a Navajo poem: It Was The Wind

It was the wind that gave them life. It is the wind that comes out of our mouths now that gives us life. When this ceases to blow we die. In the skin at the tips of our fingers we see the trail of the wind; it shows us where the wind blew when our ancestors were created.

translated by Washington Matthews

from The Tales of Nasrettin Hoca by Aziz Nesin: You Can’t Close Anybody’s Mouth Tight Like A Bag

Hoca is on his way to the village. His son is riding the donkey and Hoca is walking. Passerbys object: “Poor old man has to walk while the lad goes on the donkey. For shame! What’s the world coming to?”

Overhearing this, Hoca tells his son to get down and he mounts the donkey. Further ahead, some people sitting by the road complain:

“Look at that big hunk of a man. He has no shame. He is riding the donkey and making that poor boy walk. People these days have no pity.”

This time, Hoca asks his son to jump on the donkey. As the donkey is trudging on with the two riders, some villagers say to each other:

“For goodness sake! Two men are riding that poor donkey. How cruel! The animal is a bag of bones, anyway. They’re going to break its back.”

When Hoca hears this, he dismounts and tells his son to get down. They go on their way, walking behind the donkey. As they approach the village, some people on the road make fun of them:

“Look at those stupid fools. Their donkey is trotting and those two are trudging along. They got no brains.”

When he hears this last comment, Hoca says to his son:

“Did you hear that? It’s best to go your own way. No matter what you do, people won’t be satisfied. You can’t close anybody’s mouth tight like a bag.”

translated by Talat Halman

from The Tales of Nasrettin Hoca by Aziz Nesin: Eat, My Fur-coat, Eat

Hoca is invited to a banquet. He goes there in his everyday clothes: No one pays attention to him. He is taken aback. He rushes home, puts his luxurious fur-coat on, and returns to the banquet. This time, he is met at the entrance and led to the dais where he is given the choicest seat. When the soup is served, Hoca dunks the lapel in the bowl saying “Please have some! Eat, my fur-coat, eat! Eat, my fur-coat, eat!”

In amazement, some people ask him why he is doing this. Hoca answers: “The fur-coat gets the best treat; so, the fur-coat should eat.”

translated by Talat Halman

from The Tales of Nasrettin Hoca by Aziz Nesin: Know-It-All Turban

An illiterate man receives a letter and asks Hoca to read it for him. Hoca does his best to decipher, but fails to make it  out. The letter is probably in Arabic or Persian. “I can’t read it,” he confess. “Have someone else read it.”

The man gets angry: “You are supposed to be a learned man, a teacher. You ought to be ashamed of the turban you’re wearing.”

Hoca takes his turban off, puts it on the man’s head, and says: “If you think the turban knows it all, see if you can read the letter.”

translated by Talat Halman

Note: Nasrettin Hoca has been a figure of humor and satire in Turkey since Ottoman times. Some of his stories have become proverbs. (“Hoca” is a term for teacher or preacher.)