The Bookseller of Kabul by Asne Seierstad

The Bookseller of Kabul by Asne Seierstad

This book is a portrait of the life of an Afghan family in 2002 after the fall of the Taliban. It is beautifully written by a Norwegian journalist who spent 4 months living with the bookseller and his family. Asne Seierstad succeeds in bringing all the characters to life, including Sultan Khan who for more than 20 years defied the authorities to supply books to the people of Kabul, during this time he was arrested, interrogated and imprisoned and watched illiterate soldiers burn piles of his books in the street. It made me realise the power of literature to withstand even the most repressive regime.

Conditions during the time that Asne lived with the family were still difficult and many families were still very poor, but there was a fragile peace and considerable hope.

“No longer was anyone frightened of being pestered by the police, women could once again go to town unaccompanied, they could study, girls could go to school.”

This made me feel very sad given the current regression of women’s rights under the Taliban regime.

Although there was much to admire in the courage demonstrated by the family described in the book, one thing continually provoked me to anger and that was the way that men treated women. The belief in men’s superiority is so deeply ingrained and tragically, today this is even worse under Taliban rule.