The Bookseller of Kabul

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 11 April, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 11 April, 2004, 12:00am

The Bookseller of Kabul

by Asne Seierstad

Virago $105

Norwegian journalist Asne Seierstad spent several months in the home of a bookseller named Sultan Khan just after the fall of the Taleban. Although based on fact, real names have been changed and her account reads like a novel. When it comes to free speech, Khan is a hero. He's had his books burned, and been thrown in prison for his beliefs. But at home he's a tyrant. In the opening chapter Khan, now in his 50s, has decided it's time to take a second wife as befits a man of his status, and he cruelly pushes his first wife aside. As the book progresses, we witness him treating his younger sister as a slave, and forcing his 12-year-old son to work instead of going to school (which he could easily afford). If this is a typical Afghan family - and Seierstad gives no indication that it isn't - the future, at least for the women, looks as bleak as it ever has.



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