Bookish Discussions

Reading Update #3:

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The last time I spoke to you I had just finished listening to the audiobook of Alone in Berlin. I was still reading William Makepeace Thackeray’s Vanity Fair (which, by the way, I still haven’t touched).

I’ve managed to read two books since then.

I started Halloween night with The Virago Book of Witches edited by Shahrukh Husain, which is an anthology of short folkloric stories from all over the world that examines the idea of a witch. From a woman who is passionate, caring and nurturing to a woman who is evil, cannibalistic and possessive. It has stories from all over the world, from varying centuries and decades, from various story-tellers.

I’m really interested in how different cultures and different times define the witch. There is no fixed definition of the witch, and beliefs/tradition take liberty with that, positioning the witch as something their culture should inspire to be like or to be the complete opposite of. It was a mixed bag of depictions and I learnt how different cultures view the figure.

I’m also really interested in how the witch has been passed on through the mode of story-telling. This book contributes to that by documenting how the witch has been told previously, through verbatim and through translation. It was interesting to see how Husain grouped the stories, and how the Irish, for example, saw the witch as a sort of blessing.

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