Salman Rushdie's Adaptations of the Dastan Genre
Panel:Adaptations of South Asian Narratives Across Time and Space
Hailed as “the Iliad and Odyssey of medieval Persia”, Hamzanama or The Adventures of Amir Hamza-Lord of the Auspicious Planetary Conjunction is an ahistorical and areligious narrative built around the life and times of Hamza bin Abdul Muttalib, the uncle of Prophet Muhammad who lived in Arabia (566–625 C.E.). The first historical references to stories venerating Hamza date back to the times of the Prophet. However, through centuries of being adapted into narrative traditions and art forms, especially through the Indo-Persian oral storytelling genre known as dastan, history and fact have been subsumed into the fantastical. This paper studies Salman Rushdie’s adaptations of stories from the Hamzanama and The Arabian Nights and discusses how this ‘plagiarism’ that lends flamboyance to his narratives remains mysteriously hidden from scholarship. Focussing specifically on Haroun and The Sea of Stories (1990) and Two Years, Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights (2015) the paper foregrounds Rushdie’s relationship with his “Eastern literary ancestors” and analyses how Rushdie adapts and appropriates characters and stories from the dastan tradition into his works of fiction complete with their intact histories and cultural realities to tell brilliantly ‘new’ stories.