Like Reading? Like Talking About What You’ve Read? Then Start a Reading Circle!.
“I have had toothaches so painful that I can’t concentrate to read,” laughs Ahmed Shah Pasoon. “So it is important to use what the Arabs call the wooden toothbrush, ‘miswak’.” He holds up an Arabic language text on miswak, and a Pashto language translation he himself has just completed. Over one hundred listeners at the Adabi Bahir, a meeting of literature lovers in Lashkar Gah, Helmand province, laugh with him. They too have known the pain of toothache: and they too love reading.
“I like to attend the Adabi Bahir,” says Abdul Baqi, a shopkeeper in Lashkar Gah. “I had to leave school after the 10th Year to support my family but I am passionate about poetry. Members of the Adabi Bahir are helping me with my writing and I hope to present to the group soon. I write all the time, even in the shop when it’s quiet.” He clutches pens and a notebook filled with draft poetry.
This time the meeting is focussed on the discussion of four texts in translation: Ahmed Shah Pasoon’s translation of the Arabic text on miswak; local teacher Agha Mohammed Qarayshi’s translation of an American text, “Journalism Today”; and two translations by local poet, Abdul Manan, one of an English novel, “The Love of a Son” and another text on the subject of spiritualism and ghosts.
Each author presents his text and a discussion then follows (the translations are made available before the meeting to allow participants to read them). With over 100 Helmand reading fans attending, the discussion is lively and needs the confident controlling hand of Mohammed Sayid Heyerat, the organiser of the Adabi Bahir.
All attendees agree on one thing: the translations are excellent. But everything else about the texts is subject to fierce debate!
“We are translating from English and Arabic into Pashto: we should be translating the great texts of Pashto into English and Arabic as well,” points out Rafari, also a teacher. “Texts like the works of Guram Mohammed Gubar, the great Pashto historian.
“Or the comedies of Mullah Nasredin,” comments Sultan Wali, another attendee. The range of interests is wide and the appetite strong.
The meeting ends with the presentation of certificates in recognition of the work of the three translators. But a literary discussion doesn’t need to have hundreds of participants. You could set up your own reading circle. All you need are a few friends, an agreed text to discuss and a place to meet. “You always discover a new angle or new information about something you thought you knew in these discussions,” says Zaman, a government worker.
“I write poetry and poetry is meant to be read aloud. These groups are also a great way to practise recitation and to receive comments. But I would rather practise with a small group of friends before reciting in front of hundreds.”
So what are you waiting for?