The Bookseller of Kabul

The Bookseller of Kabul

3.75 (32,872 ratings by Goodreads)
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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 more

Product details

  • Paperback | 288 pages
  • 122 x 212 x 22mm | 222.26g
  • Little, Brown Book Group
  • Virago Press Ltd
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 1844080471
  • 9781844080472
  • 1,588

Review Text

Asne Seierstad's work as a war correspondent brought her to Afghanistan in 2001. Intrigued, she returned after the Taliban's fall, and spent four months living with the Khans. Noting how the family must have seen her as some 'bi-gendered' creature, she wastes no time introducing us to the central character, Sultan Khan, the bookseller of the title. Sultan's love for his ancient country's culture gives him strength to stand up to Communist and Taliban alike. As they burn and destroy his beloved books he consoles himself with the knowledge that he has hidden away many more. He's also a man who puts himself first, and seems to always get what he wants, be it a priceless Persian text or a new wife. Through the family's experiences, Seierstad's no-nonsense style provides a close up look at a fascinating country and its people, still daring to hope after the horrific ravages of the recent past. (Kirkus UK)show more

Review quote

"Written sometimes more like fiction than fact ... this is a remarkable portrait, with deftly woven accounts of weddings and journeys, books and bookselling, relations and squabbles, firmly anchored by pleasing details about food and customs, all set against the backdrop of a derelict city, filthy and crammed but not defeated" Independent "Remarkable . honestly and intelligently written" Isabel Hilton, Daily Telegraph " Fascinating ... a colourful portrait of people struggling to survive in the most brutal circumstances ... bear[s] witness to the power of literature to withstand even the most repressive regime" Michael Arditti, Daily Mail "An intimate portrait of Afghani people quite unlike any other book available on the country. It is a compelling read" Sunday Times "A unique insight into another world as the Norwegian answer to Kate Adie shares the life of a family in Kabul" Daily Mirror "A compelling picture of a country" Sunday Telegraph "...she wrote about this family simply because it interested her. This interest leaps from the pages. Seierstad's great strength lies in bringing all the characters to life with wonderful dialogue ... reads much like a novel ... there are vivid descriptio 'Seierstad's compelling family portrait is the heart of the book. Full of gossipy, jokey, intimate moments, sniffing the dust beneath the carpets, it shines it own fascinated gaze on rites of courtship and strictures of duty, kinship and protocol ... butshow more

About Asne Seierstad

Asne Seierstad (born 1970) has reported from Russia, China, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq, amongst many other countries. She has received numerous awards for her more

Rating details

32,872 ratings
3.75 out of 5 stars
5 22% (7,310)
4 41% (13,327)
3 29% (9,628)
2 6% (2,111)
1 2% (496)
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