Nasrudin, Nasrúidín, Nasroodeen

Gabriel Rosenstock in conversation with Mícheál Ó hAodha
(From: Nasrúidín Athinsint, Original Writing 2012)

Nasrudin is not a well-known figure in Ireland. Where did you come across him first?

He’s a composite type of character really and a lot of the Nasrudin humour has made its way by a circuitous route from Afghanistan, India, Turkey, Iraq and so on to vaudeville New York and later on to the big screen. I first came across him in the discourses of Rajneesh (later Osho). If you were reading spiritual discourses by Vivekananda, Yogananda or Krishnamurti, let us say, you  wouldn’t expect to come across too many humorous asides but Osho had a lot of time for humour and spiced up his discourses with Nasrudin tales and other material. And so, I thought, we have versions of Aesop in Irish, why not Nasrudin?

Why not indeed!

Actually, it’s a serious question. There’s an incredible amount of world literature and folklore which never gets a mention in an Irish-language context, not to mention being actually translated into Irish. I think we box ourselves in a lot. We need to get out a bit more – into the big world, I mean.

Strange that it hadn’t been done before.

There’s thousands of things that haven’t been done before (in Irish). Look at the book of Jewish humour I brought out, Greann na nGiúdach (Coiscéim, 2008). How come that hadn’t been donebefore? Or Birbal (CIC, 2011), ancient and medieval tales from India. I also have Native American tales in the pipeline. Yes, I do find it a bit odd that I have to come up with a lot of these ideas myself. Publishing houses should have commissioning editors to create such titles. You might ask, is there a demand for titles with an international flavour.

I was going to ask that!

You’ve got to create a demand. For me, there should be space on the shelf for lots of literary experiences and reading adventures. It doesn’t have to be high literature all the time, it doesn’t have to be hermetic or esoteric. We need all types of literature. I’m reading R K Narayan again. What a wonderfully light touch he had! I don’t think he’s known much in Ireland, is he? Next week I’ll need to read something meatier though. Or write or translate something in a different vein. Maybe I’ll start on another volume of Guthanna Beannaithe an Domhain, an anthology of sacred literature. Two volumes have appeared already. A third, the largest so far, is at the printers. But getting back to Nasrúidín. He’s a great leveller. Himself and his donkey! There’s something quixotic about him. The knight errant wouldn’t be the same without his steed either, would he?

He occurs (as Nasroodeen) in your book The Pleasantries of Krishnamurphy: Revelations from an Irish Ashram (Non-Duality Press, 2012)

That’s a measure of my affection for him. Great characters in literature and folklore are often as alive as real people, don’t you think? In the Krishnamurphy book, he gets to indulge in a bit of Keats & Chapman humour (of sorts) and so, the composite Nasrudin adds another layer to his growing mystery.

Thank you!

Thank Nasrudin. Or Nasreddin. Or Nasr Eddin or whoever the hell he is.