Being told the story of a tree. More Interesting Than it Sounds.

by brooksbrendan
With the “The Doum Tree Of Wad Hamid” I am returned to my favorite kind of storytelling. Oral storytelling is a slowly diminishing art form relegated to religious tales and stories told to between friends. What Tayeb Salih has successfully done here is to take the oral storytelling tradition and almost seamlessly translate it to the page.

Salih does not spend much time on setting or characterization to begin his story. We are accepted right into the village from the first words. There are two characters present from the start, the old man who has greeted us and another young man who the stories are being told to. The second character however is skillfully dealt with however by being withheld until the end. What this does is allows the old narrator to bypass words on a page and speak directly to us. As the reader we have no choice but to, for the moment, place ourselves in place of the other character.

The other nice touch that is reminiscent the oral storytelling tradition, is that most of the characterization of the village itself is done through the series of stories being told to us. It gives the village itself a more authentic history and weight behind it. It is like having the history of a family heirloom told to you by your grandfather or reading it in a book. Though both succeed in giving you the information it is the warmness of voice that sets them apart and makes it memorable.

This piece reminded me of another piece I reviewed called Like Stars in a Clear Night Sky . It, like Salih’s piece, brought me back to those dusty old campfires or nights spent under the stars. What is exciting about “The Doum Tree Of Wad Hamid” is that is has taken me somewhere I have never been and made it very familiar.


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