Monday, 9 November 2009

The BookSeller of Kabal: My Thoughts

Lailia Tov;
It has been a good and peaceful day. It's get everything done, but hey! there is always tomorrow.
I finally dragged myself through the Bookseller of Kabul. The book ended on a very bad note. Rather depressing, filled with dread, like Leilia, the youngest sister: one's heart turns to dust and it is swept out with the morning dirt.
If you have read my first review on this book, you know I didn't care for it.
Now allow me to say: I hated it.
Ms.Seierstad choices to narrate from an fly on the wall viewpoint. She does not appear in the story, nor does she become part of the family, but remains a stranger looking in, a ghost if you will.
 She remains.....a  reporter...
 A reporter, cloaked in speculation and condescension with a veneer of journalistic self-rightious.
Ms.Seierstad delivers on golden plates the warm, juicy, sensationalism she knows we Westerners will eat up.....
 There is Sultan's being the favorite son and showing a head for busniess early on....
 A split with a younger brother who will not respect him. The courtship of the 16-year-old who became his second wife, against the wishes of his mother and the pleas of his first wife. Together with the Taliban book-burning, within the first several pages.These events, she did not witness, but reported upon.
And then there is the scene in the bath house. The english translation,  tame conpared to how it is really written in the author's mother tongue,  makes one blush, but for such a modest culture, this scence would feel like a rape. Yes, I said rape. For I have several muslim friends and such things are just not discussed. There are other scences I will not mention. Let's just say they shame not only Sultan Khan and his family, but thoughs around them as well.
Having cared for my mother in my home for several months after her stroke, I utter at the thought of such a scence written about us.
 I have been told by many who have been to Afghanistan that  polygamy is uncommon, that the middle-aged men they have  met had grown old with their wives and love them dearly. That they will sell everything they own to make sure their children recieve an education and they adore their wives, children, and their parnets. There is no reason why Sultan wishes another bride,
 What truly sadden and yes made me angry is that the author never tried to find out why Khan and his family did  the things she describes.  Sultan Khan himself remains an enigma, a man who endured two prison terms for selling books by immersing himself in Persian poetry. A man who demands respect, yet shows none. Willing to pay for his young bride to learn to read and write, yet pulled his sons out of school to mind his shops. The author never took the time to find out who Khan  was, or to try to explain his contradictions.
Contradictions that truth be told lie in all of us.
I felt cheated, betrayed. This was not the story I was expecting. And I am sure Ms. Seierstad could care less. In fact, she would take one look at me and think me as oppressed and as backwards as the women of Afghanistan.
For me, The Bookseller of Kabul was like watching CNN.
Which I hadn't watched in years.
Interesting, Mr. Khan has written his own book, There Once was a Bookseller in Kabul.
Now that should be an interesting read.
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