- Series: Classics of Western Spirituality (Paperback)
- Paperback: 340 pages
- Publisher: Paulist Press; Revised ed. edition (December 1, 1988)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0809121034
- ISBN-13: 978-0809121038
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,100,580 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Nahman of Bratslav: The Tales (The Classics of Western Spirituality Series) Paperback – December 1, 1988
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Top Customer Reviews
It may not sound very attractive, but believe it or not this is one of the most beautiful, haunting, profound, mysterious, re-readable and unforgettable books I have ever discovered. Although I've known these stories for 20 years, some episodes still move me to tears.
It's an open secret that traditional fairy-tales are spiritual teachings in costume. All children know this, and absorb these teachings at an early age without being able to explain them. The authority here was the Sri Lankan scholar Ananda Coomaraswamy, if you can find his wonderful essays.
"Thumbelina" is the most beautiful, concise, complete outline of the spiritual life you could hope to find. "Beauty and the Beast", "East of the Sun, West of the Moon", are also outstanding. (Let's not get carried away. You'd have a hard task to find mystical significance in "Goldilocks and the Three Bears".)
Rabbi Nahman takes over the set vocabulary of Eastern European fairy-tales, with their Princesses and Emperors, speaking animals and magical objects, complicated quests and royal children exchanged at birth with commoners, and adds some stock characters from Jewish folklore. The stories are said to contain concealed meanings referring to the Kabbalistic universe of Rabbi Isaac Luria: but given that no two commentators agree on what these meanings are, you can safely ignore them and just read for the story.
A warning. These stories are like those transcribed by field-workers, stories from oral tradition never subjected to literary reworking. They can be oddly inconsequential, leaving out crucial matters while including the seemingly irrelevant. They often have a "Suddenly! ...nothing happened" quality, and they don't so much end as just stop.
The Story of the Heart and the Spring, in part 5 of "The Seven Beggars", made me gasp and drop the book the first time I read it. You finish these Tales with a sigh, feeling, like the narrator of "The Ancient Mariner", sadder but wiser, having learnt something heart-rendingly true you'll never forget... but unable to explain what it is.
For me the Tales however wondrous have always been secondary to the discursive homiletic teachings. I would recommend to anyone who reads these tales and is in some way moved by them to examine the thought of Rabbi Nachman in depth. He is a tremendously inspiring spiritual teacher, one of incredible depth and beauty.