Suresha, Ron J. The Uncommon Sense of the Immortal Mullah Nasruddin: Stories, Jests, and Donkey Tales of the Beloved Persian Folk Hero, Lethe Press, 2011.
Stories to Mull(ah) Over
Nasruddin was a Persian folk hero whose stories were popular in the Middle East. What was wonderful about his stories was and the beauty of them was that one learned a lesson while laughing. Many of us are not privy to those stories — or at least we weren’t until now. Ron Suresha has taken the stories from eight centuries ago and retells them for our time.
Working with 350 stories that Suresha has amassed from many different sources and he gives what I am sure will be the definitive English version of the tales. The stories contain wit and wisdom and tell us about life, sometimes in ribald terms.
Suresha, in making sure that he is retelling the stories in the correct tradition, gives them to us in groups of seven as the stories were related seven at a time. In this way, we can mull over what they have to say and gradually build up Nasruddin wisdom a little at a time. He has also arranged the stories chronologically from Nasruddin’s youth to his death.
Nasruddin was a very wise man who had the gift of being able to make people laugh and as you read through the stories here you will feel the respect that Suresha feels for the man. His mother told him these stories when he was a kid and hence the relationship between himself and Nasruddin. He felt that the times had come to bring these stories to the English-speaking world and he actually began pushing for a publication some fourteen years ago. It was then, in 1997, that Suresha began his own modern retelling of the stories. His love for the stories is evident everywhere and that is one of the things that makes this book so special. He does not just retell the stories; he does so with love and respect.
Interestingly enough, these stories also provide food for thought and show us something about the culture of Persia and the Arab world. Nasruddin has a story for every occasion and one of the beautiful things about his stories is that they can be understood on several different levels.
While a story may cause a chuckle, you will think about for a while after reading it. It was Nasruddin’s philosophy to open “the listener’s (reader’s) heart with laughter, the tales provide a space for wisdom to enter”. Suresha has done the same thing in bringing us these stories and he has done so with style. I have always enjoyed reading Suresha’s work and this one differs a great deal from his other writings but the Suresha touch is still there. Having recently met Ron Suresha, I can tell you that he is much like Mullah Nasruddin — he can charm you with his wit and leave you musing over he said. We must all thank him for giving us the chance to read the stories of one of his heroes.
Undoubtedly you will notice that I have not included any sample Nasruddin stories here and that is because I want all of you to approach the book blindly and become swept up in one of the most enjoyable reads that you will ever have.