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The Bookseller of Kabul By Åsne Seierstad
(Translated by Ingrid Christophersen)
Published by Virago 2004

For more than twenty years Sultan Khan defied the authorities to supply books to the people of Kabul. He was arrested, interrogated and imprisoned under both the communist and Taliban regimes, and watched illiterate soldiers burn piles of his books in the street.

In spring 2002 award-winning journalist Åsne Seierstad spent four months living with the bookseller and his mother, siblings, wives, children and nephews in a small four-roomed house. She accompanied family members to work, school, shops, weddings and more. As a Western she was allowed access to the worlds of both men and women and offers a vivid portrayal of the lives of Afghani living under fundamentalist Islam.

While Sultan is passionate about books and hates censorship, he is also a committed Muslim with strict views on family life and the role of women. At home, he behaves like a tyrant with the women in his family, with the exception of his mother, treated as virtual slaves. Even after the Taliban’s collapse, Afghani women must submit to arranged marriages, polygamous husbands, and crippling limitations on their ability to travel, learn and communicate with others.
As Seierstad lets the Khans tell their stories, we learn of proposals and marriage, hope and fear, crime and punishment. The result is a unique portrait of a family and a country trying to find its way between the forces of modernity and tradition.

‘An intimate portrait of Afghani people quite unlike any other book available on the country. It is a compelling read.’ Sunday Times

‘An international bestseller, it will likely stand as one of the best books of reportage of Afghan life after the fall of the Taliban’ Publishers Weekly

'Written sometimes more like fiction than fact . . . this is a remarkable portrait'

‘Seierstad’s great strength lies in bringing all the characters to life with wonderful dialogue … a delightful book’. Literary Review

‘The Bookseller of Kabul reads like a novel and is absorbing reportage’
Richard McGill, The New York Times Book Review

Åsne Seierstad was born in Norway. She is an award-winning journalist who has reported from such war-torn regions as Chechnya, the Balkans, Iraq and Afghanistan. The Bookseller of Kabul has been translated into fourteen languages.

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