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  • The Bookseller of Kabul

  • By: Asne Seierstad
  • Narrated by: Emilia Fox
  • Length: 6 hrs and 54 mins
  • Abridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History, Asia
  • 3.9 out of 5 stars (90 ratings)

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Summary

A Richard and Judy Book Club Selection.

For more than 20 years Sultan Khan defied the authorities to supply books to the people of Kabul. He was arrested, interrogated, and imprisoned, and watched illiterate soldiers burn piles of his books in the street. In spring 2002, award-winning journalist Asne Seierstad spent four months living with the bookseller and his family. As she steps back from the page and lets the Khans tell their stories, we learn of proposals and marriages, hope and fear, crime and punishment. The result is a unique portrait of a family and a country.
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©2002 Asne Seierstad (P)2005 Time Warner AudioBooks

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What listeners say about The Bookseller of Kabul

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Ethical issues

This book has ethical issues related to the underlying journalism — readers should bear that in mind

3 people found this helpful

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Worst Book I’ve read in some time

It was repetitive and poorly written. The reader was mis-cast and it just sounded patronising.

2 people found this helpful

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Novel without a story

I kept on listening that maybe some story begins but none.
Waste of efforts and time.

1 person found this helpful

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Bleak 'non fiction' but can it really be accurate?

A supposedly non-fiction book written by a Scandinavian who did not speak the local languages and only stayed with the bookseller's family for 3 months and yet we are to believe that she was able to get into the heads of multiple people from a completely different culture. And 100% bleakness? No place for happiness/brightness in this society? There are points of interest in it, however, and the narrator does an excellent job with the matieral available.

1 person found this helpful

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Brilliant insight to this Country and it's people

Any additional comments?

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.

1 person found this helpful

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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...

1 person found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars

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.

1 person found this helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars

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
background.

6 people found this helpful

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Culture Clash

The moral of this story appears to be; that if you are an Afghani book seller, despite the Islamic/Afghani tradition of hospitality do not under any circumstances let a Norwegian journalist into your home under any circumstances whatsoever. The author of this book has availed of this mans hospitality and has dragged his name and reputation through the mud.

As I read the book I started to feel very uncomfortable, so I google the author, and found out the “Bookseller” took her to court for misrepresenting her in this book. He also had to seek asylum:in Scandinavia because certain “secrets” in the book put him in danger with the Taliban. This is a man who has stayed in his Country through the Russian invasion, the civil war and through Taliban rule. He has had his books burned by the Communists and the Taliban and has also suffered imprisonment under these regimes. He survived all this but had to seek asylum because his “guest” felt in the interest of good journalism she had to expose his most sensitive secrets.

It reminds me very much of Jean Sassins book Princess about Saudi misogyny. The thing about these books is that nothing good at all is said about the people or their countries. Jean Sassin I found out after reading her book is the journalist who made up the story of Iraqi soldiers stealing baby incubators from Kuwaiti hospitals. These authors seem to come straight from Orwell’s Ministry of Truth.

I love Emilia Fox (the narrator) I think she is a fine actress, but in the recording of this book she read some Islamic/Afghani phrases like a true English woman, atrociously. I wouldn’t mind but they are simple things we all learn when we go to Turkey of Eygpt on holiday. The author also said the Quran says if Muslims drink alcohol they must be flogged 100 times. I googled this and the Quran says nothing of the sort.

I promised myself years ago that I would read this book, the title and the cover photo were intriguing. I expected to hear the authors take on the Perion mystical poets, this is after al the country of Rumi, Hafiz and Kabir. The only story from these literary greats of World literature was a sordid sexual story which is wheeled out by every Islamaphobe when they want to portray Islamic civilisation and culture in a bad light.

We all know the Islamic World is extremely trouble I don’t think one of them escaped years of colonisation so they are deeply scarred. This type of literature just rubs salt into old wounds. I do hope the author can reflect on her time in Afghanistan and find a little Ray of light she can reflect back at us.

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Excellent

I loved this book, the story, the way it was written, the narrator was just perfect. It’s a long time since I had such a good book.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 12-05-17

The book seller of Kabul

I enjoyed the insight to a different culture the narrator was excellent more for female readers.