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17 Sep 2004
The Bookseller of Kabul - Åsne Seierstad - Virago 2004
* * *
In November 2001, while reporting on the fall of the Taliban, the journalist Åsne Seierstad met a bookshop owner in Kabul called Sultan Khan. His life had been a constant battle to protect the art and literature of Afghanistan from the various authoritarian regimes that sought to ban or censor them - first the communists, then the Mujahedeen, and finally the Taliban (whose soldiers, apparently, burnt any book containing pictures of living things but left the heretical texts because they couldn't read). Seierstad was impressed - anyone would be - by his heroism in trying to save his culture. She decided to write a book about his family, not because it was typical of Afghan families in general but because it inspired her. The result, however, is more of an inditement of Sultan Khan and his culture than a celebration.
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