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The Book of Strangers
Ian Dallas

Published by SUNY Press c.1985

A Book Review by Bobby Matherne


This book begins with the words, "The End" followed by a paragraph ending with the words, "La ilaha il' Allah," which I believe translates from the Arabic, "there is no god but God, and it is Allah." What follows is a clerk in the State University Library undertakes to follow his predecessor as KASUL (Keeper of Archives State University Library) in a search for the book called, "The Book of Strangers" and at the end of the book, when he finally locates it, he opens it and reads the same paragraph that this book opens with.

During the course of the story the KASUL talks of holding "Thursdays" in the ancient scholastic tradition. Whenever he has a meeting it's on a Thursday. I could find no reference to "Thursdays" in the OED.

The best story in a book of good Sufi stories was the one about when Lao Tzu took his Westward journey and stopped to visit Kuan Yin, his master. They sat in silence together for days, then waited on each other and finally took their leave of each other after which Lao Tzu began the writing of his famous "Tao Te Ching." (This is the source book for the popularizations such as the Tao of Management, Tao of Leadership, and even the Tao of Pooh.)

At one point a student's persistent questioning of the Prophet draws the response, "Information, is that all you want?" Another time his attendees asked if they could lay out some food for him and he answered, "What have I to do with the world? In relation to the world, I am just like a rider who shades himself under a tree, then goes off and leaves it."

While we shade ourselves under this tree, may we rejoice in silence that we have "The Book of Strangers" as our constant friend.

If none of this Sufi business makes sense to you, remember what the Prophet- blessings and peace be upon him! - said, "Weep, and if you are not able to weep, imitate weeping, that by Allah's grace, you will be able to weep."

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