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The Last Storytellers: Tales from the Heart of Morocco Paperback – September 15, 2013
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'This is a wonderfully vivid and striking collection of stories which I heartily recommend.' – Fergal Keane
'Richard Hamilton has recorded something which very few foreign correspondents do and in doing so he has captured a rich, vibrant yet disappearing world. The immediate and sudden stories of political upheaval, conflict and natural disaster are what takes a foreign correspondent to postings around the world. But instead, Richard Hamilton, a modern reporter of the 24 hour news age, has chosen to focus on something very different. He has listened, learned and been captivated by the storytellers of Morroco, re-telling some of that country's charming and spellbinding traditional stories. The tales are amusing, whimsical and and leave you spellbound that you are reading stories which may soon disappear. Hamilton has paid a fine and lasting tribute to Morocco's storytellers by writing down their stories for posterity....and our enjoyment.' – Rageh Omaar
'In collecting these tales of wisdom, wonder, adventure and humour from the small and ageing group of Moroccan story -tellers Richard Hamilton has not only offered entertainment to his readers but he has also carried out a valuable form of rescue archaeology within the vanishing world of professional story-telling.' – Robert Irwin
'Charming, fantastical and lively collection.. Like a genie emerging from a flask, The Last Storytellers produces a startling amount of pleasure from some very small packages...Both men [author and interpreter] deserve much praise for the successful outcome of this endeavour.' – Eamon Gearon, TL
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The stories cover a lot of ground, from literary tales to fantasies, and some of them are a lot like Western tales (like a Cinderella story) while others feel much more like the Middle East. Many of the stories are quite short, just a few pages, though there are some longer tales as well. A number of the stories are quite grisly, so they would not make appropriate reading to children, though most would. If you're going to read these tales to children it would behoove you to read ahead to pick appropriate stories.
Hamilton said in an interview that his translator had sketchy English skills and that he had to clean up the stories a good bit, and I have to say that the tales as they are presented are quite smooth and well-told. That said, I am also reading "The Arabian Nights" right now, and I find the Nights to be better stories. They evoke more of a sense of wonder and have a sense of timing which Hamilton's tales do not do as well at. I also thought that Hamilton's tales give in to a malicious sense of justice a little too often (like an evil stepmom who is served the chopped-up body of her daughter for a snack) for my tastes.
Overall, however, Hamilton's stories are an enjoyable read and serve as an excellent introduction to the current oral storytelling in Marrakech. I often found myself chuckling as I read these stories, and I finished the collection with the feeling of having learned something about the state of modern Arab storytelling, which was valuable in itself. For the most part these are stories in the classical tradition, Once Upon A Time-type tales, and they hold up well to the modern reader. They are a good companion to "The Arabian Nights" and an enjoyable read. Get them, and enjoy!
I used to watch the storytellers by Cafe France in Djemma elFna when we lived in Marrakesh--and now I know what they were saying.
These stories are elegantly translated and read beautifully --they obviously would read well aloud to all ages!
The world of A Thousand and One Nights meets the world of Grimm.
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