Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Book-Suer of Kabul

Two weeks after the September 11 attacks a Norwegian woman named Åsne Seierstad entered Afghanistan and donned a burqa to conceal her identity and moved in with a guy named Shah Muhammad Rais, a bookseller, and his family. While there she soaked up the day-to-day realities of ordinary family life in Afghanistan and later wrote a book about her experiences. You may have heard of it? It was called The Bookseller of Kabul. It sold like hotcakes and everyone was happy. Except for Rais's family, who disputed the book's factual accuracy, and especially Rais, who wasn't crazy about how the book made him look like a tyrannical domineering jerkwad. Ordinarily this might just be a case of he-said-hun-said, but Rais's wife Suraia, who also alleged the book jeopardized their safety in Afghanistan, sued Seierstad in a Norwegian court. And won:

"The information [in the book] about Rais's thoughts and feelings is sensitive ... They are attributed to her as true, and neither Seierstad nor [Norwegian publisher] Cappelen Damm can be considered to have acted in good faith to ensure they were correct and accurate."

The court ordered Seierstad's publisher to pay Suraia Rais 250,000 kroner--about US$40,000, or, more importantly, $1.76 million Afghanistan Afghanis. Sounds like somebody's movin' on up. I hope this occasions an Afghani remake of The Jeffersons. I miss that show.

[Photo of piles of Afghanistan Afghanis from the United States Agency for International Development via Wikimedia Commons.]

1 comment:

mordicai said...

International libel law is crazy. Sucks to not have a Bill of Rights, huh?