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Download A Story as Sharp as a Knife: The Classical Haida Mythtellers by Robert Bringhurst PDF

By Robert Bringhurst

The Haida global is a misty archipelago 100 stormy miles off the coasts of British Columbia and Alaska. For 1000 years and extra prior to the Europeans got here, a good tradition flourished in those islands. The masterworks of classical Haida sculpture, now enshrined in lots of of the world's nice museums, diversity from beautiful tiny amulets to outstanding large housepoles. Classical Haida literature is every piece as numerous and wonderful. It extends from tiny jewels crafted by way of grasp songmakers to complex mythic cycles lasting many hours.

The linguist and ethnographer John Swanton took dictation from the final nice Haida-speaking storytellers, poets and historians from the autumn of 1900 throughout the summer time of 1901. His Haida hosts and co-workers were raised in a unconditionally oral global the place the mythic and the non-public interpenetrate thoroughly. They joined forces with their customer, consciously making a nice treasury of Haida oral literature in written shape. Poet and linguist Robert Bringhurst has labored for a few years with those century-old manuscripts, that have waited beforehand for the vast popularity they deserve.

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Additional info for A Story as Sharp as a Knife: The Classical Haida Mythtellers and Their World

Sample text

It is one piece of work ; it is also part of a fabric that is torn and patched, woven and unwoven day after day, night after night, and sentence after sentence, like the cloth on Penelope’s loom. indd 50 01/12/2010 2:54:51 PM 2 * Spoken Music T he poets portrayed in the Odyssey – Demodokos and Phemios – are singers. Ghandl’s poems were spoken, not chanted or sung, but they are musical in other important ways – so much so that I think his work deserves to be compared to European music as much as to European sculpture and painting.

But at the center of it all, as in a mirror, there is a face. It is drawing back, twisted with astonishment. It belongs to the other pilgrim – and to us. Ghandl’s poem, like Rembrandt’s painting, or Velázquez’s, takes the form it does because that is the form its author gave it. It has the human poignancy it does because that poignancy is something its author had learned to perceive and communicate. The images and themes of which it is made are largely materials he inherited – and along with these components, he inherited a narrative and visionary grammar for putting them together.

Drawing on this old, shared recipe – as dormant in its way as Luke’s abbreviated version of the supper at Emmaus – and adding some significant resources of his own, Ghandl could construct a work of art that can stand beside the paintings of Rembrandt and Velázquez or, I think, beside the sonatas of Haydn and Mozart. It is a work of music built from silent images, sounding down the years. It is a vision painted indelibly in the air with words that disappear the moment they are spoken. indd 63 01/12/2010 2:54:52 PM Bear’s eye from the housepole of Naagha Hliman Xhunandas (House of the Cascading Elk Hides), Ttanuu.

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