Monday, June 25, 2007

The Bookseller of Kabul

This book, written by a western journalist (a woman), gives the reader a look inside life in Afghanistan shortly after the fall of the Taliban. By living with Kabul bookseller Sultan Kahn for approximately three months, she gets the family to let down their guard and show their true selves. Kahn, the bookseller, fancies himself an open minded intellectual, but forces his sons to work in the family business rather than pursue an education and treats his daughters and wives as servants. Because he is well read and western in some respects I found myself wondering if other families were even worse. The book is fascinating, recounting everything from the physical condition of the homes, (usually without furniture, the result of bombings from Afghanistan's many wars, to the treatment of women, (much as you'd expect with many personal stories of their loss of freedom and low status) to Afghani rituals such as weddings and pilgrimage. The book pulls no punches, and led to a lawsuit. Clearly, the author brings her own set of biases to the table but the book is a quick read and far more engrossing than Reading Lolita in Tehran.

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