Pearls on a Branch: Oral Tales

by

Translated from by

Published: Coming April 17, 2018

Book Description

While civil war raged in Lebanon, Najla Jraissaty Khoury traveled with a theater troupe, putting on shows in marginal areas where electricity was a luxury, in air raid shelters, Palestinian refugee camps, and isolated villages. Their plays were largely based on oral tales, and she combed the country in search of stories. Many years later, she chose one hundred stories from among the most popular and published them in Arabic in 2014, exactly as she received them, from the mouths of the storytellers who told them as they had heard them when they were children from their parents and grandparents. Out of the hundred stories published in Arabic, Inea Bushnaq and Najla Jraissaty Khoury chose thirty for this book.

A funny, bawdy, occasionally gruesome, and decidedly adult collection that celebrates small cultural variations amid large universal values.

Kirkus Reviews


[T]hese tales are radiant with sunlight and flowers, jinns and spirits, palaces and sultans... the themes will resonate with anyone who loves fairy tales and folklore... An absolute delight for readers young and old.

Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal


“A unique literary reference, where speech is the beginning of imagination.”
Al Nahar


“The importance of this book lies in the quantity of oral tales that were recorded, and in the safekeeping of a cherished part of our collective memory, before they disappear in oblivion with the ones who told them.”
Al Hayat


The stories of Pearls on a Branch vary from fairy tale-esque to curiously compelling or comic. [...] These fantastic tales are culturally intriguing, and particularly notable for acknowledging the unique voices of Lebanese women, past and present.

Meg Nola, Foreword Reviews


Here a young woman slaps a suitor, transporting him back to his old life; the daughter of the sun and the moon commands objects with her voice; Thuraya, a long-haired woman trapped in a tower by a beastly ghoul, escapes with her lover by transforming everyday objects into a forest, a fire, an enormous lake... Filled with magic and cultural insight, the stories collected in Pearls on a Branch should be read aloud, explored and thoroughly enjoyed.

Laura Farmer, The Gazette


Such an exciting collection... Charming and sometimes quite subversive, and, like all folklore, offering a window into culture and social history.

Rebecca, Kramerbooks


Pearls on a Branch is an all-ages collection with something for everyone: delicious language, fun stories and unexpected reversals. Those who read it will find themselves like the married frogs at the end of their tale: 'Content, they ask for nothing more.'"

M Lynx Qualey, The National


It was very interesting to be given this opportunity to glimpse into such an essential but often overlooked aspect of Arabic life.

Literary Flits


Comic, unique, and at times provocative… There are many figures to admire in Pearls on a Branch, and the translator must be counted among them… [Inea Bushnaq’s] preservation of a sense of the original’s rhythmic quality, more than making up for the loss of wordplay and rhyme, achieves the impossible—rendering the written audible, enough to hear generations of female voices calling out, inviting you to sit and listen to their timeless tales.

Anaka Allen, Asymptote Journal


The Lebanese and French RAYA Agency has posted some summary and background about Najla Khoury’s research project, as well as a sample of the translation.

Najla Jraissaty Khoury’s compilation of Lebanese nursery rhymes, published by the Lebanese house Dar Onboz, was turned into a puppet show in Beirut. You can read about that production here.

The Paris Review has published an excerpt from translator Inea Bushnaq’s introduction to the book. You can read the article here.