Our Old Friend, the Mullah:
A Review of
The Uncommon Sense of the Immortal Mullah Nasruddin
by Dr Sandra Bird
An interdisciplinary journal of storytelling studies, 7: 2, April 2011, pp. 161 – 166
[S]uresha, Ron J. The Uncommon Sense of the Immortal Mullah Nasruddin: Stories Jests, and Donkey Tales of the Beloved Persian Folk Hero, Maple Shade: Lethe, 2011. $18.
The subtitle of Ron Suresha’s new collection of Nasruddin Khoja fables is Stories, Jests, and Donkey Tales of the Beloved Persian Folk Hero. It is always interesting to me that so many territories beyond the famed village of Aksehir, Turkey, lay claim to this popular persona. . . .
Suresha identiﬁes the real strength of Nasruddin’s stories in context to world literature and story performance, that is, its power to build bridges between cultures. He relates a personal reference to the mullah stories, as they were [among the] the ﬁrst stories he learned from his Israeli-American mother. Throughout his life he continued to collect these anecdotes, and as a young adult he found one of Idries Shah’s collections of Nasruddin stories on the shelves in an ashram library. . . .
The intended audience for Suresha’s collection is a contemporary audience of all ages. If the illustration cover by Sgott MacKenzie is any indication of a future market for this collection, we are likely to see Suresha’s book in use for secondary educational environments as well as personal libraries. Suresha refers to this text as a “contemporary retelling,” which is appropriate to the storytelling traditions of Turkey. The point of these stories is to speak to the audience in the language and metaphors that are familiar. Suresha acknowledges that he avoided the “more lurid and pejorative sexual, scatological, ethnic, racist, sexist and violent subjects,” but he [al]ludes to the possibility of including them in a forthcoming collection. I hope Suresha carries out this plan to bring the more compromising stories to an adult audience at a later date—after all, that is part and parcel of the trickster’s trade.
Sandra Bird, Ph.D., is Associate Professor of Art Education in the Department of Visual Arts at Kennesaw State University (GA).