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Two weeks after September 11th, award-winning journalist Asne Seierstad went to Afghanistan to report on the conflict there. In the following spring she returned to live with an Afghan family for several months. For more than 20 years Sultan Khan defied the authorities - be they Communist or Taliban - in order to supply books to the people of Kabul. He was arrested, interrogated and imprisoned by the Communists, and watched illiterate Taliban soldiers burn piles of his books in the street. He even resorted to hiding most of his stock in attics all over Kabul. But while Khan is passionate in his love of books and hatred of censorship, he is also a committed Muslim with strict views on family life. As an outsider, Seierstad is able to move between the private world of the women - including Khan's two wives - and the more public lives of the men. And so we learn of proposals and marriages, suppression and abuse of power, crime and punishment. The result is a moving portrait of a family and a clear-eyed assessment of a country struggling to free itself from history.
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About the Author

Asne Seierstad (born 1970) has worked as a war correspondent in Russia, China, Kosovo and Iraq. Two weeks after 9/11 she went to Afghanistan and reported on the conflict for various Scandinavian papers and TV. She has received numerous awards in Norway for her journalism.


The author spent months living with a bookseller and his family in Kabul. Sultan Khan, a devout Muslim, has two wives and a family to look after; and we get a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the enclosed life women lead in this strange world and the harsh laws that surround it. We learn about the daily life, proposals and marriages, crime and punishment. It is a vivid and compelling picture of family life, beautifully written and very moving. As a study of a country striving to emerge into this new century it makes fascinating reading and should sell very well.

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