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lorenzoberardi

The Library of Babel

A Spin-off of http://bookwormshead.blogspot.co.uk

The Bookseller of Kabul - Åsne Seierstad, Ingrid Christopherson Each aspirant journalist was once told to write his/her articles minding "the famous 5 Ws".
Who? What? When? Where? Why?

I assume how for young Seierstad was the same.
Then she became talented enough as a journalist for being a reporter. And as a correspondant she became talented enough to choose her own stories. Then for following the stories she chose, she went to dangerous countries such as Serbia, Iraq or Chechnya. And Afghanistan.

But.
At some point Aasne Seierstad decided that those 5 Ws weren't her cup of tea anymore. Thus she wrote a novel: this one.
On this purpose she lived for some months behind a heavy burqa pretending to be an Afghan woman and a member of an Afghan family.
Not that easy for a western woman. And tiring. And dangerous.
This can't be denied. Seierstad was brave enough to survive hiding herself in extremely difficult times and situations.
If she had insisted in being a journalist, Who-What-When and Where would have been accomplished.

But she didn't.
This leads us to the point and fifth W: Why?

Why Seierstad disguised herself for writing a novel formed by a collection of short stories instead of interesting reportages thanks to her new unique perspective? Wasn't her supposed to be a journalist?
The problem is that, as a reader, I couldn't stand this choice of pushing actual Afghan life into the frame of short stories presenting them as honest accounts and even personal points of view of some different characters. What was true and what Seierstad invented by her own to make what she observed behind the burqa more interesting?

And how she knows how an Afghan teenager or and old woman might think?
This book looks like a rather arrogant attempt to put a journalist foot into a novelist shoe. A shoe with some kind of disturbing superiority heels. And dressing a burqa for some months under the boiling sun is not enough for appreciating the effort of finding a balance in Seierstad awkward walking and writing. An effort that I wonder who was actually asking for.