I'm currently working on a story to read at Tight Lip on the 19th. As background I flicked through Pierre Bayard's fantastic text How to Talk About Books You Haven't Read. It's as good as I remember, and this time I decided to follow-up one its references, Shakespeare in the Bush. This essay describes Laura Bohannan's disastrous attempt to tell the story of Hamlet to a tribe she was studying.
Bohannon starts out convinced that human nature is similar enough around the world that the great tragedies should be possible for anyone to follow. This doesn't turn out to be the case:
"The old man made soothing noises and himself poured me some more beer.
"You tell the story well, and we are listening. But it is clear that
the elders of your country have never told you what the story really
means. No, don't interrupt! We believe you when you say your marriage
customs are different, or your clothes and weapons. but people are the
same everywhere; therefore, there are always witches and it is we, the
elders, who know how witches work."
The essay, with it's improvised retelling of Hamlet, is very funny while raising some fascinating questions.