In the introduction to the book, the curse placed upon Nasrudin as a child by his teacher is related. Caught talking in class, holding all of his classmates enthralled with his stories, Nasrudin and his listeners received the eternal curse that no one from then on could hear one of his stories without hearing seven.
I could not put down this book. As usual I tried to browse,and tried to go back and forth among my usual half dozen books, but I could not put this book down. The ancient curse still holds. I had to read it all and all over again, taking notes and paraphrasing. Elsewhere a reviewer complains about the translation. So, hey, what's the big deal? REWRITE IT ALREADY!
Some of these stories were stolen directly by Henny Youngman and Milton Berle for their famous one liners (I am NOT making this up!). You can even uncover the source of Mark Twain's famous quip about the reports of his death being greatly exagerrated. Or do we all share the same source, with jokes about wives, donkeys, thieves and other work? Many of these brief stories remind me of the apophthegmes of the early Catholic Desert monks in Egypt and the absurdities related about them with great seriousness. Unfortunately in English we most often find them through BEnedicta Ward and The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (Cistercian studies 59). I prefer Solesmes's Dom Lucien Regnault's five volume collection, no longer in print. Other reviewers find an element of the Zen Koans here. Whatever they are, you cannot put this book down.
At first I found the elaborate cartoony pen and ink line illustrations by Richard Williams and Errol Le Cain offensive and even dare I say sacreligious (actually I do not dare to spell it!). But then I checked the copyright page and discovered they come from the original 1968 edition, and they became comprehensible within their historical context. We forty years later will never see the likes of this again. These were done by sheer human talent, without the aid of computers, with only a page and a stain. Amazing, and frequently incorporating the intricate scrolls of a Persian rug or mosque filligrees.
For this body of universal tales comes from the Sufi mystic branch of Islam. Nevertheless it could be often Il poverello Saint Francis of Assissi here riding a donkey in rags and disturbing everyone's accustomed and unjust modes of thinking. In this way it does serve as a Zen koan, to break us out of superficial and unhealthy thought patterns, to liberate us to the ground of all truth. And it is very funny stuff, which you cannot put down, and some of which you have heard on stage in old vaudeville and talk shows.
Look beyond your preconceptions. For your own enjoyment, and enlightenment, find this book today. With Nasrudin we would have no more ideological nor cultural nor genocidal nor religious wars for resources. We would all together be too darn busy listening and laughing to his great stories. It's a curse his teacher placed upon us all, long long ago!
Nasrudin was at a loose end. His wife told him to go for a walk. He started up the road, and continued walking for two days. Finally he met a man walking in the opposite direction. "When you arrive at my house," he said to him, "go in and ask my wife if I have gone far enough, or if she says I must walk further."
Rather reads like the Tao of Pooh, as well, no?
Also here is the origin of the Seven with one blow story.