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Review: The re-invention of folk and native wisdom in Hammad Rind’s Four Dervishes

12 Dec 2021 3 minute read
Four Dervishes by Hammad Rind, Seren Books

Chinyere Chukwudi-Okeh

There is something eternal and revolutionary in the creative redeployment of folklore, fables, legends and ancient wisdom, adapting them to the 21st-century digital culture.

Hammad Rind succeeds in creating the narrative appeal of the popular Tales by Moonlight and Arabian Nights stories in a very vivid and imaginative storytelling pattern.

So vivid are these stories that one can imagine Rind, sitting on a fine stool, surrounded by hundreds of audience as he narrates these stories, commanding all the emotions of surprise, shock and jaw-dropping feelings that these stories effortlessly evoke.

The presence of the author is powerfully felt through mind-blowing twists and unexpected endings. There is no possibility of predictability to the turn of events in this collection. Four Dervishes is indeed a journey into alternate worlds and universes human and otherwise, drawing lessons and salient messages, which is the notable attribute of folklore.

In Rind’s Four Dervishes lies the gnomic representation of the material and aesthetic cultures of countries and continents, a cross-cultural intersection of lands, lineages and languages. This is such that the narrative shrinks borders and frontiers, lavishly deploying the charms of culture. Some of the stories transcend mundanity to the esoteric, but the author breaks them down for ease of understanding and clarity.

Harbinger of legends

We follow Alverdi who takes a U-turn from his ancestral skill of evoking laughter through comedic renditions to the opposite of evoking tears through dirgic tunes and narratives, and the suspense grinds to a halt in the most unexpected ending. Without any intentions of giving spoilers, this chink of the iceberg reveals the satirical nature of the narratives.

There is a rapid succession of events that yields to both fluidity of the tales and their fast-paced segmentation. The power of language through code-mixing and switching is made pleasurable with the fantastical stories behind their usage.

It is amazing how little things that may ordinarily be considered superficial, assume powerful consequences that make or mar the characters associated with them. Things like moustaches/beards, golden nose, TV programmes, knees, epitaphs, eyes, oven-baked bread and much more, all become totemic bones around which the major plots are woven.

Four Dervishes is enchanting, magical and holds the reader spellbound, wondering how the mind of the author conjures such tales-within-tales in quick succession and then manages to tie them all in at the end.

Rind paints the cemetery as a harbinger of legends, dreams, destinies, and an assembly of interesting personalities whose life journeys command attention.

I laughed out heartily and spared a thought to the underlying semantics of these stories. The deification of the unthinkable, the riddling effects, the laughable superstitions and lore, divine eccentricities, the tall tales and the casual appeal to common sense through symbolic circumstances, remain the ultimate selling point of Four Dervishes and the grand epitome of Hammad Rind’s mastery of the craft of storytelling.

I do not flatter you when I say this is a page-turner that will have your eyes glued to the pages, flipping endlessly till the very end!

Hammad Rind’s ‘Four Dervishes’ is published by Seren.  You can buy a copy here or from your local bookshop

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