By Nasaf Mazari & Robert Hillman
Hazarajat, a central area of Afghanistan, has remained rural for centuries. Though modernity has seeped through the cracks of this archaic land, traditions have remained. One of those customs is storytelling. The authors bring their type of storytelling heritage to a Western audience.
In the city where I live now, all the stories are in books. They are studied in universities. I am not sure that these stories still pierce the flesh of those who hear them and make a life for themselves in the listener’s heart. In Afghanistan, we have very few universities and very few professors. The history of the Hazara is told in the fields, in our tents, in our houses. Many of the stories I heard when I was growing up, even those from centuries ago, came to life again before my eyes. Pg. 3-4
These interwoven stories feel ancient, as old as the Hazara people. Yet when the reader thinks they are hearing a story that took places many years ago, the narrator drops in a modern detail. It is slightly jarring, but it is effective. It reminds the reader that the themes of humanity remain the same, even if times change.
The tales surround a honey maker, a the search for a snow leopard, an unlikely musician, an unlikelier political dissident, and even an American baseball pendant.
The book also illuminates the culture of the Hazara people — sometimes with great humor.
Suspicion of strangers is as common amongst the Hazara as amongst any other people. The villagers watched the house about had once belonged to the wool-dyer to satisfy their curiosity about the new owner, and also to make sure that he was not a spy in the employment of Shah Zahir. It was thought, too, that the house of the wool-dyer might be cursed since it acted as a magnet for desperate people. Some of the older people of the town claimed that the house had been occupied by madmen even before the time of the wool-dyer. Pg. 81
The Honey Thief is a kind of modern-day 1001 Nights for the Hazara. It is a truly joyful set of fables. Anyone with an interest in storytelling traditions in vibrant cultures and hearing tales that truly resonate needs to read this book. It is destined to become a classic.
Many thanks to Jane at Viking / Penguin for the review copy.
18 Apr 2013
9.25 x 6.25in
18 – AND UP