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It was or it was not: Femininity in Arabic folktales

The folktales in Pearls on a Branch, oral survivors from a preliterate era, resemble a quilt made with the fabrics of well-loved clothes. Just as patches of cloth in a quilt are arranged in different combinations to form a design, traditional folk motifs appear and reappear in a variety of settings and plots to shape the stories. One prince falls in love with the grocer’s daughter next door, another can’t take his eyes off the Bedouin girl he sees on his way to the hunt, all to the horror of the royal mothers. Here a golden anklet, and there a voice heard out of an open window, inspire obsessive love for their unknown owners. A songbird with green feathers reveals one crime and a speaking nightingale another. In the stories, love conquers all, but inevitably there are obstacles on the way to the happy ending. These are tales told by women to women so, not surprisingly, the main characters often are young women with remarkable courage, wit, and endurance. Whatever their unfortunate circumstances at the beginning, whether poverty or oppression, they are the heroines in the end.

The thirty texts gathered in Pearls on a Branch have been chosen from a hundred tales, recorded and transcribed by Najla Jraissaty Khoury and published in Beirut in 2014. Captured on tape, these are verbatim renderings of the storytellers speaking. The translation, like the transcriptions, adheres word for word to the Arabic original. The aim is to allow the English reader to listen in as the storytellers, older women living in Lebanon in the last quarter of the twentieth century, pass on the stories they had heard in childhood. Only in the verses that ornament many of the stories does the English sometimes need a few added words to be comprehensible.

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Foreign language books big crowd-pullers at book fair in Delhi

With over 20 countries participating in the ongoing New Delhi World Book Fair, foreign publishers are offering a diverse collection of books, but it is the language learning guides that are attracting heavy footfall.

Available for several foreign languages like French, German, and Persian among others, the books cater to all levels of learning – from picture books for beginners to novels for veterans.

According to Ishjot, who is managing the stall for German Book Office, majority of their customers comprise of parents who want their children to start learning German from an early age.

Books on illustrations and short stories for beginners, priced at nominal prices, are selling like hot cakes, she said.

“People are buying picture books and story books in large numbers, since they cost hardly Rs 150 each. So, parents who want their children to learn the language are readily buying the books. Those who are already learning German, are asking for more detailed books on the language’s grammar,” she says.

Books at the stall also include a collection of classics by famous German author Daniel Kehlmann, along with English translations of popular German literature. Read more

Source: Business Standard 


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Why is Rumi the best-selling poet in the US?

This 807-year-old Persian mystic and dervish has a massive following in the US and around the world. Jane Ciabattari explains his enduring influence: BBC

The ecstatic poems of Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi, a Persian poet and Sufi master born 807 years ago in 1207, have sold millions of copies in recent years, making him the most popular poet in the US. Globally, his fans are legion. Continue reading


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Persian Ramayanas

RamayanaThere are no less than 23 Ramayanas in Indo-Persian Literature, writes Rana Safvi in Tehelka

The Ramayana, one of the most ancient and sacred stories of India, was originally composed in Sanskrit by Valmiki and later translated to Awadhi by Tulsidas. However, besides the famous Sanskrit and Hindi versions, there are no less than 23 Ramayanas in Indo-Persian Literature. Some of these were translated from the original Sanskrit, while others were based on the Ramayana of Tulsidas. According to Abul Fazl, these translations were ordered by Emperor Akbar to dispel the fanatical hatred between Hindus and Muslims as he was convinced that it arose only from mutual ignorance.

This statement is as relevant today as it was then for all communities. It is important we read each other’s scriptures and make an effort to understand other religions, cultures and beliefs. Ignorance makes one more susceptible to hatred and propaganda by bigots and fanatics.

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