Ben Okri, Cervantes, Deborah Levy, Hay Festival, Hisham Matar, Juan Gabriel Vasquez, Kamila Shamsie, Lunatics Lovers and Poets, Marcos Giralt Torrente, Nell Leyshon, Rhidian Brook, Salman Rushdie, Shakespeare, Short Stories, Soledad Puertolas, Valeria Luiselli, Vicente Molina Foix, Yuri Herrara
On the occasion of the 400th anniversary of the death of Shakespeare and Cervantes the Hay Festival and the publisher And Other Stories, engaged twelve contemporary international authors to write original, unpublished stories that are inspired by the works of these two writers. Six are English-language writers and six are Spanish-language writers. The former use Cervantes as their muse and the latter, Shakespeare. Salman Rushdie provides the introduction to the anthology.
The end product are irregular. My favorite is Rhidian Brook’s The Anthology Massacre, which parodies this anthology and its authors, including Mr. Brook. While the 12 literary wonders are at the Hay Festival devising their stories for an anthology like this one, a relatively unknown author is about to take the literary world by storm with his 1,837 page retelling of Don Quixote narrated by the horse.
I am fond of Kamila Shamsie’s writing and here she reverts to a common venue for her Cervantes derived story: “In the city of Kolachi there lived the last of the Qissa-Khawans, or Storytellers.” Mir Aslam is the last of the Qissa-Khawans who was trained to tell love stories and desires to travel to Qurtaba, in al-Andalus, the literary heart of Muslim Spain.
The Secret Life of Shakespeareans by Soledad Puértolas though a love story is made tragic by the real life venue for this story: Aleppo. Although this anthology was published in 2016, the life in Aleppo that existed in this story is now fiction.
The flavor of Hamlet’s love, jealousy and tragedy is captured in Marcos Giralt Torrrente’s Opening Windows, which is a play within a play.
The most interesting aspect of this anthology was that it introduced me to writers that I was unaware of. This is likely not their best writing, but all are accomplished and will be worth reading at a later date.