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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 26 February 2012
There's a lot crammed into these 240 elegantly illustrated pages.
First there are the stories, of course; enjoy them, absorb them, make of them what you will (that's the whole idea!)
Then there's the magic that makes the linear, printed words fly off the page and flesh out the world of sound and gesture and human emotion that is the raw material (the 'nitty-gritty', so to speak) of the storyteller. It takes a real artist to make this happen. There's nothing more private and solitary than the writer's craft. Nothing more open and physically in-your-face than the storyteller's. With a foot in both camps, Ramsay Wood deftly applies the one to conjure up the other; and we, the readers, are instantly transformed into an audience in the ultimate storytellers' den. You can count on the fingers of a Tank Corps veteran's hand the writers who have achieved this feat in English.
If that were the end of the matter, it would already be a great deal. But Wood doesn't stop there. In an afterword, he patiently shares with us all that he has gleaned in his studies of the history of this timeless body of wisdom and invites us to reflect on its significance.
Nor does it stop there either: in an appendix he opens out the discussion to consider the role of storytelling in human evolution altogether, and offers us further ammunition with which to confront the fools that quote whoever it was that wrote: "When I became a man I put away childish things."
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 29 December 2011
This is a book of ancient stories brilliantly retold in English. Stories within stories within stories. I patiently waited 30 years for Volume Two of Wood's retelling of the Tales of Bidpai and it was worth it. Buy these Fables of Conflict and Intrigue, read them, enjoy, learn ... and pass the word around.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 7 January 2012
This is a terrific book -- a real page-turner. I read Ramsay Wood's first volume of Kalila and Dimna in the 1980s and loved its meandering weave of wise and funny animal stories. Well, this volume is even better -- I couldn't put it down. Folklore, fantasy and humour -- an ancient classic brilliantly brought to life. I just hope Wood doesn't take another 30 years to finish this trilogy! The stories are enhanced by dozens of beautiful line illustrations drawn by Gill Whitworth in the Islamic style. The book is not only a great read it also feels good -- both to look at and to touch. A TREAT awaits you.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 22 June 2013
I was very happy to see this sequel to "Khalila and Dimna: Fables of Friendship and Betrayal" . It has all the virtues I mentioned in my review of that first book (June 2008 q.v) and some more.

Ramsay Wood has developed a particular skill for creating, in a book, the atmosphere of a live storytelling and filling it with the cadences of a live storyteller: the verve, the jaunty dialogue, the telling asides. You realize what a considerable achievement this is only when occasionally (to this reviewer at least) the voice deserts him and the style becomes a little mannered.

Having journeyed down this cascade of stories within stories, with its wild rapids and quiet pools, you can alight on the bank to enjoy some different sights, new in this sequel. In addition to an excellent introduction by Michael Wood there's a fascinating Afterword tracing the journeys of this fable cycle from its remote origins up to the present day (here's a story that really did have legs). Following this, an equally interesting Appendix exposes and challenges our limited, print-bound assumptions about what stories are, should be, can do for us.

The paperback edition has a spacious, wide-margined layout enhanced by G.M. Whitworth's truly handsome and finely wrought illustrations. By contrast, marginal quotes are set in type so absurdly tiny as to be all but illegible without a magnifying glass. Kindle users of course can get around this at the press of a button.

This book will appeal to almost any kind of reader, if it appeals at all: young, old, casual, scholarly, bent over a desk or lying on a beach. One should be grateful that such a classic has found itself (once again) in such a safe pair of hands.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 22 February 2012
How refreshing to find an age-old text which is this readable, with comments like, "If I never see you again, it will be too soon. S** off!" scattered through the book. Ramsay Wood's text is clear, concise and refreshing -- much more relaxed than in his first volume which was published in 1980.

When I first came across 'Kalila and Dimna', a collection of fables centred around 'Friendship and Betrayal' in the 1980's, I wondered then what made a 2000-year-old collection of animal fables sufficiently interesting for Doris Lessing (no less) to write such a glowing introduction to what is ostensibly a 'handbook for rulers' --- it was originally known as 'A Mirror for Princes'.

As I immersed myself in them, I quickly noticed how human were the emotions and actions of jackals, lions, bulls and others. True, there were, in that first volume, worthy precepts --- but the fables that illustrated them seemed to speak more generally to the human condition, not just to would-be rulers.

This comes across even more clearly in this second volume, subtitled 'Fables of Conflict and Intrigue'. Thus: the story of how a peace-loving alligator befriended a retired warrior-monkey and was then all but induced to eat his heart by the alligator's jealous wife: that was a warning of the power of jealousy and the importance of caution before entering someone else's territory.

But the story, as Ramsay Wood tells it, is much more: it explores the feelings of a retired warrior, a weak husband and his tortured guilt, the icy calm that is essential in situations of extreme danger if one is to get away with a whole skin, and much else besides. These animals are multi-dimensional and because they are animals, we can more easily accept what they tell us about ourselves without feeling challenged by it.

Perhaps because I was expecting it, I also found another feature of these volumes easier to absorb the second time around: the way in which many stories led into other stories, meandered there, before finally returning to the original tale. It had annoyed me to begin with --- now I saw the device as a reflection of real life, in which there are no beginnings or endings other than one's own birth and death. Everything that happens is part of an endless 'tapestry'.

Thank you, Ramsay Wood: you spin a great story.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Kalila and Dimna as told by Ramsay Wood has become my favourite bedside book as you can dip into it and read one story all the way through before sleep overtakes. The stories are interesting, thought provoking, and often very funny, and I plan to send one copy to each of my teenage grandchildren because there is valuable advice here given in a much more entertaining manner than they could get from me.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 7 May 2012
An idiosyncratic, not to say peculiar, work. Story after story, wrapped inside one other in a Sterne-like rambling style. The animal narrators place the reader a little distance from the intertwined events allowing a wry smile to come and go across one's face. Cool irony is the note that endures after one has put the book aside.

While the succession of stories makes this an ideal for adult bed-time or four-stop tube journeys, because the emotions are only lightly engaged and critical distance maintained, it works only for the most worryingly precocious of children; but for these the fierce realism of these stories is a ideal antidote to teenage solipsism.

Read this book and leave the heat of fears and desires just a little further behind. Delight awaits you.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 17 April 2012
This second volume of Ramsay Wood's Kalila & Dimna saga is a nourishing collection of stories that will leave you thoroughly `well-fed' from both an entertainment and learning perspective. All the elements are here beyond the conventional trademarks of standard fables. Things do not necessarily end `Happily Ever After', but the characters learn much along the way, as does the reader, too.

Ramsay Wood's contemporary refreshing writing is like a modern `Shrek' or `How to Train Your Dragon' movie style. Thus, Wood's flow of words translates with ease the ideas within the original ancient Kalila & Dimna Sanskrit, Arabic, Syriac and Persian texts into digestible twenty-first-century tales. For any parent wishing to prepare their child for the happy as well as the harsh realities of this world using a disguised teaching tool, then both collections of Kalila and Dimna are a must. My favourite story in the second collection is `The Vegetarian Jackal' in which a jackal is framed for eating a large slab of zebra meat, when, in fact, he is a vegetarian.

Excellent illustrations by Jill Whitworth provide an on-going overall impression of the entire odyssey, as well as little nibbles of each tale. Prepare to be taken on a journey of illumination and to change one's expectations of storytelling. Film makers such as Spielberg and Jim Henson's company should look no further for material that is beyond the traditional `Once Upon A Time'. Kalila & Dimna provides one with `Once Upon A Time, Space and Eternity...'
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 6 February 2014
This is a brilliant book. Ramsay Wood has taken some of the oldest stories on record and retold them in a zippy contemporary style that makes them zing off the page with all the freshness, immediacy and relevance that the first hearers must have felt all those centuries ago. The adventures and misadventures of people and animals in these stories shows how how little our behaviour has altered since these tales were first created to hold up a mirror to us all. It was chastening to see myself reflected in so many of them - but fun! Laugh and learn.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Fantastic collection of traditional stories retold to suit our time. There's also a great afterword which describes how widely these stories have travelled. The collection is brought further to life by beautiful artwork and unexpected gems from more recent times in the margin such as:

'I am not prejudiced against any man because of his race or religion. It is enough for me to know that he is another human being... and what could be worse than that?'

Mark Twain
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