Norway adds insult to injury for real Bookseller of Kabul

Reply Mon 18 Sep, 2006 07:42 pm
Interesting questions of author responsibility, and intercultural conflict of perception, involved here...

On a more political note (I hesitated between posting this in "Books" or in "International News"), I have little truck with Afghan treatment of women, but I cant help sympathising a bit with Rais here. Some Norwegian writer writes things about him that arguably put the life of his family in danger, but he is then kept from presenting his own book in Norway because of the fear that, because of that danger, he might seek asylum there. Now thats being f*cked over.

Norway adds insult to injury for real Bookseller of Kabul

The Independent
17 September 2006


    There has been another twist in the tale of The Bookseller of Kabul. And it looks like there might not be a happy ending. Mohammed Rais, on whom Asne Seierstad based her international bestseller, had planned to visit Seierstad's home country to launch his own book, which he hopes will redress what he sees as an intrusive and damning portrayal of him. Seierstad, a Norwegian journalist, spent four months living with Rais and his family in Afghanistan, and wrote of Rais's women: the "old slaves, young slaves" that surround a successful Afghan man. She described the "honour killing" of a female relative, and said Rais turned a blind eye when his son was accused of sexually abusing child beggars. Launching a lawsuit against the author and her publisher in June, the lawyer of Rais claimed that "what Seierstad has written is incorrect, offensive and dangerous". He said that Rais's family are now afraid to stay in Afghanistan after the book, recently translated into Farsi and Pushtu, revealed that his sisters have had boyfriends - something strictly forbidden by the Pashtuns, who still practise blood vengeance. This fear has made the Norwegian authorities nervous. They have refused to allow Rais into the country to launch his own version of events, called Once Upon a Time There Was a Bookseller in Kabul. "Rais's spouse [his younger wife] and children have sought asylum [in Sweden]. There are therefore grounds to doubt that Rais will travel out again once he has come in," said Morten Hansen, of Norway's Directorate of Immigration. Both authors remain unapologetic. Seierstad says: "I am not a cultural relativist. The pain of the woman is the same in Afghanistan as it is in Norway." Rais is bullish. His lawyers say that they are "astonished" that Seierstad has not compensated the "injured parties in this matter".
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