Hanan Al-Shaykh & Tahmina Anam on Stories (EIBF Review)

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Hanan Al-Shaykh, Tahmina Anam, Claire Armistead (Chair)

The session ("Telling Tales: The Vital Important of Stories") was chaired by Claire Armistead, who caught our attention immediately by saying - these translations are  "so rude"! Of course, she was referring to the translations of the epic "One Thousand and One Nights", the dramatisation of which is receiving its European Première at the Edinburgh International Festival.

Hanan said she had at first read the stories in the original language and determined to modernise and translate the stories more accurately. She felt that her translation had brought the stories more alive although they were more explicit sexually. She said she did not want women to be coy about her translation, but felt that they did not love the book before because of the language which had been very much of the old style and academic.

She felt, for instance, that stories about Sindbad really were stories about fortune and poverty and allowing everyone to have a chance in life. The stories of Aladdin and Ali Barber and also The Three Ladies of Baghdad show that she has 'tamed' the language and made the stories much more appealing.

Tahmina said that her new novel "The Good Muslim" was set in Bangladesh at the end of the brutal civil war which ended in 1971. It tells of a family who has just endured the horrors of the war and who are struggling about what to do with the rest of their lives.

The book outlines the various challenges the family face; the daughter who wants to become a doctor but may not be permitted to do so; the son who had been a guerilla fighter and now had to re-adjust to a more mundane life, but found this hard.

There is also the grandmother who has lived through terrible things and has the experience and the wisdom, but is nevertheless constrained by religious beliefs.

Who is "The Good Muslim"? It is hard to say and people have to make up their own minds. To a large extent the book highlights the experiences and difficulties of how the modern world challenges "The Good Muslim".

Event: Saturday, 20 August at 20:30