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'Kalila and Dimna is the greatest present of the Islamic heritage ... Wood's superb stories should be set alongside Italo Calvino's retelling of the folktales of Italy. No higher praise is necessary.' --Carlos Fuentes
'Ramsay Wood follows his originals closely, and slips with skill in and out of stories as closely interfolded as the petals of a rose.' --Ursula le Guin
'Racy, funny, vigorous, contemporary - I defy anyone not to finish it in one sitting.' --Doris Lessing
From the Publisher
In his retelling of 'Kalila and Dimna', Ramsay Wood deftly knits several oral storytelling traditions into a captivating literary style. This version from all major ancient texts is the first new compendium in English since 1570.
It all begins with a vision. But not the vision (following on the sight of a large shooting star) dreamed by Kind Dabschelim that leads him to the treasure and last testament of Houschenk, King of the Past; rather it is the vision of Houschenk himself, who foresees that Dabschelim will gaol the philosopher Doctor Bidpai who alone has the courage to relate a series of animal tales to his king that - properly understood - will restore Dabschelim's reign to true greatness. To be more precise, Bidpai's tale is only one tale - that of two jackals, Kalila and Dimna, and specifically the latter's schemes to gain royal favour in the lion king's court. The ultimate intricacy being (if you can still follow this) that Kalila, Dimna and the other court animals tell illustrative animal stories to each other - in some of which tales the animal characters pause to tell animal stories of their own. Gasp. Anyone who has read 'The 1001 Nights' will be familiar with this kind of 'Russian Doll narrative', which is so beloved of Islamic literature. But while the latter (seminal and fabulous as it is) feels at times like an overwrought compendium, 'Kalila and Dimna' is a much sleeker, focused assemblage of fables. The book's history stretches back across time and numerous nationalities and a modern English version is more than warranted. Ramsay Wood (egged on, he tells us, by Idries Shah) throws in a sudden 'first person narrative' chapter and fearlessly blends in contemporary asides (from Adam Smith to Mark Twain to Graham Greene) and modern idioms - and for the most part he succeeds splendidly. So a captured fish is taken home for 'an enormous fry-up'. Why not. Although perhaps it is a tad tin-eared to say of a duped camel: "The dynamics of group pressure tugged him steadily towards conformity". This an evident labour of love and leisure. Thank you Mr Wood...
The remarkable pedigree of this collection of fables goes back more than two thousand years and, as Doris Lessing's illuminating introduction points out, its offspring can be traced in literary artefacts from the Far East to the Far West. However, this new version of Kalila and Dimna is delicious enough even without the extra seasoning of historical curiosity. Ramsay Wood has restored and polished these venerable stories for a contemporary readership with verve, color, pace and truly zany humour while preserving the spellbinding story-within-story framework. Read it yourself - or aloud to children. I did and we all loved it. We learn that this represents only a portion of the original. Next, please?
I thought Kalila and Dimna was very well written and the fables were entertaining, yet rich in knowledge and abstract policy advising. However, the most fascinating feature of the book was in my opinion how the author narrates stories within stories. One fable takes you into another story, and sometimes that story takes you even deeper into another fable, until they are all told and the reader is drawn back into the original tale.
Wood's use of this very interesting literal tool keeps the reader in suspense throughout the book. I cannot wait to read volume 2.
Ramsay Wood has done a remarkable thing in bringing a complicated story within a story within a story forward and recasting it in language that we can understand, and enjoy, in today's world. The first of his series, this can be a fast read, or something to savour over time. It is highly recommended, especially for those with an interest in the Middle East/Central Asia, ruling philosophy, or fables in the style of the better-known 1001 (Arabian) Nights.
For the second book in the series see: http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/0956708102/ref=wms_ohs_product
I hugely enjoyed reading this book. It is a fascinating and entertaining compilation of stories which have been handed down over two thousand years. The animal kingdom provides a host of characters who relate colourful tales within which other tales emerge, within which more tales are told. The stories can be read on many levels: my granddaughter enjoys them on a simplistic level, but they also contain many a message about human foibles, strengths and weaknesses. Ramsay Wood writes in a style which is contemporary, but which still resonates with the ancient history of these fables.
I came across Kalila and Dimna in a second hand bookshop and was so entranced by Ramsay Wood's translation of these ancient Indian tales that I wanted to buy it as a present but found the UK edition is out of print. I was very pleased to find this US edtiion on Amazon. So if you've got a birthday coming up you'll be in for a treat.
I really like these stories and the flow is very much like Tales from the Arabian Nights, though it does come across as Ramsay Wood telling the story. Some people may prefer that, as it makes the story feel more personal, but as for me I prefer the culture of the time to come through in the descriptions. Still very good either way.