The Book: Tales from One Thousand and One Nights.
The Challenge: From January 1st 2017, I will tell stories for 1,001 Nights.
Follow Me Follow Shaharazad
I will post proof of my daily storying online at https://instagram.com/divyaghelani. #1001Nights
I will also reflect on the tales and my own storying process here via a series of blogs.
*Stories will be standalone or interlinked. They will be of any length and any subject. You will only be able to read a teaser of each story on Instagram as I’ll just be taking a snap of work done! I’m pretty shy about showing unfinished stuff just yet. Let’s see how we go …
Who is Shaharazad?
“Seeking vengeance for the infidelity of his wife, King Shahriyar decides to marry a new virgin every night before cutting off her head in the morning. The king’s vizier is ordered to find new girls for the king to marry and to later take them to their deaths. One day, the vizier’s own daughter, a seventeen-year-old girl called Shaharazad, tells her father that she has a plan that can stop King Shahriyar. She says she will volunteer as the psychotic king’s next wife. The vizier tries to dissuade his eldest daughter but Shaharazad knows her mind and will not be moved. She asks for her younger sister, Dunyazad, to accompany her and tells her the plan. On their first night of marriage, after Shaharazad and the king have made love, Dunyazad arrives at their bedchamber and says cannot sleep. Could her sister tell her a bedtime story? The king agrees and Shaharazad tells her sister the most incredible tale. The king eavesdrops on the two sisters and as he listens in, Shaharazad’s story so enchants him that when the sun begins to rise on a new day he does not send her to her death. Instead he waits for another story, and then another …”
Shaharazad’s storytelling, a feat of wonder and political heroism, has inspired countless readers around the world.
Walking Shaharazad’s Path
I was browsing through Waterstone’s bookstore in High Cross, Leicester, when I chanced upon a new edition of Tales from 1,001 Nights by Malcolm S. Lyons and Ursula Lyons. It was a beautiful blue velvety hardcover and the bookseller (who knew me from a teenage Saturday job in another bookshop) encouraged me to buy it. I had read the stories in my childhood and thought I’d gift the collection to someone much younger than me. But as soon as I opened the book I couldn’t stop reading. The tales were wild and wonderful compared to my staple diet of contemporary realist literary fiction. Reading them, I was transported to the Gujarati folk tales and Hindu myths of my childhood. They inspired in me a sense of wonder and possibility and I read more editions of the tales as well as criticism about them. Reading Tales from 1,001 Nights as an adult requires a critical perspective. Racism, orientalism, and sexism abound in the stories and yet representations of female characters are also complex and intriguing: women are enchantresses, sorceresses, maids, mothers, daughters, and sisters with grand narrative arcs. They are shape-shifters and djinns. They speak of universal themes such as sex, politics, and justice and Shaharazad is the most brilliant of them all.
I began to write a story a day back in 2015 in an effort to learn how to finish things. For many years, perfectionism, fear, and anxiety had stopped me from sending my stories out into the world. Without knowing it, I had been silencing myself, and many potentially incredible projects lay unfinished and unloved. Using Shaharazad as my guide, I managed to pull myself out of my paralysing fear and self-doubt and into the realm of daily imaginative storying. I wrote a story a day for a period of 7 ½ months and sent them via email to my sister. In doing so, I found myself walking beyond the land of destructive perfectionism and into a place of fertile creativity, of new ideas, and crazy possibilities. It is perhaps ironic then that perfectionism once more overtook and I stopped my daily storying ritual.
Last month, I took up my velvety blue edition of Tales from 1,001 Nights. To my surprise, the stories had had the same wondrous effect on me as they did back in 2015. Now I’ve set myself the challenge of walking Shaharazad’s path in full. Wish me luck!