you is the Kite Runner.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 30, 2009

    Bookseller of Kabul - A gift for book lovers

    This book satisfied some of my desire for knowledge about Afghanstan; the country, people and culture. The writing style made a difficult subject a pleasure to read and encouraged me to continue my search for further knowledge of this subject. A highly recommended read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 27, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Insight Into a Different World

    Seierstad's intimate portrait of an atypical family in Kabul, Afghanistan evokes a myriad of emotions. The reader, at times, feels caught between admiration for Sultan the bookseller who defends women's rights, and Sultan the tyrannical leader of his family who takes a different stance when it comes to the women in his household. I was left with a feeling of frustration and anger towards him and felt that his passion for books and knowledge was the most important thing in his life. His lack of compassion and concern for the plight of family members (especially the women) mirrored the way his father had ruled his family and, I suspect that Sultan's sons will follow in kind. One is left wondering if this cycle can ever be broken. A good read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 1, 2008

    Quick and enjoyable read that leaves a lasting impression. . .

    As someone who is not very knowledgeable of Afghanistan's culture, I found that Ms. Seierstad's book opened up a whole new world for me. She gave a revealing glimpse into the daily lives of the Khan family and I was impressed that they allowed her to experience, live and be a part of all these intimate details. What left the biggest impression for me is the way the author presented the personal conflicts of the younger Khan family members and in particular, Leila. Here she is, a 19 yr old who is clearly torn between her duty as an obedient daughter strapped by their culture and her own desires to live a different life. In the end, her choices were still made for her and one can't help but feel a little saddened. Great read!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 20, 2012

    I bought this book from a spontaneously decision while engaged w

    I bought this book from a spontaneously decision while engaged with THE KITE RUNNER. It is an amazing story of the life of an Afghan family that is keenly observed and portrayed by the author who lived with them for several months and observed their lives listened to their stories and finally came to relate to them. Though from quite a wealthy educated background, the family's story is still a struggle for self-esteem in a domineering culture of hierarchy that favors males and the elders, a culture of denial that often looks for scapegoats. Polygamy, oriental way of engaging in business, the status of women in the tribal and religious arrangement of southern Asia and the backdrop of the Afghan war all contributed to make this story enticing and gave a view of Afghanistan that many foreigners are not aware of.Disciples of Fortune, Swallows of kabul are other titles which helps us foreigners understand what the news do not present.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 20, 2010

    Grateful to be an "infidel"

    I picked this book up from the library at around the height of the controversy about building an Islamic culural center and mosque a few blocks from ground zero in NYC. That fact was purely coincidental but while beforehand I had not been too interested in the controversy one way or the other, this book did give me pause to think more deeply about the issue. This book is really less a cohesive novel than a series of stories about the individual dreams and plights of various people within Sultan, the bookseller's family. If Sultan is a modern and moderate Muslim, and if this depiction of family life is largely true, then God help all of these people. More interestingly, it seemed to me that in Afghanistan, at least, culture and religion are so strongly intertwined that it would be difficult to condemn the culture without at least seeming to condemn the faith. How can you separate the two? In this book it seemed Afghani culture was one in which women were bought and sold like animals, their only value to society on whether they could produce male offspring. Men's lives were no piece of cake either and it seems relationships between people are largely based on manipulation and fear, rather than love and mutual respect. One thing I did notice was that several of the men (and women too) would follow the strictures of their faith more for appearances than anything else. Where one minute they might be praying devoutly, the next minute they might be speaking and treating each other with the most callous of behaviors. I would not be surprised if some of these families--if they relocated to a western country--might simply abandon the demoralizing aspects of their culture/faith. I also can't help but think if they encouraged education for all, encouraged safe and responsible birth control and allowed both women and men to help earn money for their families, how so many more families would be lifted out of dire poverty. Western civilization is far from perfect, but I'll take being an infidel over Afghani life any day.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 22, 2010

    A glimpse into Afganistan daily life.

    It gave me a glimpse of what it would be like living in Afganistan...

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 22, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Pretty good.

    I found this book to be wonderful. However, some parts were very boring--which of course made me uninterested and made me want to skim through the chapter instead of reading it. But, the majority of this book was great! Very detailed and really let you learn about the life of a bookseller, the repressiveness in Afghanistan, the Taliban rules, Afghan history, and the horrible lives of women their. Overall, I recommend this book to everyone.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 11, 2007

    not accurate

    I thought this book protrayed Afghan culture very negatively. Some of the wording used was a bit offensive. Although many aspects of the culture are protrayed correctly many are not. I think it leads to people making assumptions about how afghans/middle easterners live.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 8, 2007

    A Look at Reality

    This well-written book gave, what I assume, is an accurate view of daily living in almost any Middle-Eastern country. I thought the descriptions of what women must deal with on many levels was informative and gave me pause not to complain about a particulary hard day in my life. My perception of the bookseller was that he was basically a good person yet so rigid with his rules. He did have a sense of fairness about him shown briefly but he always went back to the rules. His thought that if you didn't have an orderly house, how could you have an orderly community, etc. makes sense except it was carried to the extreme and then it lost its humaness. I thought the book was very readable, kept my interest, told life like it is, and I applaud the author in her honesty. This is definitly a book to be read by men and women.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 10, 2005

    Very Enjoyable Read!

    I really enjoyed this book. It was a fast read for me, mostly in part because once I started I wanted to finish it! The chapters did not flow together well, but the stories within the chapters were very interesting. I thought Seierstad did an excellent job portraying the life of women in the post-Taliban era. I was amazed on how little their lives had changed since the Taliban had left. I would recommend this to anyone wanting to learn more about Afghanistan and women there.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 10, 2005

    A foreign, mind-boggling world

    The Bookseller of Kabul by Åsne Seierstad is an insightful and absorbing book set in Afghanistan immediately after the fall of the Taliban. It provides the reader with an unforgettable look into the daily lives of a unique people during a sluggish period of change when the military and male-oriented principles imposed by the Taliban continue to persist despite its fall from power. In 2001, Åsne Seierstad, a Norwegian journalist, decided to experience life as a woman belonging to the household of Sultan Khan, a bookseller in Kabul, Afghanistan. She partook in the wearing of a burka, a muggy, constricting garment worn by women, and slept on a mat on the apartment floor with numerous other family members. She observed the hierarchy of power and the lack of freedom which affected the lives of each family member, from the eldest man of the household right down to the youngest unmarried sister. Long hours of work, a lack of education, and a need for trustworthy employees in the book store left the males of the household with no decisions regarding their future. Even so, the women had far less of a choice in their future plans than the men. The courting rituals of the Islamic religion required that a woman marry a man of the parents¿ choosing, and cooking, cleaning, and producing children became a woman¿s main purpose in life thereafter. Freedom, education, entertainment, reliable transportation, and security were rarely experienced. Despite the positive aspects of this Islamic culture, any American traveling to Kabul would immediately appreciate the overwhelming amount of choices that one gets to make on a daily basis. While reading The Bookseller of Kabul one truly experiences a foreign, mind-boggling world. Åsne Seierstad does a brilliant job of objectively portraying the daily lives of the Islamic family of Sultan Khan. I would strongly recommend this book to anyone looking for a quick, informative, and interesting book to enjoy.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 7, 2005

    A defining showcase of Afghani culture

    The Bookseller of Kabul showcases the lives in a family in Afghanistan after the Taliban's downfall. Seierstad gives the reader an intimate look at Afghani customs, daily life, family hierarchies, and attitudes. The most striking concept of the book for me was how scared people were to abandon the old Taliban enforcements. It was interesting to learn about another culture that most Americans know hardly anything about. The book surprised, frustrated, and entertained me, and I would recommend it to anyone interested in an informative and captivating read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 8, 2005

    A Realistic Account

    This book provides a great insight of the daily life of a typical Afghan household. In particular, Seierstad focuses on the domestic workings within the Afghan family. She provides us with a more realistic and personal description than could be derived from any non-fiction book. Whether Seierstad is describing the restricting burkas, the traditions involved in a wedding, the education system, or the hierarchy within the Afghan family, she does so with great detail and objectivity. This is a book that will open the eyes of westerners to the undeniable oppression which still exists in Afghanistan today. In reading this book I was able to connect to a country, once distant to me in so many ways.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 8, 2006

    An interested reader....

    This book is fantastic..... I allways understood that women in this scociety led such a miserable existance, but I never realized how it also affects the males of this scociety..... . This book is a real eye openner for anyone that wants to catch a glimpes into what life must be like in another part of the world, few have had the oppertunity too see. It has allowed me to understand at some level why it is that (they) view us the way (they) do and how very diffrent our culture's are. It will haunt me for a long time.... Everyday is a good day because, I did not wake up in Kabul,Afghanistan.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 10, 2005

    An Excellent Read

    The Bookseller of Kabul is an intimate portrait of a post-Taliban family constructed by Norwegian journalist Asne Seierstad as she lived with the family for three months. During her stay she used what others might over look as tools to understand this unusually educated and rich, yet decidedly traditional Afghani family. Using the burka to avoid attention in public, she has access as a journalist to both the woman and male perspectives, as a woman she can talk with the women and avoid rumors while as a journalist she can interview the males. With the ability to do this she has a very general and complete view of the happenings in this family. The book is put together in very organized short stories, giving a rich taste of the life customs and traditions of marriage, religion, and gender roles of a land that has been shattered by the Taliban regime. Two years has passed since U.S. occupation ands very little change has occurred in this country. People still live in fear and isolation seemingly hundreds of the years in the past. The book is more like a novel than a documentary, it is a very quick read, and is one of the more enjoyable books I have read all semester. One relates to the character¿s difficulties yet are tossed into an alien world. Just like the author, one becomes fed up with the patriarchal traditions and the seeming hopelessness for some who have no control over their destiny. It is an excellent and intimate view of a world across seas that people hear so much about of but know so little.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 12, 2005

    A Thought provoking look at women and the Taliban

    The story of a bookseller, braving the Taliban and risking everything to keep some part of Afghan history alive, presents a startling look into the daily life of Afghanistan today. Presented through the words of Asne Seierstad, the reader experiences her intial reactions to the suppression of the people, especially women. The world surely looks different when one is wearing a burka, and Seierstad does a wonderful job of presenting those differences. Little knowlegde of current affairs is neccessary to appreciate this story. A relatively quick read, this book is worth your time!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 8, 2005

    A good read

    This book was informative and yet entertaining. I enjoyed the perspective that Asne Seierstad brought to the book. The only reason that I only gave it four stars out of five is that I felt that it did not give enough attention to how the culture in Afghanistan was just as important as that of the United States. Overall, however, this book was more than worth the time it took to read it. As always it showed how, even though, I though I knew what the situation was like in Afghanistan, I still had no clue as to how it actually was.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 7, 2005

    Cultural Differences Exposed

    The Bookseller of Kabul follows an Afghan bookseller and his family shortly after the fall of the Taliban. The story does a nice job of showing the structure of the patriarchal family and the affect war has had on the society is visible in the descriptions throughout the story. Cultural traditions are also highlighted in the text. The thing I found most striking in this book was how different women are treated in society and within the family compared to Western culture.

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