October 23, 2008

We're All in This Together... Hey, What's With the Knife?

The Gorani are a small ethnic group in the Balkans who maintain their traditional ways of life within a 21st century Europe. For example, inhabitants of two Gorani villages in southernmost Kosovo celebrate a four-day festival called the Sunet every five years.

Sunet’s most attention-getting feature is its mass circumcision, the origins of which are lost in the mists of the past. (Good News: I’ll never write a sentence like that again.) As explained in Der Spiegel, an impressive array of festivities have sprung up around this collective rite of passage, including “oil wrestling, tug-of-war, stone throwing and live music from traditional five-man brass bands.”

There were 130 participants in the most recent Sunet, all between 10 months and 5 years of age. The honors for the task fall to a 70-year old barber named Zylfikar Shishko. The barber knows his business; after 45 years of service, Shishko guesses he’s performed this duty more than 15,000 times.

In an odd turn of events (and pages), I finished Shalom Auslander’s memoir (pictured above) just before learning of the Gorani. Coincidence? (This makes me wonder what will happen when I finish my current book, Penn Jillette's How to Cheat Your Friends at Poker.)

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