Wed Mar 19 - The Sufi Roots of a North African Tale - Dr. Bill Hutchins discusses his new book and its ties to Conference of the Birds


Date:  Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Time: 5:00 pm

Location: Belk Library -- Room 114

Admission: Free, open to the public

Attend a rare evening with Appalachian State University’s own award-winning Arabic translator, Dr. Bill Hutchins.  He will discuss his newly translated book, New Waw, Saharan Oasis by Ibrahim al-Koni, a tale set among the nomadic Tuareg people of Northern Africa, and how the story ties into the Sufi classic, Conference of the Birds.  As an added bonus, the event will open with a world premiere of a 15-minute animated film by Sarah Beddington, for which Dr. Hutchins provided translation.

Dr. Bill Hutchins, from ASU’s Department of Philosophy and Religion, is a prolific and award-winning translator of literary Arabic and a recent winner of the Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation for his translation of Yemeni author Wajdi al-Ahdal’s A Land Without Jasmine.  Among his many achievements is his translation of the Cairo Trilogy by Egyptian Nobel Prize-winner Naguib Mahfouz, widely regarded as one of the finest works of fiction in Arabic literature. 

 New Waw, Saharan Oasis is a Tuareg tale of the tension between nomadism and settled life that represents a choice faced by people everywhere, in many walks of life, as a result of globalism. al-Koni sees an inevitable interface between myth and contemporary life.

Conference of the Birds, by the Persian poet Farid El-Din Al-Attar, is a Sufi epic poem dating from 1177 in which the birds of the world gather to decide who is to be their king. The hoopoe, the wisest of them all, suggests that they should find the legendary Simorgh, a mythical Persian bird roughly equivalent to the western phoenix. The hoopoe leads the birds, each of whom represent a human fault which prevents man from attaining enlightenment. When the group of thirty birds finally reaches the dwelling place of the Simorgh, all they find is a lake in which they see their own reflection.

Students, faculty, and community members are encouraged to check-out the books discussed and participate in discussion.  Copies are available in the Browsing section of the Appalachian State University Library.  But familiarity with the books is not necessary to appreciate this event.   The event will be Wednesday, March 19, 2014, at 5:00 PM in the Library auditorium Room 114.

Presented by ASU Library in conjunction with the Muslim Students Association as the sixth event of the Muslim Journeys Bridging Cultures “Let’s Talk About It” Program, a series of book and film discussions. The program is supported by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the American Library Association.  This series follows upon the Muslim Journeys Bridging Cultures Bookshelf Program begun in spring 2013 which provided materials related to Muslim cultures to the University Library.

Please contact Allan Scherlen (LIB)  ( for more information


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