Monday, July 2, 2018

She Didn’t Know How to Read, but Her Stories Captured History

Review by Gaiutra Bahadur for The New York Times:
Aida Edemariam may not have intended the title of her book to recall the Wife of Bath, of Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales.” Still, three themes fundamental to that canonical work are also at the capacious, warmly beating heart of “The Wife’s Tale,” Edemariam’s chronicle of her grandmother’s life in 20th-century Ethiopia. Chaucer’s medieval classic unfolds as a storytelling battle among pilgrims traveling to the shrine of an English archbishop martyred in a church-and-state intrigue. 

The Wife throws down with a story about a knight who, to escape punishment for rape, embarks on a quest to find out what makes women happiest. (Sovereignty over their husbands, it turns out.) 

Edemariam’s sublimely crafted tribute to her grandmother also involves sparring storytellers, religion (including pilgrimage and church-and-state intrigues) and the happiness and sovereignty of married women.

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