“The Uigur’s eyes were bright and keen, but he had difficulty reading the fine script on that delicate paper. The noonday sun was beating down on the page and it blazed before him, blinding him momentarily. He could hardly make it out. It was written as if at a great speed, without the dots. And yet it seemed to be one enigmatic dot. The words ran into one another, equivocal. They told him the path is straight and the way is narrow even while it is more spacious than the heavens and the earth and all that lies between them. It told him that the primal point was the beginning and the end; the centre and the circumference of the heavens and the earth and all that lies between them. He did not understand.”
First published in 2001, The Saddlebag by Iranian-British author Bahiyyih Nakhjavani is one story that is nine stories, nine stories that are one story. Nine characters encounter each other and the contents of mysterious saddlebag on Pilgrimage to the Holy Cities of Mecca and Medina. A contemporary Canterbury Tales, each story resonates with joy, sorrow, life, death, and the ever changing face of the Divine. The Thief, the Bride, the Chieftain, the Moneychanger, the Slave, the Pilgrim, the Priest, the Dervish, and the Corpse. These nine souls—different races, stations, religions and backgrounds—gravitate, unbeknownst to them, towards a single, primal point.
About the Author
Bahiyyih Nakhjavani was born in Iran, grew up in Uganda and was educated in Britain. After completing her doctorate in the USA, she taught English and related literature in Europe, Africa and the Middle East as well as Canada and America. She has published two titles in the UK (Bloomsbury), three in the US (Stanford University Press) and four in France (Actes Sud). Many of her novels are also available in Spanish (Alianza) and Italian (Rizzoli). She currently lives in France where she has been teaching and writing for the past twenty years.