Monday, August 08, 2011

Reader's Diary #742- Badriyah Al Bishr: The Well (translated from Arabic by Chip Rosetti)

Those familiar with the Michael Kusugak/ Robert Munsch collaboration A Promise is a Promise will remember the note at the end of the book about how the Qallupilluit were originally created by Inuit parents as a way to scare their children away from dangerous cracks in the ice.

But whereas the Inuit used their mythological creature for a noble cause, the use of the "jinn" in Badriyah Al Bishr's short story "The Well" seems more sinister. The jinn, according to Wikipedia, are a sort of supernatural beings in Arab folklore and like humans, may be good, evil, or neutral. The jinn, in this story, is unquestioningly evil.

Its existence, on the other hand, is questioned and therein lies the social commentary about reality and how we manage ugly truths. Unlike a Promise is a Promise, this is no child's story.

From Words Without Borders, "The Well" is by a Saudi Arabian woman who, I would think, has written a rather brave exploration of culture, belief, and the treatment of women.

(Did you write a post for Short Story Monday? If so, please leave a link in the comments below.)


Julie @ Read Handed said...

Though I am not familiar with either of the stories you mentioned, I am interested in this idea of "scaring" children into doing right. I will check these out. Thanks for sharing. My Short Story Monday post is here.

Perogyo said...

I like A Promise is a Promise, and The Well sounds fascinating. Not many Saudi Arabian women writing, so I'd like to read what she wrote. Scaring kids into behaving is a very Japanese concept, although here is is obake (ghosts) who do the scaring. Not really my thing!

My Short Story Monday Post is here:

Margot said...

I think all cultures or at least most parents invent something to scare children away from danger. I'm unfamiliar with these two stories but both sound interesting.

I read a good Willa Cather short story this week and talk about it HERE.

John Mutford said...

Julie, Medea, and Margot: I hope I catch you before you head off to read "The Well." I feel like I've given the wrong impression. My point in comparing it to "A Promise is a Promise" is not that they both use mythology to scare children into behaving-- The Well does not, and has nothing to do with children-- it's that they use mythology intentionally to obscure the truth, the motives behind each are quite different.

Medea: Though at Christmas, plenty people on this side of the Pacific use Santa to bribe children into good behaviour.

Teddy Rose said...

Social commentary, that's my kind of story. I will have to read it. I also remember "A Promise is a Promise."

I'm a day late with my short story review but it is up now: