. Sanssouci Verlag AG . Zurich ,
Language note: German
PS3537.A826 F315 1959 (Fable Collection, Reinert-Alumni Memorial Library)
Language note: German
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This is a German translation of Saroyan's Fables, published in English in 1941 by Harcourt Brace. Saroyan had identified them there in an opening comment as old Armenian stories. The most curious thing for me about this book, once I recognized it as a translation of Saroyan's earlier work, is that it includes twenty-six of his twenty-seven stories. My immediate question was, of course: Which one do they leave out? I am happy now to report that it is Story #9, with this long title: The Tribulations of the Simple Husband Who Wanted Nothing More than to Eat Goose but was Denied this Delight by His Unfaithful Wife and Her Arrogant but Probably Handsome Lover. In fact, my comment on Saroyan's book had singled out this story as an example of the clever long titles. As I comment there, fables show up here in various ways. Sometimes a traditional fable shows up in slightly changed form. Thus TB (12) has a form of the La Fontaine version. In this form one of the two hunters has already sold a bearskin, while the other will wait to catch a bear first. The former, foolish hunter, encounters a bear, drops his gun, and falls to the ground pretending to be dead. This bear waters in his face before walking away! Asked what the bear has told him, the foolish hunter becomes less foolish and answers that the bear told him not to sell his skin before he gets it off the bear's body. The traditional fable about the traveler and satyr shows up here as the story of a man and a bear who were friends (13). New to me but like many fables is the story of the turtle who comes to the dying lion shot by hunters. The turtle curses those who come to injure magnificent creatures of the earth like us (14). Similarly, the rabbit tries to imitate the roaring lion, but only makes a squeak that alerts the fox to his presence. The fox comes and kills him easily (36). I do not think there is a bad story in the book. Maybe the best non-fable tells the story of the exchange between a crazy man and a king (52). The best joke might be that about the man who plays a cello with only one string and fingers the string in the same place. In response to his wife's observation that others play with four strings and move their fingers continuously, the man says that they are looking for the place and he has found it (62). The art is, I believe, typical of postwar German art. I think of the work of Ernst Barlach. The figures are large and simple; they look the viewer in the eye.