The Bookseller of Kabul by Åsne Seierstad Summary & Study Guide by BookRagsI was expecting a novel, along the lines of say, The Kite Runner. On the surface, though, The Bookseller of Kabul is a work of non fiction, an insight into the life of an ordinary (if middle class) Afghan family written by the western journalist allowed to share their home for several months.
Work of fiction? Or authentic family history? The book has been the subject of a lawsuit and, even now, no one seems sure whether some, all, or none of it is based on fact.
Whatever - the jacket text tells us that for more than twenty years Sultan Khan defied the Afghani 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. We are led to believe we are going to meet something of a folk hero of Afghanistan and the literary world. The reality is a little different.
For a start, this book isn’t really about books. It’s about a family and, consequently, about ignorance, oppression and bullying in a society the western world knows relatively little about. Sultan Khan is a domestic tyrant. He might be an educated man, but his control is absolute. His teacher wife, Sharifa, is supplanted (emotionally and geographically) by the uneducated and spoilt 16 year old that Khan takes as his second wife. Khan’s youngest sister, Laila, is little more than a slave to the rest of the family with no control or even influence over her own life. The male members of the family fare a little better, but even they are subject to the selfishness and arrogance of the patriarch.
Over and over again the same theme emerges: the injustices suffered by those without power and influence.
I don’t know whether the Bookseller of Kabul is based on fact or largely invented, but I have read enough about life in Afghanistan to know that while the detail may be invented, the overall picture is pretty accurate.
The Bookseller of Kabul Book Summary and Study Guide
It takes a novelistic approach, focusing on characters and the daily issues that they face. Disguising herself by wearing a burka , she lived with a bookseller and his family in Kabul which provided her with a unique opportunity to describe life as ordinary Afghan citizens saw it. As well as giving a historical account of events in Afghanistan as democracy is established, Seierstad focuses on the conditions of Afghan women who still live very much under the domination of men—Afghan traditions allow for polygamy and arranged marriage. She also addresses the conflict between westernization and traditional Islam , and gives an accessible account of Afghanistan's complex recent history under the rule of the USSR , the Taliban and coalition-supported democracy. Following global critical acclaim, many of the book's descriptions were contested by Rais, whose second wife Suraia sued the author in Norway for defamation. Seierstad won an appeal which overturned the previous ruling and cleared the author and her publisher, Cappelen Damm, of invading the privacy of the Rais family, and concluded that the facts of the book were accurate.
Detailed plot synopsis reviews of The Bookseller of Kabul In The Bookseller of Kabul, Asne Seierstad tries to answer the question: What kind of lives do Afghani men, women and children lead after the fall of the Taliban? She does this through a case study of one family. Economically, the Khans are not a typical Afghani family. The head, Sultan, owns bookstores in the country's capitol, and he is modestly wealthy. When the author, Asne Seierstad, first meets him, she is impressed by his seemingly liberal way of thinking, especially with respect to women. Seierstad thinks she might have struck a cultural anomaly in the male-dominated Afghan society and arranges to live with Sultan and his family to develop her story on life in Afghanistan. Click here to see the rest of this review.
The book tells the story of how people cope with the trials and tribulations of everyday life in a country with oppressive customs and traditions. The author lives with the Kahn family in their small crowded apartment to experience everyday life and to gather information for the book. In doing so, she reveals the oppressive nature of the life of Afghani women. Sultan Kahn is a bookseller. He receives training as an engineer but gives up that career because of his interest in books. He loves books from the time he is a child.
This Study Guide consists of approximately 22 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of The Bookseller of Kabul. The Bookseller of Kabul by Asne Seierstad is the story of the Sultan Kahn family.
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