01 February 2008

The Way of the Kurds

Here's another recent article from the Boston Globe about a writing-group colleague, in this case storyteller Diane Edgecomb, who has just published an unusual collection, A Fire in My Heart: Kurdish Tales. The paper discusses her research travels:

Edgecomb met some Kurdish refugees in 1999 and was impressed by their strong oral history. With politics and modernization threatening to render the old ways obsolete, Edgecomb set out to record their stories, doing most of her work in Turkey between 2005 and last year.

Accompanied by a guide and translator, Edgecomb spent hours listening to and filming the tradition bearers. "This isn't just a project to create a book," said Edgecomb. "I'm documenting the tellers and creating an archive." The book, released this month, is the first volume of Kurdish tales published in English, and also includes recipes, games, and color photos. . . .

"We found one teller whose family for generations had been in the mountains," said Edgecomb. "A nomadic family, and only in the last year had they come down to the cities." The man related epic tales of Rusteme Zal, a legendary figure of Kurdish folklore. "He went on for two hours with just one story and then he told me that was only the outline," Edgecomb said.

Of the pieces she's collected, a yarn about why the moon has dirty spots on its face is a favorite. There are also humorous themes. "They love telling stories about the fox . . . tricking people and tricking other animals," said Edgecomb. "Those are very funny stories. Also beautiful fairy tales, wonderful wonder stories, which go on and on and on."
Kurdistan seems to edge closer to de facto independent status each year, though perhaps pushing for de jure nationhood would wipe out some of those gains. Not that the current administration is facing the hard choices of that situation. I quote from Jeffrey Goldberg's cover story "After Iraq" in the current Atlantic Monthly:
At a conference in 2004, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice stated, “What has been impressive to me so far is that Iraqis--whether Kurds or Shia or Sunni or the many other ethnic groups in Iraq--have demonstrated that they really want to live as one in a unified Iraq.”

As Peter Galbraith, a former American diplomat and an advocate for Kurdish independence, has observed, Rice’s statement was disconnected from observable reality--shortly before she spoke, 80 percent of all Iraqi Kurdish adults had signed a petition calling for a vote on independence.

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