“The Bookseller of Kabul” by Åsne Seierstad

This article is also available in: Italiano

A step back several years with “The bookseller of Kabul”, a book that has, in a certain sense, paved the way for Afghanistan. Journalist Åsne Seierstad spent the year in Kabul, together with a family of booksellers.

The Bookseller of Kabul

November 2001. Åsne Seierstad enters Kabul and the life of Sultan Khan, the bookseller who paid for the fight for the dignity of his nation with prison. The young Norwegian reporter becomes Sultan’s “blonde daughter” for almost a year, a guest in her home and a witness to forbidden loves, crimes, punishments, youth rebellions and injustices that mark the daily life of the Khan family, divided between honor and the humiliations suffered, especially by women, under the Taliban regime.

The Bookseller of Kabul
Åsne Seierstad

The Kabul bookseller is the account of that extraordinary experience, the voice of a people trying to recover after the war, the dreams of redemption that pierce the darkness of a society struggling for survival.

A first impact with Afghanistan

“The Bookseller of Kabul” was by far one of the first books set in the Middle East that we read, it is inevitable that for us it is a source of great memories and experiences. It was our first periscope in a world that was almost unknown to us at the time, the history of the Seierstad was perfect for the occasion.

The Bookseller of Kabul
Shah Mohammad Rais, the true “bookseller of Kabul” who inspired the figure of Sultan Khan

In fact, the reporter had never been to the Middle East and the theme of “discovery” is present throughout the novel. This allows for those who are less familiar with these areas a gradual and constant deepening into a world that may seem so far away to some. As in “The Breadwinner”, the profession of the patriarch will then be precious to fully understand the wonderful culture of this country, too often overshadowed by current events. In fact, Sultan Khan stands as a real beacon of culture, in the darkest moment ever for it. With his small library, she will do everything to ensure that the ancient history of Afghanistan is never, ever destroyed.

A highly recommended novel if you want to get in touch with a culture as particular as that of Afghanistan, a union of a thousand thousand cultures that these places have populated.

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