Friday, May 14, 2010

The Bookseller of Kabul by Åsne Seierstad

Very good introduction to middleclass moslem culture in Kabul, Afghanistan

Rating 8 out of 10

It's a quite impressive book that Åsne Seierstad has managed to produce. The story behind the book is that Åsne Seierstad entered Kabul together with the Northern Alliance (Various Afghan troops and military groups who was fighting Taliban) two weeks after 9/11. In Kabul she met the bookseller and lived for some months with his family. She has transformed interviews with the family and her own experiences into the fictional account which the book is. The book is lovely political incorrect and it's my sense that it gives a quite truthful picture of middleclass moslem life in Kabul. The central character of the book is the bookseller Sultan Khan, he is an entrepreneuristic individual and runs several bookshops around Kabul. Khan is described as a quite liberal man, but still he is to a significant extend still a traditional Afghan man. For example during the account he takes a 2. wife, I think she is around 16 and he is 40 something. In his house he is the supreme lord, his word is law. Still Sultan give me a sympathetic impression, and I definitely think that a developing Afghanistan could be build upon individuals like Sultan. The book provides a whole host of insights into Afghan middleclass culture, which I before was absolutely ignorant about. A thread running through the book, one feels, is the authors resentment to the very substantial supression of women, which is cardinal trait of Afghan culture.

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