The Bookseller of Kabul by Åsne Seierstad
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I realize I’m a bit late to thepartyreading this book. Nonetheless, it appealed to me and I’ve finally gotten around to doing it.
I wish there was a 4 1/2 star rating. I very much enjoyed the book but it’s just not at the five-star superior level.
It’s a fascinating story that provides a snapshot into the life of one Afghan family.
The experience of women in the family is particularly startling, in comparison to our modern western way of life and values. The chapter where the author describes the women simply as Burkas going through the daily actions of their lives underscores the lack of identity provided to these women. More so even than rights, this culture truly stripes women of a sense of self.
Western European women women were subject to the laws favoring husbands, treated as chattel, and could suffer physical abuse. But they seemed to at least have more identity. They oversaw castles and manners when men were at court, as nuns they were able to escape male control, and female townspeople often engaged in their husbands trade as assistants or their own trades brewing beer or as midwives. Marriages were certainly property and status transfer arrangements but don’t seem to be nearly as identity destroying as those described in the book.
Reading, or in my case listening to the book, makes you wonder at how strange these people seem– as if they are some kind of aberration. But, the people who are really the aberration are us. Going over all the people in the world throughout history very few have really given women the sort of freedom we have now.
The book also provides an examination of some of the strange and hypocritical social dynamics that arise from this culture. Men who engage in perverse sexual relations because they take advantage of system rigged against women. The intolerance of female sexuality but a tolerance for homosexual behavior.
There is a voyeurism that captures you while reading allowing you to sneak behind the “iron Burka”.