KALILA AND DIMNA by Ramsay Wood
- Fables of Friendship and Betrayal

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Synopsis

•Kalila and Dimna• or •The Panchatantra• (also known in Europe since 1483 as •The Fables of Bidpai•) is a multi-layered, inter-connected and variable arrangement of animal stories, with one story leading into another, sometimes three or four deep. These arrangements have contributed to world literature for over 2000 years, migrating across ancient cultures in a multitude of written and oral formats. All our beast fables from Aesop and the Buddhist •Jataka Tales• through La Fontaine to Uncle Remus owe this strange, shape-shifting 'book' a huge debt.

In its original Arabic format, •Kalila and Dimna• (•The Panchatantra• being its Sanskrit precursor), ostensibly constitutes a handbook for rulers, a so-called 'Mirror for Princes' illustrating indirectly, through a cascade of teaching stories and verse, how to (and how not to!) run the kingdom of your life. In their slyly profound grasp of human nature at its best (and worst!) these animal fables, usually avoiding any moralistic human criticism, serve up digestible sage counsel for us all.

Based on his collation of scholarly translations from key Sanskrit, Syriac, Arabic and Persian texts, as well as the 1570 English rendition by Sir Thomas North, this is the first uncompromisingly modern re-telling in either the East or West for over 400 years. In Ramsay Wood's version the profound meanings behind these ancient fables shine forth as he captures a great world classic, making it fresh, relevant, fascinating and hugely readable.

His first volume of fables from •Kalila and Dimna• coves deceit, political skullduggery, murder, enemies, kings, dervishes, monkeys, lions, jackals, turtles, crows and how we all cooperate (or not!), live and die together in peace or conflict. This is a book full of outrageously behaved animals and humans doing the most delightfully awful (yet sometimes gentle) things to each other. These are joyous, sad, amusing and sometimes brutal stories; their function being to educate both king and commoner alike in the ways of the world, the harsh realities that can often lurk beneath the surface of our cozy, everyday subjectivity.

These charming and humorous stories about people and animals have found their way in one form or another into the folklore of every major culture and tradition. What links the fables is the core message about managing power, wise leadership and the value of true friendship.

In his re-writing of this world classic, Ramsay Wood deftly knits several oral story-telling traditions into captivating modern literary style. This version from all major ancient texts is the first new compendium in English since 1570. These beautifully illustrated tales will be treasured by young and old alike.

'Racy, funny, vigorous, contemporary.' DORIS LESSING

'Wood's superb stories should be set aside Italo Calvino's retelling of the folktales of Italy.' CARLOS FUENTES

'Stories as closely interfolded as the petals of a rose.' URSULA LE GUIN
 

About Ramsay Wood

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Ramsay Wood was born in Texas and has lived throughout Europe, America and the Far East. He is a founding member of the College of Storytellers and was chairman of Afghan Relief.
 
Published May 20, 2008 by Zirac Press. 308 pages
Genres: History, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Literature & Fiction, Travel, Political & Social Sciences, Religion & Spirituality. Fiction

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Wood's redaction preserves something of the original structure, i.e., a frame story (the sage Bidpai instructs king Dabschelim) containing many brief and intricately ""nested"" fables (dealing with, among other beasts, two jackals named Kalila and Dimna).

Jun 16 1980 | Read Full Review of KALILA AND DIMNA: - Fables of...

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