©2002 Asne Seierstad; (P)2005 Time Warner AudioBooks
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"Brilliant insight to this Country and it's people"
I was uncertain whether I really wanted to hear this, but it was on my book club's list so I gave it a go. I couldn't put it down. I felt that I better understood the situation in the country and what had lead to it's problems. Somewhat brutal at times, certainly very sad in places, but always fascinating.
"Insightful, challenging but troubling book"
Somewhat tragic story of enlightenment marred by paternalism, parochialism and conservatism.
This is the story of a well known family of booksellers and how they survive and at times thrive in challenging periods of Kabul’s political history – before, during and after the Taliban. Semi-ethnographic insights are generously offered from an outsider-insider story of a bookseller who treasured and protected Afghanistan’s written history, and his family. Despite hardship, poverty, threats, violence and abuse the family protect and treasure important books from the repressive intolerance of the Taliban regime. The bookseller positions himself as neutral; selling whatever people are prepared to buy, often stocking diametrically political perspectives.
The book emerges from a Norwegian journalist who was hospitably accommodated by the bookseller’s family; learning about their past, exploring the perspectives and stories of each of the family members. She promises to tell the story of the family and its important role in protecting the cultural history of Afghanistan. She records the stories of the bookseller and his family, and in so doing brings to light his harsh and abusive side.
The Bookseller of Kabul offers interesting insights into Afghanistan in different periods; into the clash of cultures; the value of books; and intra-family power dynamics and abuse.
The successful publication and sales of this book created its own story: the ethics of receiving and benefiting from the hospitality of a family while producing a work which is deeply critical of the (superficially disguised) host himself and his relationships with family and others.
Insightful but troubling...
"At what costs???"
The book is written well, but at what costs??? Yeah, it is a great story plot, but - for the readers, written totally from a western perspective. It emphasises aspects of the culture, which are not right, like supression of women, but it sadly it never mentions aspects of culture, which are uncommonly generous in our western culture, like looking after our relatives or guests. What it does not mention is the cost - the impact of this book on the family, who so generously welcomed the author in their home, now knowing that this would ruin them and their livelihood. I did not know it when I read this book, but feel deeply disturbed by the breach of trust and confidence. If I had an informed choice again, I would certainly donate the money to the charity rather than to an author of a book, who abused the generosity and trust of their hosts. This review comes from a person from a European
"A must read about family life in Afghanistan"
The author, a Norwegian woman, gets the opportunity of staying with an Afghan family, the Bookseller of Kabul to be precise, and Seierstad shares with us what she sees, learns and experiences about the life of the bookseller, a society, a country and a family structure so very different from ours.
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