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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 history.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9781844080472
ISBN-10: 1844080471
Format: Paperback
(197mm x 130mm x 21mm)
Pages: 288
Imprint: Virago Press Ltd
Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
Publish Date: 4-Mar-2004
Country of Publication: United Kingdom


UK Kirkus Review » 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)

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Book Review: Bookseller of Kabul by Asne Seierstad - Reviewed by (08 Jun 2011)

An enticing look into the life of a middle class family in post September 11 Afghanistan. The author sensitively tells the true stories of various members of Sultan Kahn's family with whom she stays. Kahn (The bookseller) is an extremely passionate man who flouts rules but rules his family with an iron fist. The treatment of women - even post Taliban is confronting to westerners and despite the women of Sultan's family not liking the situation both they and the men are accepting of their lot - after all what choice do they have. Their lives are owned by the patriarch of the family; that is just the way it is!

Author Biography - 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 journalism.

Books By Author Asne Seierstad

One of Us by Asne Seierstad

One of Us

Paperback / softback, April 2016
Angel of Grozny by Asne Seierstad

The Angel of Grozny

Paperback, April 2009
With Their Backs to the World by Asne Seierstad

With Their Backs to the World

Paperback, October 2006
Hundred and One Days by Asne Seierstad

A Hundred and One Days

Paperback, February 2006