x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 29 July 2017

The Last Stoytellers: An anthology of Moroccan stories

Richard Hamilton rescues 236 Moroccan stories from the dwindling numbers of the country's hlaykia or paid storytellers.

The Last Storytellers
Richard Hamilton
IB Tauris
Dh124
The Last Storytellers Richard Hamilton IB Tauris Dh124

As with some other literary traditions, the decline of oral storytelling can be traced to the rise of social media.

While the BBC correspondent Richard Hamilton laments this trend in his introduction to this compilation of Moroccan tales, his woe is thankfully temporary. Instead, The Last Storytellers is a celebration of literature, an anthology of 36 stories rescued from the dwindling numbers of Morocco's hlaykia or paid storytellers.

Considering that many readers are only likely to be acquainted with One Thousand and One Nights, these lesser-known stories offer a new, refreshing insight into the Oriental literary tradition.

They range from expeditions featuring a bold hero and an elusive princess to be won over (The Gazelle with the Golden Horns) to the more symbolic and moral (The Birth of the Sahara). Interestingly, there are also many that border on scandal, using a repertoire of love, lust and betrayal to shock (The Eyes of Ben'Adi). Dramatic fare all around, but with entertainment being the sole purpose, this is hardly a let-down. Instead, this is addictive material.