THIS CHARMING BOOK by the Norwegian journalist Asne Seierstad is already a bestseller in her country. Scandinavia has taken a particular interest in Afghanistan over the past two decades, and there are some very good Norwegian, Swedsh and Danish aid agencies worlung there. Norway and Afghanistan couldn't be more different in so many ways; their shared experience is that they sat, for most of the past century, at opposing ends of the now defunct Soviet empire. Seierstad has worked as a correspondent in Chechnya, China, the Balkans and, most recently, Iraq. Like so many journalists after September 11, she went to north Afghanistan, and she reported from there for a number of Scandinavian newspapers and television channels. Once the Tahban fell, it was a chance meeting with Sultan Khan, a bookseller in Kabul, that led her to write this book, which has obviously struck a chord in her homeland, and now has forthcoming translations in over a dozen countries.
Seierstad describes in the foreword how refreshing it was, after months of conflict in the mountains of northern Afghanistan, to leaf through the books in Sultan's shop and chat with him about Afghan literature and history. It wasn't long before he invited her home for a lively evening meal with