Kalila and Dimna: Selected Tales of Bidpai by Ramsay Wood - review by Anita Desai

Anita Desai

Uncle Remus

Kalila and Dimna: Selected Tales of Bidpai

By

Alfred Knopf 260pp £6.95 order from our bookshop
 

In his brief and modest afterword, Ramsay Wood has listed the eight chief sources of this book of fables, saying that 'each was useful in some way' and that he 'studied them till a master: template began to emerge. I wanted to write the truest story for a modern audience.' Although a good deal of scholarship has gone into this selection and re-telling, he claims to be an 'apprentice storyteller' rather than a 'traditional scholar'. Doris Lessing, in her lengthier preface, has also chosen to avoid giving the scholarly pedigree of these tales in the belief that this would distract attention from the primary to the secondary source of interest.

One would happily share this belief and simply settle down to enjoying the book; 'simply settle down' is, however, the one thing impossible to do with this chaotic and disturbing melange in which Persian, Arabic, English and American names like Schanzabeh, Zirac, Dapple, Slowpoke and Charlie jostle each other and

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