The Bookseller Of Kabul Paperback – 4 Mar 2004
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"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 ... but)
* The international bestseller: 'An intimate portrait of Afghani people quite unlike any other ... a compelling read' Christina Lamb, SUNDAY TIMESSee all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
It reads like fiction -- penetrating, prejudicial and convincing but, although names have been changed, it is an honest, warts and all, account of life in Kabul. Khan, seemingly urbane, educated and liberal, is the tyrannical head of large family – mother, siblings, two wives and five children. Khan’s subjugation of the women in his family is shocking from a Western point of view: As Seierstad moves into his home, Khan takes a second wife, a sexy, uneducated sixteen-year-old, dishonouring and cutting to the quick his loyal and educated first wife: his youngest sister is treated as little more than a slave. And it is this that is the meat of the book; the personal power struggles that exist within the family – struggles which Khan will always win.
The shocking portrait of women’s lives, even under the liberalising regime of Afghan leader Karzai, is frightening, repulsive even from a western perspective, but there is nothing here to suggest that Khan is anything other than a typical head of the family. His mother, sisters, wives and daughters, seem to lose identity under the burqa, which hides not only their femininity and personality, but also their imaginations. Not here will you find justification of the regime: these women resent, in different ways, their position.Read more ›
The book tells of how one woman was murdered for “honour”, how women are bought and sold in marriage, how polygyny affects women who can’t divorce for cultural reasons, how women are denied the right to work by sons or brothers, how the life of women is restricted by culture and traditions.
Don’t read this book if you are looking for a culture relativist feel-good message. Do read this book if you are interested in the realities of life inside the burqa, life behind the “iron veil”.
P.S. And you’d better hurry, because the bookseller is now threatening to sue publishers in seventeen countries, demanding the book to be censored.
Sultan Khan oppresses his entire family. Even though he's well educated and wealthy, he refuses to allow his children and youngest sister to go to school. At more than 50 years old, he decides to marry a 16 year old girl, but the women in the family are given no choice who they marry. Most of this book makes me very angry. It protrays a family where one man decides all their lives and they regard this as normal. At the same time, the few references to Sultan Khan's imprisonments and the destruction of his books do make me sympathise with him to some extent.
I would recommend that anyone who reads this, should also read 'My Forbidden Face' by Latifa. The latter book shows that not all Afghani families are oppressive like the Khan family. Latifa grew up in the suburb where the Khan's live, but her family situation was like most in the west. She was free to follow her dreams for her career and love until the Taliban arrived.
I would recommend 'The Bookseller of Kabul', but only with 'My Forbidden Face'.
However, the book appears to focus less on the "book-selling" aspect rather than his personality and family life. It is nigh on impossible to come away from the book without loathing Sultan Khan, for his pompous arrogance and selfishness. It is thus possible to see why the bookseller in question filed a lawsuit against Ms Seierstad.
My heart bled for various members of his family who were at his mercy, including his nephew, dismissed in the blink of an eye for no reason other than that Mr Khan had tired of him. Few male characters were truly likable, although Mr Khan's son was pitiable at times, primarily because he too was subject to the will of his father.
Even the most hard-hearted individual would feel for his poor sister Laila, who as the youngest unmarried daughter of the clan, is at the very bottom of the hierarchy. Hers is a truly miserable existence indeed, and she captures the essence of confinement, subservience and "eating dust".
The women suffer greatly at the hands of Sultan Khan, not least his first wife Sharifa, a qualified teacher who at the beginning of the book is subjected to the humiliation of a second wife entering her household: that too an un-educated teenager, whom she specifically must welcome into the family as her own.
The book contains vivid descriptions of the Afghan way of life.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is the first book I have ever read by asne seierstad and I enjoyed it thoroughly. Some narratives had me in stitches and others had me tearing out my hair. Read morePublished 8 days ago by Amelia Ofori
He is a mysogenist, does not believe in Women's Rights, but is too impossibly Liberal for Afghanistan. Book IF TRUE is a real eyeopenerPublished 1 month ago by Mr P J Wharmby
A superb account & as is her book on the Iraq war - another'must readPublished 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
A very personal insight into the lives of a family in Afghanistan and the women of the family in particularPublished 2 months ago by JG Perthshire
This has to be one of the most stunning books I have read for a long time, I simply couldn't put it down. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Pat Barnett
I did enjoy this. It was a quick read. A bit unbelievable at times as I don't think the family involved would have told an outsider all that they supposedly did. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Caroline Quain