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Talking Animals, Thinking in Fables: Kalilah wa Dimnah or, Aesop in Arabic

Venue: Birkbeck 43 Gordon Square

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A discussion of the politics of the animal fable and its potential as a model for tackling questions of our time, chaired by Marina Warner. In-person.

The Arabic Aesop, or collection of animal fables, is called Kalilah wa Dimnah: Fables of Virtue and Vice. It is packed with witty, cynical wisdom about rulers and ruled, envy and rivalry, the uses and abuses of power. It has been newly translated by James E. Montgomery, professor of Arabic at Cambridge. He will be joined by the Lebanese storyteller and translator Wafa Tarnowska, and they will explore how, in an age of exacerbated rhetoric, such canny uses of fables can exercise influence. Alongside readings, they will consider the politics of the fable through a double lens of its history in the past (the stories’ dissemination and kinship) and its potential as a model for tackling questions of our time. James Montgomery has translated many Arabic classics, and is the author of Loss Sings, a meditation on mourning. Wafa Tarnowska is a leading translator from Arabic, whose acclaimed children’s books are inspired by the Arabic tradition. She has published a collection Arabian Fables (2014); her most recent book is Nour’s Secret Library. Marina Warner will chair.


 This event takes place in person at Birkbeck School of Arts.

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