One of the highlights of last week for me was the Radio National Book Show program (12 August) that discussed Asne Seierstad’s The Bookseller of Kabul. Ramona Koval discussed writing about life in fragile territories with Christina Asquith and Christina Lamb.
The discussion raised very important issues about journalism, new fiction and ethical behaviour. Asne Seierstad has been sued in a Norwegian Court over breaches of privacy by one of the women portrayed in the book. According to one account of the case it was stated that “Seierstad had used inaccurate information in her accounts” and did not act in good faith. In another article, Asne Seierstad is quoted as asserting that “I have acted in good faith, and have done my best to verify the statements and quotations so that they will be as accurate as possible. I have done that by asking questions on different occasions when there was any confusion, by asking someone other than the main characters in the situation.”
- Overt and covert research
- The responsibilities of a researcher
- The ownership of intimate details and disclosures
- The legitimacy of observing a culture from a different cultural perspective
The Bookseller of Kabul, Sisters in War (Christina Asquith) and Small Wars Permitting (Christina Lamb) are fascinating examples of a genre that encapsulate important issues around thick description, writing lives and telling stories.