- Audio CD
- Publisher: Dreamscape Media, LLC; Unabridged edition (31 January 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9781611200171
- ISBN-13: 978-1611200171
- ASIN: 1611200172
- Product Dimensions: 16.4 x 2.9 x 14 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 113 g
- Customer Reviews: 50 customer ratings
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The Storyteller of Marrakesh: A Novel Audio CD – Audiobook, 31 January 2011
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Editor's Choice. "An enigmatic fable in the tradition of The Thousand and One Nights." - The New York Times
"[A] broad, discursive, plausible, and often beguiling presentation of a contemporary Islamic culture little changed by centuries, geopolitics, globalization or religious enmity. Roy-Battacharya's descriptive powers are acute, and Marrakesh, the Djemaa, the Sahara, and the High Atlas Mountains are vividly rendered through all the senses. In a time when tensions between Islam and the West are fevered, The Storyteller of Marrakesh offers an agreeable change of pace." - Booklist
"Steeped in the ambiance of Marrakesh, this exotic metafictional tale marks Roy-Bhattacharya's U.S. debut and will appeal to readers of complex narratives by unreliable narrators. Lovers of mysteries with ambiguous endings will also enjoy this novel." - Library Journal
"...a mosaic of stories winningly delivered by Gerard Kyle. Kyle's facility with portraying nationality and gender makes his narration a delight. He juggles dozens of characters, as well as Roy-Bhattacharya's elevated language, with a profound elegance." - AudioFile Magazine
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Top international reviews
Through one single evening's storytelling one may be merely fascinated by the way the events unfold, or one can go on to a deeper level of understanding to see how certain events can seed different perspectives on the tale, and how the threads are drawn together and overlaid to create a story worth hearing out. The artifact illustrates the storyteller's art. And while you read the book you are listening to the his voice!
At the start we find a brief reflection on Truth. For most of us truth is absolute, black and white. Not here; and the leeway this perception creates allows conflicting testimonies to coexist and overlap through the evening. Which might puzzle some listeners, while fascinating others.
Towards the end of the evening we are told, again concerning the absoluteness (or not) of truth: "The only thing that matters is the meeting of a man and his soul". While listening to the tale, magically - as a body absorbs health giving substances while soaking in a spa bath - we ourselves acquire perspectives that cure us of western civilisation's tunnel vision, and we can see all sides of the question simultaneously.
Some earlier reviewers have claimed they found the text unrewarding, not worth reading through to the end. I am disappointed for them; they have missed a rare and precious opportunity.
I hope you will feel swept on to the end, and emerge - as I did - enriched by the experience, by text artfully crafted as intricate and elegant as Arabic calligraphy.
This is a highly enigmatic, original and cleverly constructed novel. The narrative thread jumps around in such fits and starts it can be frustrating. But the different viewpoints are essential to understanding what is really going on. I hesitate to speak against other reviewers but, having read the negative reviews by Lost John and AR bobsafish their reviews contain comments from which it can be deduced that they did not understand the book. Sorry I won't say more: I don't want to spoil the fun. Read it, keep your wits about you, and delight in the mischievous interplay between truth and fiction.
The story takes place in the central square in Marrakech (Jemaa el Fna) and makes much of its atmosphere, often ascribing to it properties of living beings or Gods. At times I thought this was overdone but, having once spent a week in Marrakesh during which I was irresistibly drawn back to the square every day, I can testify to its powerful atmosphere.
The novel gives detailed insight into Moroccan culture and must have been thoroughly researched as the author has never lived in Morocco. There is a useful glossary at the back (which I failed to notice until I had finished the book).
PS If anyone does want a spoiler, drop me a private line.
I was put off initially by the lack of speech quotes and expected to find it difficult to follow the thread of the book, and the narrative style takes some getting used to, and I was busy. So it went to the bottom of the pile "to be read later." My mistake!
Once properly started, I was drawn deep into the story by the superbly detailed and vividly coloured imagery growing in my mind from the exquisite word-pictures. And I soon realised that the carefully enhanced style reinforces the mood and smoothes the gentle flow of the story, while seamlessly blending dialogue with reminiscence with action with dreams with wishes with experience with philosophy; all making a beautiful potpourri to lose oneself in.
I can see this book as a winter evening escape, a lazy Sunday afternoon dream, or a holiday read in the plane, on the beach or in the ski-chalet. It might be even better if one closes ones eyes and allows the words to wash through. Perhaps it should be an audio-book to allow the vivid pictures conjured in the mind to be unobstructed by mere print on a page. Don't read it on the Tube or Bus, because you'll miss your stop.
Halfway through the book the author reveals his own hand when the father tells his son:
"First, always remember that either a story carries love and mystery, or it carries nothing. Second, outside of the broad themes determined by the story sticks, the trick is to make up everything out of whole cloth. Third, a story must not have a clean resolution. That way you will keep your audience coming back for more. Finally - and this is the most important thing - our craft demands discipline and hard work; a fertile imagination is not enough."
This is good advice for any author, and Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya follows it well with all the care he has invested in this work. And as a bonus, there is a nice, simple philosophy running through the book, buried under the main theme being illuminated by the immediate `snapshot' stories, and it leaves one feeling more at ease with the world and more prepared to find the good in other people.
Yes, you may have gathered I really liked this one after my poor first impression.
All that said, this book won't appeal to everyone - there's a mystery of sorts, but no quick solutions or indeed much action. This isn't a quick paced book by any means and there are times when it's quite hard work trying to step into another culture through the pages of the book and some of the characters are more convincing and interesting than others. For me, though I quite enjoyed the fact that this book was a little bit different from the norm and it was an intriguing, though not thrilling read which was well written and interesting. I would recommend it, particularly if you have been to Morocco or are interested in finding out about its culture or ready to spend a few hours feeling like you are in a square in Northern Africa waiting for a tale to unfold. This book worked for me.
Hassan, the eldest of three brothers, inherited the role of professional storyteller from his father, following the death in childbirth of his, Hassan's, young and beautiful wife. Curiously, it was the father-in-law, not the husband, who was so saddened by her death that he lost the will to continue storytelling. Also curious is that we are told little about Hassan's wife and marriage beyond the bare facts of her beauty and death, and of the occasion when, on hearing that the girl with whom his forthcoming marriage had been arranged was walking on a nearby road, he flew around on his bicycle to take a supposedly casual look at her. Both were very young.
Other potentially interesting stories too are quickly passed over; such as that of Nabil, who "lost his eyesight while cleaning his grandfather's ancient rifle" and who "lives in isolation with his French born wife, whom he met in Marrakesh, and who has since taken the veil." Thereby, it would seem, hangs a much lengthier tale, and it is frustrating to be told no more. Meanwhile, the story of the European couple comes and goes, such scant information as we have about them repeatedly being disputed, called into question. Our patience wears thin. "If you want quick entertainment", says Hassan, "go to the nearest movie theatre and enjoy the show." We are sorely tempted.
All the while, author Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya develops, through Hassan, a philosophical theme on the relationship of truth to storytelling. "What matters in the end is truth", he declares, but shortly follows with "the truth of my story is immaterial". He means immaterial in strictly factual terms, but clings to the necessity of "the truth of life, of the breathing of air, the breasting of waves, the movement of wind on dunes and surf......the simple truths that bind us together as human beings."
If we are sufficiently interested in storytelling to have picked up this book, we are likely to agree with that, and to appreciate the periodic returns to the theme.
Towards the end, Hassan's youngest brother, Mustafa, is imprisoned for the `murder', to which he has freely `confessed'. Hassan visits him in prison and listens at length to his tale, though it is impossible for Hassan or ourselves to be anything but highly sceptical. "Make my story into a fable, Hassan", pleads Mustafa, "Make one up....if you choose not to believe me."
If you are interested in the philosophy of storytelling, this book may be for you. If you just like a rattling good yarn, probably not.
The reason I couldn't get into it is that it seemed not to be moving at all. Every chapter a new character popped into view; all of them spoke of the mysterious couple around whom, apparently, the story centres -- but never did we get beyond that secretive hinting at some story to come. I didn't care about all these characters. I wanted to hear about the couple, and what became of them. Finally, I lost patience and closed the book.