Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Conference of the Birds: aka How to Confuse the Heck out of the Reader

The Conference of the Birds by Jean-Claude Carriere & Peter Brook (based on the poem by Farid Uddi Attar)

When I first mentioned this book as one that was on my TBR list, I told how I had this fabulous quote from the original poem and that I wanted to read this book to find more of the same. Uh. Yeah. Not so much. I'm still really interested in reading the original poem (not printed in this book at all) just to see if the rest of the poem is as beautiful as the quote I found.

This book wound up being a play based on the poem which was
composed in the twelfth century in north-eastern Iran. Attar's great mystical poem is among the most significant of all works of Persian literature. The quote I like so much? Not in there...at least not in any recognizable form. And the whole thing just confused the heck out of me. Okay, so I've got the main plot. The birds are in an uproar because there's so much fighting and suffering amongst them. And they all become convinced to go off in search of "god" so they can be happy and at peace. After a long, arduous journey, they discover that "god" was in them all along. Okay, fine. But, honestly, having read this play...I can't imagine it being staged--not as written. And there's usually not much wrong with my imagination. I suppose maybe I just don't fully understand the "marvellous, allegorical rendering of the Islamic doctrine of Sufism an esoteric system concerned with the search for truth"....but the stories told within the play just don't do it for me. And I don't see how this could have been "the supreme theatrical event of the season" as it is lauded by Mel Gussow from The New York Times. One star out of five. I could only really recommend this to someone who is far better acquainted with Islamic allegory and stage productions than I am. Maybe they would understand it.....

3 comments:

LupLun said...

Birds as a metaphor for spiritual enlightenment, you say? Sounds like Jonathon Livingston Seagull to me. Which in itself was kind of weird...

Bev Hankins said...

I enjoyed Jonathon Livingston Seagull WAY more....

Heather J. said...

Yeah, I'm thinking this isn't the kind of play for me ... but you are QUITE brave for taking it on!