Monday, February 7, 2011

Anushka Ravishankar - The Storyteller: Tales from the Arabian Nights

Another new Nights translation has been published, this time from Indian children's literature author Anushka Ravishankar.

The Hindu newspaper writes a review (excerpt below):

Through the sands of time


"As it turns out, Cinderella was Persian. So if you would permit us to change one of the most enduring images of your childhood, she wasn't blue-eyed, and she wasn't blonde. 

Anushka Ravishankar should know. At the launch of her latest book The Storyteller: Tales from the Arabian Nights, she tells us how she almost spent a thousand and one sleepless nights wondering how to reinvent the stories, while staying true to the original. “Because they've been told, retold, televised, and made into films,” she said. “But like they say, if you can't make it your own, then don't attempt it.” And it was while reading through many versions of “The Nights” that she came across a Yasmene, her two step-sisters, and a prince determined to marry a woman who can wear a particularly petite silver anklet.

The framing story of “The Nights” is the one of the clever Scherazade, who offers to marry King Schariar, a man who, once hurt in love, has decided that all women are the same, and now has his brides executed each morning. On the night of their marriage, Scherazade begins a story, and stops at a crucial moment. The king, eager to know the ending, postpones her execution by a day. And so it goes, for 1,001 nights.

“Those were sexist, racist times; and these are violent stories. There is plenty of derogatory language, and appalling references to slaves. There are people being sizzled in boiling oil, stabbed and beheaded — not the kind of thing you would want in a children's book,” she smiles, explaining that she had to be very careful with what she included. “We like to think that those were more regressive times than now, but that need not be necessarily true. For instance, I found many educated, independent women in these stories, which surprised me.”

When she began writing, she tried to use unusual stories from “The Night” — we've all heard of Aladdin, Ali Baba, and Sinbad. “But as I read, I realised that these were indeed the best stories, which is why they've been retold so many times.”"

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