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Mein Kampf a hit on Dhaka streets

27 November 09 08:46 GMT
By Alastair Lawson
BBC News, Dhaka

Booksellers touting their wares amid the heavy traffic in the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka, have discovered an unusual best-seller.

Adolf Hitler's autobiography manifesto Mein Kampf is selling as well as Dan Brown's latest novel, The Lost Symbol.

The street vendors in Dhaka are found at every major road junction and intersection.

Most of the sellers are young boys and many compete with beggars to attract the attention of motorists.

Last week, Mein Kampf did unusually well because many bought the book to give it away as an Eid present.

'All the rage'

Mabul, 15, is among many boys who risk the chaos of Dhaka's roads to earn a living selling pirated copies of popular paperbacks.

Among his offerings are The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama, the 9/11 Commission Report - Omissions and Distortions by David Ray Griffin, The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy and copies of Mein Kampf (volumes one and two).

"For some reason Hitler's book is all the rage among educated people - on a typical day I can sell as many as five or six," Mabul told the BBC.

Hitler is not as popular as Dan Brown or Amartya Sen among Dhaka's motorists and their passengers, but there is a constant demand for his book.

"I think it's because many people have seen Hitler in films and want to know more about him."

Mabul earns up to 1,000 taka ($8) a day in his job, usually working eight hours a day for six days a week.

He says that the best time to sell books is when traffic is at its heaviest, in the morning and evening rush hours.

When it is gridlocked, some people appear to buy his books because they are bored and there is nothing else to do.

Career path

Nearly all the books Mabul sells are photocopies of books he has bought from dealers - and in some cases the photocopying is not of the highest quality.

The maps in his Lonely Planet guide to Bangladesh, for example, are difficult to read and of poor quality.

Yet despite the dubious legality of his career path, Mabul and his friend Aminul - who has the use of only one arm - typify the entrepreneurial spirit for which many Bangladeshis are renowned.

"If I didn't do this job I would have no income - it's as simple as that," said Aminul, as he proffers a copy of Monica Ali's latest novel.

"It's not easy being disabled and selling books in a Dhaka traffic jam. Several times we come close to getting run over."

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