The Arabian Nights
The tales of told by Shahrazad over a thousand and one nights to delay her execution by the vengeful King Shahriyar have become among the most popular in both Eastern and Western literature, as recounted by Sir Francis Burton. From the epic adventures of "Aladdin and the Enchanted Lamp" to the farcical "Young Woman and her Five Lovers" and the social criticism of "The Tale of the Hunchback", the stories depict a fabulous world of all-powerful sorcerers, jinns imprisoned in bottles and enchanting princesses. But despite their imaginative extravagance, the Tales are anchored to everyday life by their realism, providing a full and intimate record of medieval Islam.'

The Arabian Nights Details

TitleThe Arabian Nights
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseJun 1st, 2004
PublisherModern Library
ISBN-139780812972146
Rating
GenreClassics, Fiction, Fantasy, Short Stories

The Arabian Nights Review

  • Petra-X
    January 1, 1970
    When I was a little girl my grandmother gave me a big, blue, cloth bound edition of this book. It had the most exquisite coloured plates protected by tissue paper interleaved with the printed sheets. It was the perfect storybook for a bookish, fanciful child living in an abusive home. I spent a year reading this book. Every night I would read it and disappear from all the fear and unpleasantness around me into this realm of people in exotic clothes who could do magic. I cherished the book. I When I was a little girl my grandmother gave me a big, blue, cloth bound edition of this book. It had the most exquisite coloured plates protected by tissue paper interleaved with the printed sheets. It was the perfect storybook for a bookish, fanciful child living in an abusive home. I spent a year reading this book. Every night I would read it and disappear from all the fear and unpleasantness around me into this realm of people in exotic clothes who could do magic. I cherished the book. I took it everywhere. It was never on display but always kept in the airing cupboard where it would be warm and dry. (view spoiler)[I think I got this from my father. He used to read dirty books in the bath and leave them in the airing cupboard to dry out. I read quite a lot of Miller, DH Lawrence etc. that way. (hide spoiler)]One year I rented my London flat to a thieving pig. He looked very nice, tall, handsome, very well-spoken and supposedly had family from one of the sister islands I live on. He would write cheques with the sixes and nines reversed (in his favour), ones he'd 'forgotten' to sign. When I eventually got possession of the place, he superglued the bedroom doors locks, ripped the panelling off the bathtub, and threw black paint on the mattresses. And stole all my rare books. One was an amazing underground banned book on Turkey, a sort of guide book to what they don't want you to see, went missing and another one was this one.I phoned his father. He was all shock/horror on the phone. But when he came round he threatened me. If I took it further he and his sons would make me very sorry. I kind of wish I had a book like this again. One with the capability of taking me far away into another realm where the troubles of the day just don't intrude. But I'm grown up now and books no longer have that amazing, all-encompassing, lost for hours effect.
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  • Manny
    January 1, 1970
    Ah, if only I could write like the late Sir Richard Burton! Normally I dislike translations, but to refuse to read The Arabian Nights on those grounds would be like refusing to read the Bible. I love parodying people's styles, and I have tried my utmost to parody Burton convincingly, but I can't do it. He's too clever. He has taken this unique book, a miraculous survival from the most ancient antiquity, and he has created a unique language to make it accessible to us: the backbone is a kind of Ah, if only I could write like the late Sir Richard Burton! Normally I dislike translations, but to refuse to read The Arabian Nights on those grounds would be like refusing to read the Bible. I love parodying people's styles, and I have tried my utmost to parody Burton convincingly, but I can't do it. He's too clever. He has taken this unique book, a miraculous survival from the most ancient antiquity, and he has created a unique language to make it accessible to us: the backbone is a kind of Spenserian English, but he has modified it in subtle ways, adding some French roots here, some Nordic ones there, pinches of more obscure ingredients when he feels he needs them, creating alliterations and internal rhymes and odd sentence structures to echo the rhythms of the original, inserting endless footnotes to tell us poor people what we're missing through not knowing Arabic. Burton is always present in the text, leading us by the hand through his favorite passages, flooring us with a jaw-droppingly inappropriate comment one moment (it isn't sexist or racist: it transcends sexism and racism) and then turning round a second later to hit us with a marvellous piece of poetry or romance or heroism, crowing over his rivals' mistakes, inserting irrelevant anecdotes or obscure pieces of etymology that he just couldn't resist, showing off his knowledge of the seventeen languages he speaks fluently and the others that he just has a passing acquaintance with. And all the time, often without us even realizing what he's doing, telling us about Islam, the religion so many of us Westerners fear without understanding it, showing us what it's like from the inside, from the perspective of an eighth century cobbler or Caliph or slave-girl, how, whatever else it may be, it is a great religion, one that hundreds of millions of people have gladly lived and died in, without ever questioning the will of Allah or his prophet Mohammed, peace be upon him.I have never read anything like it.
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  • Aaron
    January 1, 1970
    The more I read user reviews of The Arabian Nights, the more convinced I am that people are just posting negative things to be contrary. How can you not love this collection of stories? Common complaints: 1)It's racist -- Yes, the work itself, by today's standards, could probably be considered racist. This work was originally written many thousands of years ago. Keep that in mind and get off your high horse.2) It's misogynistic-- I disagree. That which would be considered misogynistic falls into The more I read user reviews of The Arabian Nights, the more convinced I am that people are just posting negative things to be contrary. How can you not love this collection of stories? Common complaints: 1)It's racist -- Yes, the work itself, by today's standards, could probably be considered racist. This work was originally written many thousands of years ago. Keep that in mind and get off your high horse.2) It's misogynistic-- I disagree. That which would be considered misogynistic falls into the category of that described above. Attitudes towards women were considerably different back then. Get off your high horse. Also, the entire book revolves around a woman who outsmarts her captor. Depicting a woman of such high wit and education is hardly misogynistic. The stories themselves are full of women who outsmart the men who suppress them. If anything, the women in The Arabian Nights come off as being considerably more worldly than their male counterparts. 3) Too long-- It is true that the work is quite long. I might have been better served breaking the book into chunks. Read a few stories, read something else, come back to this so that I could read a few more stories. This strategy might have relieved some of my own "tedium" since the stories get considerably longer as the work progresses. I read the whole work in one stretch. Yes, I got a little antsy to get to the end. But it is a book of stories. It can be split into sections. The book's weight and heft should not be an excuse to pass this one by.Not all of the stories are fantastic. Not all of the stories are even interesting. But this is a seminal work in the history of published writing and its influence is well-earned. Highly recommended.
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  • Ahmad Sharabiani
    January 1, 1970
    996. The Thousand and One Nights, AnonymousThe work was collected over many centuries by various authors, translators, and scholars across West, Central, and South Asia and North Africa. The tales themselves trace their roots back to ancient and medieval Arabic, Greek, Indian, Jewish, Persian and Turkish folklore and literature. In particular, many tales were originally folk stories from the Abbasid era, while others, especially the frame story, are most probably drawn from the Pahlavi Persian 996. The Thousand and One Nights, AnonymousThe work was collected over many centuries by various authors, translators, and scholars across West, Central, and South Asia and North Africa. The tales themselves trace their roots back to ancient and medieval Arabic, Greek, Indian, Jewish, Persian and Turkish folklore and literature. In particular, many tales were originally folk stories from the Abbasid era, while others, especially the frame story, are most probably drawn from the Pahlavi Persian work Hezār Afsān (A Thousand Tales), which in turn relied partly on Indian elements.تاریخ نخستین خوانش: سال 1981 و سپس بارها نسخه های متفات را نیز خوانده امهزار و یک شب؛ همیشه ماندنی، همیشه یادگار قصه ها و غصه های روزهای دور، همیشه دوست دوستدر باره ی اصل و نسب «هزار و یک شب»؛ که از شناخته ­ترین کتاب­های جهان است، و تقریبا به همه ی زبان­های زنده ی این دنیا ترجمه شده، سخنان بسیار گفته­ اند، و از معتبرترین نوشته ­ها در این باب، یکی مطلبی است که روانشاد «مسعودی (متوفی به­ سال 346 هجری قمری)» در «مروج­ الذهب» آورده، و دیگری قول روانشاد «ابن­ ندیم (متوفی به­ سال 385 هجری قمری)» در «الفهرست» است. از سخنان این دو چنین برمی­آید، که کتاب ایرانی «هزار افسانه»، بی تردید مرجع اصلی «الف لیلة ولیله»، بوده است. اما ممکن است، و گمان میرود، که خود هزار افسانه ی «پهلوی» و یا چارچوبه ی «داستان شهرزاد و شهریار»، و برخی از داستان­های آن، از منابع «هندی» گرفته شده، و از روی سرمشق و الگویی «هندی» در «ایران» پدید آمده است، و «الف لیل» میراث «هند» و «فرس» شاید باشد. چون علاوه بر مشابهت­های دقیقی، که میان برخی داستانهای کهن «هزارویک شب»، و داستانهای «هندی» کهن میتوان یافت؛ که در تقدم تاریخی کتابهای «هندی» بر «هزار افسان» پارسی حرفی نیست، شیوه ی نقل و روایت داستانهای پیاپی و تودرتو، و درج قصه در قصه، برای مانع شدن از انجام یافتن کاری شتاب­زده، و نسنجیده، و به­ دست­ کردن مهلت، نظیر کتاب «طوطی­نامه» نیز، شگرد ویژه ی «هندیان» بوده است، و در ادبیات دیگر ملل جهان بی­نظیر است، و یا کمتر مانند دارد. به­ هر حال چه «هزارافسانه» از کتاب «هندی» اقتباس شده باشد، و چه زاده ی طبع ایرانیان باشد، تردیدی نیست که همین هزار افسانه ی «پهلوی» در عصر خلفای عباسی، به عربی ترجمه شده، و «الف لیلة ولیله» یا همان «هزارویک شب» نام گرفته است. البته «هزار افسانه»ی اصلی نیز بخش مختصری از «هزارویک شب» کنونی را، که پرحجم است، تشکیل میداده، و میدهد، چون «هزارویک شب» امروزین، به مرور فراهم آمده، و بدین حجم رسیده، و در روزگاران مختلف، داستانهای گوناکون، از منابع: «ایرانی»، «هندی»، «یونانی»، «یهود»، «عربی»، و «اسلامی» بر آن افزوده­ اند. بنابراین کتاب، همچون مجموعه­ ای، که پیوسته آن را تکمیل کرده­ اند، به دست امروزیان رسیده است، اما این جمله در مدت زمانی دراز، رنگ ­و بوی اسلامی نیز، یافته است، یعنی راویان و ناقلان مختلف، قصه­ های غیراسلامی را، تا آنجا که توانسته­ اند، به رنگ­ و نگار اسلام درآورده­ اند، و بدین علت در حال حاضر کتاب، که قسمت عمده ی آن، رنگ اسلامی و عربی دارد، گنجینه و جـُنگی از ادبیات عامیانه ی مشرق زمین، در سده های میانه است، و نقش و تصویری از کلیت تمدن، و فرهنگ دنیای اسلام را در قرون وسطی عرضه میدارد. ا. شربیانی
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  • JG (The Introverted Reader)
    January 1, 1970
    For those 2 people who don't know, The Arabian Nights is sort of a collection of short stories told in the Arabian world, as I'm told it should be called, (which seems to include India and parts of China) waaaaaay back in the day. The framework of the story is about a sultan who caught his wife cheating on him. After he has her killed, he decides to take out his revenge on the entire sex, so he marries a different wife every day and has her killed the next morning. Scheherazade is the Grand For those 2 people who don't know, The Arabian Nights is sort of a collection of short stories told in the Arabian world, as I'm told it should be called, (which seems to include India and parts of China) waaaaaay back in the day. The framework of the story is about a sultan who caught his wife cheating on him. After he has her killed, he decides to take out his revenge on the entire sex, so he marries a different wife every day and has her killed the next morning. Scheherazade is the Grand Vizier's beautiful, intelligent daughter. She realizes that this can't go on, so she comes up with a plan. She asks to be the next wife of the sultan, and she starts telling him a story on their wedding night. But buried within that story is another story. The sultan is so intrigued by the story that he decides to let her live so he can find out how the story ends. She keeps stringing him along like this, theoretically for 1000 nights, until he relents and gives her a full pardon and takes her for his real wife. But that's only a very small part of the book. The biggest part of the book is the stories Scheherazade tells the sultan. Included are Aladdin, Ali Baba, Sinbad, and others that we've probably all heard in one form or another.I just picked this up because I wanted to see what it was all about. This version was very readable. It was interesting to see a slice of Arabian life. I would catch myself thinking, "They treat women so badly over there" and then I would remember that when these stories were first told, women were treated badly pretty much everywhere. But then there would be some stories where the women had surprising freedom and I would catch myself wondering where things started going bad. I can't say that I know enough about the culture to comment on what's changed and what hasn't, but these stories do give you a little idea of what life is/was like in the Middle East and where they're coming from. And in these times, a little understanding can only be a good thing.
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  • Ahmad Sharabiani
    January 1, 1970
    996. The Thousand And One Nights, AnonymousThe tales of told by Shahrazad over a thousand and one nights to delay her execution by the King Shahriyar have become among the most popular in both Eastern and Western literature.The work was collected over many centuries by various authors, translators, and scholars across West, Central, and South Asia and North Africa. The tales themselves trace their roots back to ancient and medieval Arabic, Greek, Indian, Jewish, Persian and Turkish folklore and 996. The Thousand And One Nights, AnonymousThe tales of told by Shahrazad over a thousand and one nights to delay her execution by the King Shahriyar have become among the most popular in both Eastern and Western literature.The work was collected over many centuries by various authors, translators, and scholars across West, Central, and South Asia and North Africa. The tales themselves trace their roots back to ancient and medieval Arabic, Greek, Indian, Jewish, Persian and Turkish folklore and literature. In particular, many tales were originally folk stories from the Abbasid era, while others, especially the frame story, are most probably drawn from the Pahlavi Persian work Hezār Afsān (A Thousand Tales), which in turn relied partly on Indian elements.تاریخ نخستین خوانش این نسخه: روز هفدهم ماه ژوئن سال 2013 میلادیهزارویک شب - عبداللطیف تسوجی تبریزی (هرمس، و ...) ادبیات ایرانبازنگری و بازچینش داستانهای «هزار و یک شب» در نسخه «اقلیدی» دیگر است، نخست در شش مجلد در نشر مرکز، و سپس در 18 مجلد به زیور طبع آراسته شد. ا. شربیانی
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  • Michael Finocchiaro
    January 1, 1970
    Arabian Nights is one of the great literary works of all time but precautions need to be made if you want to read it to your kids. First off, there is a LOT of violence in the stories and a TON of sex. Don't be an idiot like me and start reading an unabridged copy to your kids or you will have to be explaining very early on why so and so killed his wife and imprisoned another...That being said, there are few works with as much imagination and wonder in them and taken in lighter doses, it is a Arabian Nights is one of the great literary works of all time but precautions need to be made if you want to read it to your kids. First off, there is a LOT of violence in the stories and a TON of sex. Don't be an idiot like me and start reading an unabridged copy to your kids or you will have to be explaining very early on why so and so killed his wife and imprisoned another...That being said, there are few works with as much imagination and wonder in them and taken in lighter doses, it is a beautiful way of expanding your children's imaginations.For adults, one has to take a lot of this in its historical context and try hard to put aside the misogyny which is rampant in the text. Perhaps easier said than done. But there are so many eternal stories here - Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves, Sinbad the Sailor, Aladdin and the Magic Lamp - that they must be read at least once to get the non-Disney-died versions (like the Anderson and Grimm fairy tales that were similarly contorted to fit mass consumption and commercialisation by Walt&Co).
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  • Claudia
    January 1, 1970
    A review is pointless for this book. Its a classic and everyone should read it. Those who are complaining about how women are treated in the stories should read it more carefully and should pay attention also when it was first written. Reading this edition, two things amazed me: how well I remember all the stories, taking into consideration that last time I read them was more than 20 years ago and second, how accurate the Romanian translation I read is compared to this one. As for this edition, A review is pointless for this book. It’s a classic and everyone should read it. Those who are complaining about how women are treated in the stories should read it more carefully and should pay attention also when it was first written. Reading this edition, two things amazed me: how well I remember all the stories, taking into consideration that last time I read them was more than 20 years ago and second, how accurate the Romanian translation I read is compared to this one. As for this edition, it is simply superb. Starting with the translation, the beautiful artworks inside its pages, the cover, the paper… It is a feast for eyes, senses and soul.Loved it.-------------------I read 1001 Nights several times in my childhood and adolescence and loved them to pieces. I still have it in Romanian translation, 4 volumes, edition from 1959 from my grandparents. But I couldn’t resist not to buy this exquisite edition – it is absolutely gorgeous! For many months, from now on, it will be on my nightstand to savor now and then a story from it, the beautiful artwork of the pages and the stunning illustrations.Have a look:
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  • Jan-Maat
    January 1, 1970
    As a child I had a small selection of tales from the Arabian nights in a hardback volume with a few gorgeous full colour plates. From this a couple of stories stayed with me, a Sultan travelling in disguise meets a man who having learnt of the Sultan's weakness for baby cucumbers was intent on trying to fool him out of a fortune in exchange for them, the man although greedy is also garrulous, tells the Sultan in disguise his wicked plans enabling the Sultan to turn the tables on him and trick As a child I had a small selection of tales from the Arabian nights in a hardback volume with a few gorgeous full colour plates. From this a couple of stories stayed with me, a Sultan travelling in disguise meets a man who having learnt of the Sultan's weakness for baby cucumbers was intent on trying to fool him out of a fortune in exchange for them, the man although greedy is also garrulous, tells the Sultan in disguise his wicked plans enabling the Sultan to turn the tables on him and trick him and eat the cucumbers (view spoiler)[ from which we learn that if one becomes a Sultan or Sultana it is of prime importance to always wander one's Sultanate in disguise to avoid being tricked and fooled by the greedy (hide spoiler)], then a story about the keys of Destiny - (view spoiler)[ basically if a mysterious Sheikh turns up claiming to be your uncle and asking you to come into the desert and that your archery skills may come in handy -and even if he saves your life he probably doesn't have your best interests at heart, so don't be surprised that if he gives you a palace that it leaks and is damp and cold even in Egypt (hide spoiler)], and a story about a Sultan of Egypt who had a beautiful wife, excellent children, but none less had depression, then one day a mysterious old man who had spent so many years on mountain tops growing wise than he no longer needed to wear clothes ( ie his beard and hair had grown so long that it was wound about him to form a dense coat) wandered in to his palace and forced the Sultan to have an extremely unpleasant visionary experience which cures him of his depression (view spoiler)[ although possibly in the process leaving the Sultan conditioned with anxiety about Bathhouses and donkeys (hide spoiler)].So anyhow spotting a new translation in the Everyman series I determined to buy it - inevitably those stories were not in it. Apparently in the dim and distant past there were two story collections - the Arabian Nights and the 1000 and one nights which at one stage merged like a dream of Italo Calvino - indeed very much so as the stories became very popular in Europe through French translations, the translator spotting this, commissioned additional stories, or maybe just made up new ones to best match the taste of eighteenth century French readers. This collection purports to get round this by drawing on medieval manuscripts, the translation preserves the frequent divisions into nights some of which are less than a page long. This breaks up the flow of the stories, but provides the reader with the sense of frustration which was meant to be experienced in the framing story.As this version is truer to the manuscript tradition, some of the more familiar tales are missing however those given here have a certain power from their rhythm and the sense of the inevitable, that element and the attitude towards sexual adventure reminded me very strongly of Boccaccio's Decameron. Another attraction is the sense of falling through from one story to next, as in the middle of one story a character will begin to tell a story to another character which the narrative then takes up. It is rather like If on a Winter's Night a Traveller and the effect is both disconcerting and exciting. A constant moving between narratives and framing stories all insanely nested within each other only missing an internal narrator to begin telling the story of Scheherazade to achieve a Möbius-strip narrative and for the reader to disappear without trace.
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  • Aubrey
    January 1, 1970
    A library of books is the fairest garden in the world, and to walk there is an ecstasy. Within the span of the ninth to the thirteen centuries my library consists of these: Beowulf, The Pillow Book, The Tale of Genji, As I Crossed a Bridge of Dreams, The Sagas of Icelanders, Njal's Saga, and this. What a show of power, then, that a monumental collection the likes of which the Anglo world has never even attempted to replicate is popularly framed as a collection of children's tales, sexy times, A library of books is the fairest garden in the world, and to walk there is an ecstasy. Within the span of the ninth to the thirteen centuries my library consists of these: Beowulf, The Pillow Book, The Tale of Genji, As I Crossed a Bridge of Dreams, The Sagas of Icelanders, Njal's Saga, and this. What a show of power, then, that a monumental collection the likes of which the Anglo world has never even attempted to replicate is popularly framed as a collection of children's tales, sexy times, and a text that is of little worth without the supposed genius of one bastardizing Orientalist. I'm not going to pretend that I enjoyed all of this, or most, or even more than a mere handful of tales in their entirety and bits and pieces of the rest of the thousand and one nights, but I do recognize its worth. It's rather sad that most prefer to coddle this or simplify it to extremes, for these times are in desperate need of critical consideration when it comes to the culture that brought about this work.The most contemporary descendant of this work in my library is The Corpse Exhibition: And Other Stories of Iraq. Do you know how sad that is? Look, in a lot of ways the uglier parts of the Islamic Golden Age have been inherited by the European Golden Age in the forms of anti-blackness, antisemitism, rape culture and so much else illustrated by the contents of these tales (slaves of the Trans-Saharan trade weren't allowed into Islam for fear they would realize the horrifying hypocrisy of it all), but that does not justify this persistent void in history, in literature, in Disney movies and so-called common sense. Wiki says, "The best scholars and notable translators, such as Hunayn ibn Ishaq, had salaries that are estimated to be the equivalent of professional athletes today." Wiki also describes hoards of sciences and art and appreciative insight, taught today as "discovered" by Europeans along with whatever else was judged as fit pickings. Everything else apparently is sufficiently covered by mentions of terrorism and hijabs.You know those stories that involve proto-legends of ancient civilizations, glorious in their existence and devastating in their fall, always hoped to have remnants, always yearned towards by a few of the wiser characters? Where is that for the civilizations of these tales? Where is that deep and abiding interest in the historical complexities these tales incorporate, the genre bending that describes the bridgework between Ancient Greece and modern Grimm, an inheritance that does not bend over backwards to insist white people have always and ever shall be the people? I'm not justifying Orientalism, or god forbid implying that even more of the ancient architecture and cultural artifacts of this era should be stripped away from their homelands and carted off as so much stolen booty to the likes of the British Museum. What concerns me is this terrifying lack of caring about the worlds that brought these tales together and, for all popular media likes to pretend, are still with us today. China, Persia turned Iran, Rûm on one side and Rome on the other, India before Pakistan and Bangladesh, Damascus in contemporary Syria, Constantinople turned Istanbul in contemporary Turkey, Cairo in contemporary Egypt, Greece, even much belittled Sudan and, of course, Irāq. Looking above, the works I mentioned previously are all of recently Anglocentric rehabilitated Japanese and Northern European construction. Yeah, I could put more effort into expanding my reading, but don't tell me there aren't ideological forces interested in keeping the trek beyond the infantilized The Arabian Nights a hard one.What I found in this were traces of fairy tales, science fiction, horror stories of corpse-eaters and refrains of that much esteemed Odyssey. Hospitality was paramount, hygiene was mandated, and riches were glossed over as much as the titles of colonial lords and plantation owners were in later years. Gender was every so often malleable, entertainment was a consideration of disguise and ethics, and the descriptions of jewels and gardens and what I could get of the poetry were beyond compare. Islam is the main tenet, but much as Beowulf did with pagans and The Divine Comedy with philosophers, quality of past ancestry outweighs lack of present belief. Tropes run as rampant across these tales as they do across television shows and sociopolitical relations, and more often than not the fictioned morales and implied -isms were a mirror to the Anglo mores of today. It wouldn't surprise me that, for every reader frightened by the myriad similarities between the Golden Age of nine centuries past and their present, there is another combing the pages to fuel their Islamophobia. There may be insinuations in these pages that Christians bless themselves with the shit of their religious leaders, but the hegemony they were written in has long since passed, and contemporary retribution is justified by nothing.More than two thousand pages have passed since I opened Volume One, and all I can say is that I didn't have the toolkit to appreciate the sociocultural wealth that has amazingly survived till this day. True, it's not that esteemed by even its proper home of the Arabic canon, but it wouldn't hurt if more readers could engage with this with more than entertainment or Fox News in mind, cause no, the Middle East didn't pop out of nowhere. No, the best place for this work is not an uncritical pedestal and a lah-de-dah translation. All that does is steamroll that indoctrinated gap between the Ancient Greeks and the European Renaissance even more, and the world of today is much too small for that to hold. Whether they are written or spoken, words can destroy kings and ruin empires. There is nothing new under the sun. Are you ready to seriously consider the old?P.S. Yes, I'm including this in my Summer of Women 2015 count. Anyone who begs to differ, bring it on. Women were reading and writing a hell of a lot earlier in Islam than in Anglo Christianity, and appealing to historical stereotypes is a poor excuse indeed.
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  • Manny
    January 1, 1970
    As I say in my review, I wanted to write a parody of this wonderful book but was forced to admit defeat. Burton is too damn clever for a good parody to be possible. During my preliminary negotiations, I had however received a remarkable offer from Alfonso. A Burton parody without political incorrectness is unthinkable, and Alfonso bravely put himself forward to play the role of an evil blackamoor of hideous appearance. It seems wrong that Alfonso's selfless devotion to literature should go As I say in my review, I wanted to write a parody of this wonderful book but was forced to admit defeat. Burton is too damn clever for a good parody to be possible. During my preliminary negotiations, I had however received a remarkable offer from Alfonso. A Burton parody without political incorrectness is unthinkable, and Alfonso bravely put himself forward to play the role of an evil blackamoor of hideous appearance. It seems wrong that Alfonso's selfless devotion to literature should go unrewarded. I am therefore proud to present:A Fragment of the Tale of Rashid al-Bhattan and al-Fonso the MaghrabiNow there dwelt not far from the Caliph's court another foreigner, a Darwaysh from the Maghrib named al-Fonso, a powerful magician and geomancer; from his earliest age upwards he had been addicted to witchcraft and had studied and practiced every manner of occult science, for which unholy lore the city of Africa is notorious. And the Maghrabi possessed a seal ring, a signet that once had graced the hand of Solomon Davids-son; yet so woven about with secret spells and enchantments was it, that the Maghrabi could not avail himself of its familiar, for all his arts. But by his gramarye, the Maghrabi learned how it stood with Rashid, and he thought himself a scheme whereby he might bend the ring to his will. And one day, as Rashid left the Caliph's court, the Maghribi thrust himself in Rashid's way; and addressing him, he asked if he would learn the infallible method to win the favour of any woman, even the highest and most beautiful.The Maghrabi was a hideous blackamoor, ill-favoured and foul with grease and grime, and Rashid laughed to hear his words, believing that he spoke in jest. But the Maghrabi spoke kindly to Rashid and flattered him and used all his charms to put him at his ease; and presently he took forth the ring and instructed him in its use, telling him that he had but to rub it to gain aught that he might want, but that only one of the Isles of the Setting Sun might thus constrain the Spirit of the Ring; and Rashid still doubting, the Maghrabi put the ring on Rashid's finger and told him to rub it. Rashid did as the Maghrabi bade; and instantly before him appeared a Marid. He trembled at the terrible sight; but, hearing the Slave of the Ring say, "Ask whatso thou wantest, verily, I am thy thrall, seeing that the signet of my lord be upon thy finger", he took courage. "Command the Marid," said the Maghrabi, "that he transport us to the Caliph's Harim." Rashid did as the Maghrabi said; "Hearing and obeying," replied the Marid, and smote the earth, so that it clave in two; and taking the Maghrabi under one arm and Rashid under the other, he bore them to the innermost sanctum of the Harim."Hide thyself in this closet," said the Maghrabi to Rashid, when they were arrived. "As soon as thou dost espy one of the Caliph's concubines, command the Marid to make me in all ways pleasing to her; then shalt thou see the true power of the Ring." Rashid did as the Maghrabi said; and no sooner had he concealed himself, than entered a girl high-bosomed and pleasing of face, slender-waisted and heavy of hip, of whom one might soothly say as the poet¹ Eyes like two stars and hair as black as nightLips ruby red caught in a winsome puckerSo fair a maid I ween ne'er crossed my sightTo look on her is aye to wish to embrace her.She glanced with displeasure on the Maghrabi; but Rashid, heeding the magician's rede, rubbed the ring and commanded the Marid. The Maghrabi spake some words to the girl; and instantly her aspect changed, and she did with goodly gree suffer the Maghrabi, for all his hideousness, to kiss her and toy with her, and presently to disrobe her of her gold-purfled dress and even of her petticoat-trousers and know her carnally², whereby she joyed with great joyance. "Now command the Marid to take us hence," said the Maghrabi without even making the Ghusl-ablution, for he was a Kafir; and again Rashid commanded the Marid, and they made good their escape, leaving the Caliph's concubine swooned on the ground.Notes¹ I use Lane's somewhat anaemic translation.² The Breslau Edition adds some details concerning the excessive size of the Maghrabi's manhood; the wording leaves it unclear whether or not this can be ascribed to the influence of the Ring.
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  • Sidharth Vardhan
    January 1, 1970
    A Story to Save a Live The beauty of the stories and the poetry of the thought that most destructive demons can be tamed back with a few stories was fascinating to me even when I first saw the serialized version on tv. What I didnt realized was that the stories Scheherazade, that great goddess of story tellers and inventor of cliff-hangings, told the king werent as random but had an order in themselves.This book has made Scherzade my favorite superhero superhero was the word we use for one A Story to Save a Live The beauty of the stories and the poetry of the thought that most destructive demons can be tamed back with a few stories was fascinating to me even when I first saw the serialized version on tv. What I didn’t realized was that the stories Scheherazade, that great goddess of story tellers and inventor of cliff-hangings, told the king weren’t as random but had an order in themselves.This book has made Scherzade my favorite superhero – superhero was the word we use for one who risk one’s life for others, don’t we? I mean we like Doctor Who for he won’t use weapons – and yet the enemies he fought weren’t in any way real. What Scherzade had to fight was real, and after centuries of her single victory continues unfortunately to remain real – lack of trust among sexes. Sheriyar is misogyny humanized. There is another famous collection of stories called ‘Tota Maine ke kise’ from same regions (Iraq, Iran, India etc) which comprise of a parrot and she-parrot who are in love. The frame story is simple. The parrot would say mynah is sure to cheat him and would back that prediction with a story where a woman cheated on her lover. Mynah, in her turn, would say it is parrot who is sure to cheat her and will back that up with a story of how some man cheated on his lover. Then parrot would come back with another story – and this exchange of accusations will go on and on. A similar conversation takes place between Shylock’s daughter and her lover towards the end of ‘Merchant of Venice’. Sheriyar is the result of this mistrust among sexes. In a short time, he comes across three cases of adulatory committed by three women, including one by his own wife, and generalizes to the whole of the fair sex. Remember how Hamlet concluded ‘Frailty thy…’ after seeing frailty of a single woman (his mother). A person who is suffering because he thinks he is cheated can be quite suggestible (Othello) . And a generalization can be temting. The parrot and she-parrot were afraid of how vulnerable they are making themselves to other’s injuries. Sheriyar has developed this fear after being cheated his wife. His Black Widower’s wish, to kill his spouse the morning after marriage, is height of this mistrust.And Sherzade is the beauty who tamed this beast. She did this – she fought away her death - the literal sword of her own father a few hours away from being forced to cut her head; with armor of a pleasant smile on her lips and the weapon of story on her tongue. And she does that. Repeatedly. For a thousand and one nights. In the play I’ll teach the King Not the play but through the stories (repetitive Shakespearean references are coincidental). A tyrant can’t be reasoned with directly. Same goes for a prejudiced person - prejudice is by very definition refusal to reconsider the already reached false conclusions. Now imagine prejudiced tyrants. Scherzade knew this well enough. Instead, she used her stories to make king see the truth. The change of heart, which the king admitted to on the thousand and the first night, wasn’t born all of sudden but came out of efforts of last thousand nights – over which she gradually changed the opinion of the king.And it is the way she changed king’s opinion that I love so much. As good as the stories are in themselves, they carry a trend. One of the very first story, Scherzade told the king – was about a wicked woman, but a woman made wicked by jealousy against his husband’s new wife. May be the king understood her jealousy, maybe he didn’t.Then you come across the story of a king, suffering from misfortune caused by an adulterous wife – a king not unlike Scheriyar, may be Scheherazade is simply saying what king would love to hear … but look carefully, and you will notice that the villain wife suddenly gets a voice. Even though she was beheaded, the wife in the story did get a say – love of an adultress woman is love still. You see what Scherzade did.Move a little ahead and roles are reversed. Now we meet a woman who has to suffer on account of meaningless jealousy of her husband – a husband who doesn’t want her to show his face in public. Her husband is made to repent in the end. (There is a similar story towards the end, except there it is husband suffering of his wife’s jealousy.)So now you see the trend. There is soon a story in which a king Haroon is at fault – making people suffer with his tyrannies … but he is quick to repent upon realizing the mistake – and even makes up for the loss of these people. Did you get you lesson, Sheriyar?And so it goes on. One story actually involved a prince who has formed a bad opinion regarding all women kind from all the mischief caused by them that he read about in his books. His mother, the queen asked him to think about all the tyrant kings that the world has and what they have done to the women over centuries (I can imagine Scheherazade having her tongue in her cheek when she must have narrated the scene)Later on, Scheherazade diverts to stories about how married women have fun at the expense of their wanna-be-lovers.The last story is that of a woman – Ulysses and Penlope combined into one woman, who goes out on a difficult journey while maintaining her loyality to her husband against all the suitors.Gradually, the stories change to afford a better position for women and while also reminding the king that even King can make mistakes – and how much more troublesome are their mistakes than that of an ordinary person. There are a few stories (e.g. Sindbad) where the issue of friction between sexes is not raised but the general trend is too good to miss. In fact, very first few pages you find a remark by a woman (other than Scherzade) about futility of keeping women under lock. In Aladin’s story, it is the princess who kills the bad guy (and her name is not Jasmine – Sherzade got that wrong, Disney knew better.) In Ali Baba’s story, it is a woman, avery, very clever woman who kills all the forty thieves. While we are talking about fighting prejudice – a good reason for people to read it to observe how lightly the veil is used by women. Women, who wear vile while being out, are shown at liberty and often chose to show their face to whoever they wish to. (They often do it for the guy, even if he is a stranger, they found handsome who in turn is almost always ‘pierced’ by their beauty.) Not only that, there are a lot of night parties and extra-marital kissing. Yes, there are strict and overprotective fathers but I mean that goes everywhere. Then in at least one place, there is a remark on regarding how the judges are too strict regarding how women should behave. (It is surprising these same judges had nothing to say about drinking wine or when their king had more than four wives.) Moreover, there seems to be no way men can cheat their wives - men are permitted marry multiple times and can have sex with slaves under Islam (like other religions) but women are not - this means men can not cheat on their wives. Celebrating the art of Storytelliing There are a number of techniques used by the Scheherazade – cliff hangings, repetitive characters (king Haroon and his wife, Zobeida) story-within-story (at times story-within-story-within-story-within-story) etc. One time Scheherazade forgets a part of narrative and have to retreat to cover that part.Cliff-hangings though were never that important and never that close to being figurative. Here they are saving lives – the stakes on which Scherzade bargains to get another day of life. Regarding the story-within-story thing, you may claim that too many of the stories are told by characters trying to save lives. But look at Scheherazade, the original story teller. Isn’t she doing the same? Won’t her psychology affect her stories? And it is the most excellent part – that story-teller and the listener are both part of the story; you get most out of it when you think about how their minds are involved in and are affected by the stories. Just imagine the thoughts that Sheriyar would carry in his mind at the end of each story.There is a criticism that some of stories are too similar – but you see it is because of the central theme. And I mean how much diversity you can wish for? There are love stories –both comedies and tragedies, stories of adventures, stories of genies, humorous stories (especially the one about tailor), criminal stories, stories of suddenly found treasures. There is one short story about the three brothers who can reason backwards – a little like Sherlock Holmes. Given its time, the stories show remarkable diversity.In one weird story, a woman disguised as her own husband marries another woman. Latter this second woman marries husband of first. Weird enough? Wait till the two women find a crush for each other’s sons. Antisemitism, Racism and Body Shaming From beautiful to ugly ... There is a lot of (much more than you can imagine) antisemitism, racism and body shaming specially in first 200 or so pages, especially for a book trying to fight prejudice. All wicked wizards are African, Jew, Worshiper of fire or Hindu. All cheating merchants are Jews. It probably speaks as much about powerful men’s sexual jealousies as about slavery, that a lot of slaves were eunuchs. The filthy tradition of eunuchs was not limited to Arabia though. Some female slaves do seem to gain independence and are lawfully married - but that is a fairy tale sort of thing. The terrible treatment of a hunch-back in particular made me stop reading it for a month.I don’t believe in cultural, temporal or spatial relativism; so I won't defend the book. I just took away six stars from my rating. It was already twenty-nine stars. Some advice if you chose to live in medieval Persia (view spoiler)[1. There is nothing more risky than serving lovers’ cause or kings. 2.The most dangerous job is that Vizir – better be a slave than a vizir. Since king may take you along on a expedition (mostly in disguise); find random people or dead bodies and want you to discover the truth behind them within three, thirty or forty days; failing which your head is likely to be beheaded. 3.If a married woman seems to be answering your requests to take you as lover, than she is just kidding and is probably going to get you a lot of trouble.4. If you suddenly found yourself in room of some person of opposite sex, than it is probably doing of some Jinn and Pari. Soon you will found yourself in love with other person but will forget to ask where the hell you are. Then early morning, you shall be thrown back to your place. And after a lot of suffering shall found your lover again.5. If you got separated from your family, don’t worry, you shall find them after a few years healthy and happy – bringing a family reunion and happily ever after; unless Scherzade chose to give your story a sequel.6. Have a story to tell, in case you get in trouble with king or a Jinn.7.If two darveshes wants admittance to your house than it is probably king and his ministers, specially there are multiple sisters in the house. Admit him and tell him something strange. For, he would then make you rich.8. You are most likely to be married to the king, if you are youngest of three sisters. Youngest of brothers are lucky too. Also in case of princes, it helps your future prospects greatly if your mother was deserted by king.9. If you are young, poor and handsome man, than you will soon be wealthy – it just follows. If you are are a beautiful woman, than your veil is liable to flown away by wind in front of some man who will instantly fall in love with you.10. If your husband has something old and useless lying around, don’t give it away – it is sure to be magical.11. Password for cave is ‘open Sim-sim’. 12. Sea journeys are especially dangerous if you are single or your spouse is lost.And above all,13. If you found an old lamp, to rub it. (hide spoiler)]
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  • Vit Babenco
    January 1, 1970
    When I first read One Thousand and One Nights I was literally put under the books spell charmed, enchanted and bewitched. It isnt just magic of fairytales. It is first of all magic of the oriental world. And of course I was at once mesmerized with the incredible frame tale of Shahryar and Scheherazade.Nowhere is so much magic as in Arabian Nights: magical word opening the cave door: Open, Sesame! And forthwith appeared a wide doorway in the face of the rock. The robbers went in, and last of all When I first read One Thousand and One Nights I was literally put under the book’s spell – charmed, enchanted and bewitched. It isn’t just magic of fairytales. It is first of all magic of the oriental world. And of course I was at once mesmerized with the incredible frame tale of Shahryar and Scheherazade.Nowhere is so much magic as in Arabian Nights: magical word opening the cave door: “‘Open, Sesame!’ And forthwith appeared a wide doorway in the face of the rock. The robbers went in, and last of all their chief, and then the portal shut of itself,” powerful Jinni sealed in the magical lamp: “This is not he, O my mother. This who appeared before thee is the Slave of the Lamp!” and many, many others.And of course my favourite tales are Voyages of Sindbad the Seaman… Stunning adventures in the distant lands full of fantastic beasts, evil creatures, monsters, wonders and miracles. And most of all I was stupefied and simultaneously disgusted with Old Man of the Sea:“I told them all that had betided me, whereat they marveled with exceeding marvel and said: ‘He who rode on thy shoulder is called the Sheikh-al-Bahr or Old Man of the Sea, and none ever felt his legs on neck and came off alive but thou, and those who die under him he eateth. So praised be Allah for thy safety!’”Even nowadays I gratefully remember this miraculous book, which practically was for me a door into the absolutely new world.
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  • Ali
    January 1, 1970
    [As I have not read the Nights yet, this is not a commentary on them, but rather a comparison of the many translations available. This used to be a comment on my not-yet-review of the first volume of the Lyons translation of the Nights, but I thought it would be more helpful if it was a review. I've expanded on some of my earlier comments and tried to be more critical than "I like this one" or "this one seems odd", which was all I had time to write at the time I posted the comment. This is [As I have not read the Nights yet, this is not a commentary on them, but rather a comparison of the many translations available. This used to be a comment on my not-yet-review of the first volume of the Lyons translation of the Nights, but I thought it would be more helpful if it was a review. I've expanded on some of my earlier comments and tried to be more critical than "I like this one" or "this one seems odd", which was all I had time to write at the time I posted the comment. This is restricted to editions I have, as well as those of the Amazon review mentioned below, but I will put other editions into the review if they're submitted in the comments.As many readers of foreign literature will tell you, trranslation can drastically affect your enjoyment of a book. There have been a couple of times when I have disliked something until I read it in a new translation, as with Camus' the Stranger. My reaction to the original translation by Stewart Gilbert was lukewarm. I didn't dislike it, but I felt that something was missing which didn't allow me to hear his authorial voice. Reading the Matthew Ward translation restored that something, and allowed me to enjoy the novel more thoroughly.Nowhere is this truer than the classic Arabian Nights. There are many, many translations, both complete and partial, all of which are written in disparate styles and which all handle the more unsavory elements in different ways, and choosing one can be daunting. TO that end, I have written commentary for the passages of eight different translations, and have tried to assess them in a manner which lays out the advantages and disadvantages of each.I got this idea from an Amazon review where someone typed out the opening passage from the first story, which contains both sexual and racial content, to see how four different translators handled them. I'll incorperate both her and my translations. The first four are hers (though in the case of the Burton, I also own it), and the rest are mine.Mardrus and Mathers:Now there were in the King's palace certain windows that looked on to the garden, and, as King Shahzaman leaned there and looked out, the door of the palace opened and twenty women slaves with twenty men slaves came from it; and the wife of the King, his brother, was among them and walked there in all her bright beauty. When they came to the pool of a fountain they all undressed and mingled one with another. Suddenly, on the King's wife crying: 'O Masud! Ya Masud!', a gigantic negro ran towards her, embraced her, and, turning her upon her back, enjoyed her. At this signal, all the other men slaves did the same with the women and they continued thus a long while, not ceasing their kisses and embraces and goings in and the like until the approach of dawn.(I like the sound of it. It's readable, the sexual and racial content is handled very well, however it's not originally translated from the Arabic, but from the French, and has been criticised for inaccuracy by purists. Dr. Mardrus took many liberties with the texts, including the addition of extra tales from a supposed newly discovered secret manuscript that no one actually saw, and the expansion of sexual material. Not everyone will care, I don't think I'll even care once I've read a translation originally from the Arabic, because it really is a lot of fun to read, but it's worth knowing.)The English translations of Dalziel's Illustrated Arabian Nights, from Barnes and Noble Classics:One day, Shahriar had started on a great hunting match, about two days' journey from his capital; but Shahzenan, pleading ill health, was left behind. He shut himself up in his apartment, and sat down at a window that looked into the garden. Suddenly a secret gate of the palace opened, and there came out of it twenty women, in the midst of whom walked the Sultaness. The persons who accompanied the Sultaness threw off their veils and long robes, and Shahzenan was greatly surprised when he saw that ten of them were black slaves, each of whom chose a female companion. The Sultaness clapped her hands, and called: "Masoud, Masoud!" and immediately a black came running to her; and they all remained conversing familiarly together.(Seems fairly competant, but the translator removes all hint of sexual indiscretion, which means that any reaction from the man watching will seem like an overreaction if all they're doing is conversing. Yet I would recommend this version for children, because though it is sanitised, it does not go nearly to the same lengths as...Andrew Lang:Now the Sultan Schahriar had a wife whom he loved more than all the world, and his greatest happiness was to surround her with splendour, and to give her the finest dresses and the most beautiful jewels. It was therefore with the deepest shame and sorrow that he accidentally discovered, after several years, that she had deceived him completely, and her whole conduct turned out to have been so bad, that he felt himself obliged to carry out the law of the land, and order the grand-vizir to put her to death.("I used to love my wife, but she did a bad thing, so I'm going to kill her!" I can only imagine parents trying to explain away the unnamed bad thing to their children. Not recommended, at all. As you can see, it's completely different from any translation we've previously looked at, makes use of heavy paraphrasing, and results in the story being made incoherent, maybe even to the children for whom it was intended.)Sir Richard Burton (this is an interesting one:Thereupon Shah Zaman drew back from the window, but he kept the bevy in sight espying them from a place whence he could not be espied. They walked under the very lattice and advanced a little way into the garden till they came to a jetting fountain amiddlemost a great basin of water; then they stripped off their clothes and behold, ten of them were women, concubines of the King, and the other ten were white slaves. Then they all paired off, each with each: but the Queen, who was left alone, presently cried out in a loud voice, "Here to me, O my lord Saeed!" and then sprang with a drop leap from one of the trees a big slobbering blackamoor with rolling eyes which showed the whites, a truly hideous sight. He walked boldly up to her and threw his arms round her neck while she embraced him as warmly; then he bussed her and winding his legs round hers, as a button loop clasps a button, he threw her and enjoyed her.(I would ignore Burton's version outright, if not for the fact that it does have certain advantages. Yes, it is racist, turning Saeed into an almost cartoonish figure because of the words used to describe him and the sexual act. Burton blatantly inserts his own materials into the text at will, something I can tell even not having any knowledge of the Arabic originals. The other translators do a little of this too, but not as much as Burton. Yet I have read other parts of these tales in his translation, and I would say that they are worth at least a quick glance because of the fascinating and esoteric quality of his prose. In reading the Burton, you almost have to learn a new way of reading, because Burton never met an obscure word or phrase he didn't like, and he freely inserted them into the Nights. He would sometimes make up words when the ones available to him didn't suit the story. His energy and sense of diction is at many points amazing, and even with the racism, I found myself beguiled while reading him. Also, if you can't be bothered spending money for the Lyons translation, which is what I recommend below, his versions can be found for free online.)John Payne:Now there were in King Shahzeman's apartments lattice-windows overlooking his brother's garden, and as the former was sitting looking on the garden, behold a gate of the palace opened, and out came twenty damsels and twenty black slaves, and among them his brother's wife, who was wonderfully fair and beautiful. They all came up to a fountain, where the girls and slaves took off their clothes and sat down together. Then the queen called out, "O Mesoud!" And there came to her a black slave, who embraced her and she him. Then he lay with her, and on likewise did the other slaves with the girls. And they ceased not from kissing and clipping and cricketing and carousing until the day began to wane.(This was the basis for the Burton translation [some even criticised Burton for plagiarism, though he claimed he got permission from Payne to reuse passages]. The writing is a little flowery, in typical Victorian style, but isn't too bad otherwise. Payne's accomplishment here is hard to overstate. He taught himself Arabic, and using this knowledge, translated the first and one of the most complete versions of the Arabian Nights we now have. It's just too bad he only produced five hundred copies, which left Richard Burton's translation to take over and be the more influential of the two.)Jonathan Scott (the so-called Aldine Edition):While he was thus absorbed in grief, a circumstance occurred which attracted the whole of his attention. A secret gate of the sultan's palace suddenly opened, and there came out of it twenty women, in the midst of whom walked the sultaness, who was easily distinguished from the rest by her majestic air. This princess thinking that the king of Tartary was gone a-hunting with his brother the sultan, came with her retinue near the windows of his apartment. For the prince had so placed himself that he could see all that passed in the garden without being perceived himself. He observed, that the persons who accompanied the sultaness threw off their veils and long robes, that they might be more at their ease, but he was greatly surprised to find that ten of them were black men, and that each of these took his mistress. The sultaness, on her part, was not long without her gallant. She clapped her hands, andcalled "Masoud, Masoud," and immediately a black descended from a tree, and ran towards her with great speed. Modesty will not allow, nor is it it necessary, to relate what passed between the blacks and the ladies. It is sufficient to say, that Shaw-zummaun saw enough to convince him, that his brother was as much to be pitied as himself. This amorous company continued together till midnight, and having bathed together in a great piece of water, which was one of the chief ornaments of the garden, they dressed themselves, and re-entered the palace by the secret door, all except Masoud, who climbed up his tree, and got over the garden wall as he had come in.(I'm not sure what to think of this one. The way in which he glosses over the sex is kind of hilarious. it's not really censored, because he mentions the word "amorous", which makes it obvious what's going on, but he still skirts around it. He freely inserts new material not in the original for the sake of a better story, and the syntax is weird [piece of water?], so perhaps not a good fit for purists, which I am to an extent, but it could be fun to read.)malcolm and ursula Lyons (this is the newest translation from Penguin Classics):In the royal palace there were windows that overlooked Shahriyar’s garden, and as Shah Zaman was looking, a door opened and out came twenty slave girls and twenty slaves, in the middle of whom was Shahriyar’s very beautiful wife. They came to a fountain where they took off their clothes and the women sat with the men. ‘Mas‘ud,’ the queen called, at which a black slave came up to her and, after they had embraced each other, he lay with her, while the other slaves lay with the slave girls and they spent their time kissing, embracing, fornicating and drinking wine until the end of the day.(I think this is the best version, and it's my personal recommendation. The English is clear and readable, there are annotations, not nearly to the extent of Burton, but they are there and help, and the language has been optimised to sound good to the ear.)And finally, the partial translation by N. J. Dawood, also from Penguin Classics:While Shahzaman sat at one of the windows overlooking the King's garden, he saw a door open in the palace, through which came twenty slave-girls and twenty Negroes. In their midst was his brother's queen, a woman of surpassing beauty. They made their way to the fountain, where they all undressed and sat on the grass. The King's wife then called out: "Come Mass'ood!" and there promptly came to her a black slave, who mounted her after smothering her with embraces and kisses. So also did the Negroes with the slave-girls, revelling together till the approach of night.(Another good and fun one. It's only a partial translation, a little over 400 pages, but considering the quality, I don't mind that much. It's not censored, but as with most of the translations, handles the sexual and racial content in such a way that the reader knows they exist, but does not descend into caricature or racism.)
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  • K.D. Absolutely
    January 1, 1970
    Oh, the wonders of literature! While reading this book I could not help but sing the songs or hum the tunes associated with the tales: ♪♫♪ A whole new worldA new fantastic point of viewNo one to tell us noOr where to goOr say we're only dreaming ♪♫♪ I grew up with mostly Filipino komiks around me. Only my father loved reading books and we had very few (compared to what I have now) classics and contemporary books at home. My parents did not read to me when I was young. Those are the reasons why Oh, the wonders of literature! While reading this book I could not help but sing the songs or hum the tunes associated with the tales: ♪♫♪ A whole new worldA new fantastic point of viewNo one to tell us noOr where to goOr say we're only dreaming ♪♫♪ I grew up with mostly Filipino komiks around me. Only my father loved reading books and we had very few (compared to what I have now) classics and contemporary books at home. My parents did not read to me when I was young. Those are the reasons why I missed all those children's books. So, reading these Tales from 1001 Nights a.k.a., The Arabian Nights was like going back to the komiks time in the province. You see, the story of Aladdin and the Magic Lamp, although I read it just now, is so popular that we must all have seen it in movies, read in local adaptations as individual children's books or comics or even seen in TV ads. However, if you compare the original story to the Disney-produced movie, the carpet in the book does not fly. Rather, it just covers the distance between the entrance of the King's palace and Alladin's pavilion so that the princess, Lady Badar Al-Budur (maybe the equivalent of Princess Jasmine) will not walk on mud. The story is fantastic. I admire how the magician thinks: cunning and devious. I hate Alladin before he got rich particularly on his laziness and how he treats his old mother. ♪♫♪ A-li-ba-ba... A-li-ba-ba... ♪♫♪ I still remember the theme and my sister used to mimic it. Low key. She marches like a soldier and with eyes wide and scary. The other tale that I liked was Ali Baba and The Forty Thieves. Who would not remember ourselves shouting: Open Se-sa-me! when we saw a closed door when we were kids? Then expecting our mom or playmate to open it for us? Who says that this book treats women badly? In this tale, the maid Morgiana is so smart that she saves his master's (Ali Baba) life several times. ♪♫♪ Sinbad the SailorSailing through the seas... ♪♫♪ I tried looking this up for lyrics but I think that there is a popular Hindi rock song with the same title. I remember the tune and I thought that it is similar to "Popeye the Sailor Man" or maybe as catchy as that. Well, the tale of Sinbad the Sailor is a short one and it talks about is mistake of killing his falcon. It is one of those tales inside another tale.All of these 70+ (whew!) tales are framed into a story that Scheherazade is telling King Shahryar so that she will not be killed. The king and his brother have philandering wives who they have killed so the King does not want to have a wife anymore so he orders his vizier (assistant) to bring young pretty girls from the village and after one night of sex, the king orders his soldiers to kill the girl. To survive, the wise Scheherazade tells the 1001 tales, part-by-part. The king, so eager to know what comes next, decides not to kill her until all the tales are told. I will not tell you if she gets eventually killed in the end.
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  • Madeline
    January 1, 1970
    I am planning to read through this whole book someday, I swear. But it's going to be a slow process. Here, in list form, are the reasons I may or may not finish The Arabian Nights.Reasons I May Finish This Ridiculously Long Book:-Scheherazade (or whichever of the twenty ways to spell her name you prefer) is kind of a badass genius. Since her father is the king's vizier, she gets exempted from said batshit crazy king's plan to marry and then kill every single available virgin in the city. But she I am planning to read through this whole book someday, I swear. But it's going to be a slow process. Here, in list form, are the reasons I may or may not finish The Arabian Nights.Reasons I May Finish This Ridiculously Long Book:-Scheherazade (or whichever of the twenty ways to spell her name you prefer) is kind of a badass genius. Since her father is the king's vizier, she gets exempted from said batshit crazy king's plan to marry and then kill every single available virgin in the city. But she volunteers for the job anyway, based purely on her plan to keep telling the king stories until he decides she's much too interesting to kill. -Her method of telling the stories is really complicated and interesting. She starts a story in which a man with some unsolvable problem attempts to solve it. He meets three other men. They then meet a djin. The men all tell stories to the djin. The djin tells stories. They tell a story in which a person meets another person, and tells them stories. The whole book is like some kind of reverse Jenga game: she keeps piling stories on top of stories and we can't help but be baffled that she even manages to keep them all straight in her head, much less prevent them from collapsing around her. -It's pretty dirty. There's lots of orgies and naked slave girls running around, and since Scheherazade's sister sleeps in her bedroom and is there when the king visits her every night, I got the sense that there were some kinky three-ways going on before Story Time started. Reasons I May Not Finish This Ridiculously Long Book:-It's racist and misongynist to a level I have never experienced before (and I've read Stephenie Meyer and Ian Fleming, so I know misongyny when I see it). Here's an example: so, the king finds out that his wife has been cheating on him, and with a black slave, no less. Not only that, most of the cheating women (and it is always the women who sleep around) in the book are found ravenously sexing up black men. It's at this point that we break for a lovely footnote by the translator that explains how black men, owing to their insanely massive genitalia, are the paramour of choice for cheating wives. He adds that several men he knows will not allow their wives to visit Africa with them, since the danger of their being seduced by a well-hung Negro is just too high. I am not making any of this up. -The book is ridiculously long. Did I mention that already?
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  • Destiny Dawn Long
    January 1, 1970
    This edition is a translation of the first 271 nights from the "1001 Nights" cycle. One of my favorite aspects of this work is the role of Shahrazad. While many people discuss that she is telling the stories to save her own life, what people fail to recognize many times is that, really, she volunteers to be placed in the position in order to save her kingdom. She's a great literary heroine--saving the world through storytelling. It also provides a great lens into a world that today is depicted This edition is a translation of the first 271 nights from the "1001 Nights" cycle. One of my favorite aspects of this work is the role of Shahrazad. While many people discuss that she is telling the stories to save her own life, what people fail to recognize many times is that, really, she volunteers to be placed in the position in order to save her kingdom. She's a great literary heroine--saving the world through storytelling. It also provides a great lens into a world that today is depicted in US media as a wartorn hotbed for terrorist activity. For me it was a reminder that Bagdhad used to be a beautiful, opulent city and cultural center. Anyone with an interest in storytelling, folklore, or the culture of Persia and the Arabian world should check out this work. Although I have no other translations for comparison, I think that this one is excellent. I found it readable, but with important words and names left untranslated. Also, Haddawy isn't afraid to describe sexual situations plainly, without overly poetic euphamisms.
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  • Erik
    January 1, 1970
    I really need a 2.5 stars option, though I would end up using it on three-fourths of everything. As a generic, I can neither recommend nor disavow this book.Okay so the beloved Arabian Nights, tales from a thousand and one nights. I should start with what this is NOT. This is not a linear story about a princess telling stories to a king. This is not a children's read involving genies, magic, and cyclopi (I refuse to spell this any other way, no matter the red line beneath it). This IS a I really need a 2.5 stars option, though I would end up using it on three-fourths of everything. As a generic, I can neither recommend nor disavow this book.Okay so the beloved Arabian Nights, tales from a thousand and one nights. I should start with what this is NOT. This is not a linear story about a princess telling stories to a king. This is not a children's read involving genies, magic, and cyclopi (I refuse to spell this any other way, no matter the red line beneath it). This IS a collection of stories, probably oral traditions, dating back from ancient times.Taken on their own, many of the stories are quite fascinating. Unfortunately, as a straight through read, I quickly became bored. The stories are, with some notable exceptions, more or less the same. "There's a beautiful girl whose eyes were like moonbeams, her lips were the color of coral, and as fresh, and she astounded with amazing astoundness all who beheld her. But she had no interest in being married, and her father the king, though he doted on her, could not accept this and so he locked her up. But on the other side of the world, there's a handsome gent whose eyes burned like saucers of the sun, his lips were sweeter than the nectar that camels walked thousands of miles to obtain and carry back, and his hair floated like all the Towers of Babylon. He, also, had no interest in being married, truly he said to HIS father the other king, "I have no interest in being married," and though his father was wroth and consulted his Wazir extensively, no plan was made. Then deus-ex-machina style, there are two omnipotent Djinnis that decide to compare the two and yadda yadda yadda. They get married." But, says the meta-princess, who is meta-telling the meta-king these stories so she doesn't get mega-decapitated, this story is not more fascinating than the other girl and guy who get screwed over, but fall in love anyway, and so on.Congrats, you have had the Arabian Nights experience!In short, this book, quaint translation included (he joyed with exceeding joyness!), is something that you'd have to keep by your bedside for several years. Reading one story a week, lest you get tired of it. Unfortunately it's not good enough to keep by your bedside for several years, so where does that leave it? 2.5 stars, baby.Get from library. Read a few so you can be edumacated. Write a witty review. Have ten times more fun watching Aladdin.Oh and I found this particular footnote moderately hilarious: "Four wives are allowed by Moslem law and for this reason. If you marry one wife she holds herself your equal, answers you and "gives herself airs"; two are always quarreling and making a hell of the house; three are "no company" and two of them always combine against the nicest to make her hours bitter. Four are company; they can quarrel and "make it up" amongst themselves, and the husband enjoys comparative peace."
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  • Alex
    January 1, 1970
    What you thought was the Arabian Nights was more likely Richard Burton's bastardized, inflated 19th-century adaptation, which was as much about Richard Burton (and his weird ideas about sex) as it was about Arabia. Which is sortof neither here nor there; there is no canonical version of Arabian Nights anyway. It's just an umbrella term for, basically, all of the Middle East's favorite stories. And if the version that heavily influenced guys like Borges was Burton's, isn't Burton's version the What you thought was the Arabian Nights was more likely Richard Burton's bastardized, inflated 19th-century adaptation, which was as much about Richard Burton (and his weird ideas about sex) as it was about Arabia. Which is sortof neither here nor there; there is no canonical version of Arabian Nights anyway. It's just an umbrella term for, basically, all of the Middle East's favorite stories. And if the version that heavily influenced guys like Borges was Burton's, isn't Burton's version the one that's a cornerstone of Western fiction? Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves is not in the original, is what I'm saying, and this is a text where the quest for an official version is in some ways doomed and pointless.But that doesn't stop me from being all twitchy about it, because I'm an obsessive dork; I wanted to get as close as I could to the original, canonical Arabian Nights. And here it is: Husain Haddawy has gone back to the oldest surviving version, from 14th-century Syria. It is filthy.Lots of fucking, is what these stories have. It's all very Decameron. And they're great! Extremely convoluted: frequently Shahrazad will tell a story in which someone else tells a story about a third guy telling a story, so you're all wrapped up in multiple layers of story, which isn't really as confusing as it sounds. Well, sometimes it's a little confusing. But it's always, always entertaining. There are no misses in this book at all.Haddawy's translation is good, except for his poetry, of which there's quite a bit; for all I know the original poetry was itself terrible, but it seems more likely that it's Haddawy's fault. I ended up skimming or outright skipping all the verse; it's usually not plot-related and it's never any good.This is one of the most important books ever written, despite its not really being a book and also not exactly having been written, and it's incredibly fun stuff. Get psyched: this is the shit.
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  • Ashley Daviau
    January 1, 1970
    Im really right in the middle with this collection. Some stories absolutely enthralled me and I loved them! But on the other hand, some quite nearly bored me to death. It was really an even mix of both, I cant even say there were more good stories than bad ones. I was quite disappointed by this read to be honest, I was expecting much more from it! I’m really right in the middle with this collection. Some stories absolutely enthralled me and I loved them! But on the other hand, some quite nearly bored me to death. It was really an even mix of both, I can’t even say there were more good stories than bad ones. I was quite disappointed by this read to be honest, I was expecting much more from it!
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  • Shovelmonkey1
    January 1, 1970
    Having just re-read this book i'm reminded how the flowery wording and a hint of "eastern promise" manages to white wash over the actual issues of the story. Sheharezade is actually technically being kept hostage with a death penalty hanging over her head, forced to spin yarns to save not only her skin but that of all the other virgins in the vicinty. Her tales touch on marital rape, mass murder, theft, deception, fratricide, regicide, racism and necromancy. And you all thought American Psycho Having just re-read this book i'm reminded how the flowery wording and a hint of "eastern promise" manages to white wash over the actual issues of the story. Sheharezade is actually technically being kept hostage with a death penalty hanging over her head, forced to spin yarns to save not only her skin but that of all the other virgins in the vicinty. Her tales touch on marital rape, mass murder, theft, deception, fratricide, regicide, racism and necromancy. And you all thought American Psycho was bad?? It's amazing what you can get past the critics when you flower it up a little and add a little middle eastern frou frou. Anyway, i digress...overall an epic book and easy to see why Burtons translation scandalised the purse-lipped puritans of 19th century England.If anyone wants to read more about or by Burton then try his Narrative of pilgrimage to Mecca and Al-Medina (vols 1 and 2)or for a different perspective try the Wilder Shores of Love by Lesley Blanche which includes a short biography of Burtons wife, Isabel (man trap) Burton. Alternatively watch Rupert Everetts genius TV biography of Burton which was produced for the BBC. It's worth it just for the bit with nuns!
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  • Megan
    January 1, 1970
    This is a very sad book, in the sense that it makes you think, "What the hell happened to Baghdad?". Here, Baghdad is pretty much the most magical city in the world, and most of the Arabian Nights takes place in or around it. The world of the Arabian Nights is amazingly liberal compared to Europe of the same period (which is roughly the 13th century), especially when it comes to women. From the storytelling heroine Scheherazade on down, most of the women of the Arabian Nights are well-educated This is a very sad book, in the sense that it makes you think, "What the hell happened to Baghdad?". Here, Baghdad is pretty much the most magical city in the world, and most of the Arabian Nights takes place in or around it. The world of the Arabian Nights is amazingly liberal compared to Europe of the same period (which is roughly the 13th century), especially when it comes to women. From the storytelling heroine Scheherazade on down, most of the women of the Arabian Nights are well-educated and have minds of their own, even the ones who are slaves. That's more than anyone can say for the Grimm's female protagonists.My favorite story, though, is the one of Prince Carazdan and his wife Princess Badoura. The first part reminds me of A Midsummer Night's Dream, in which a prince and a princess who both have no interest in love or marriage become the subjects of a contest between a fairy and a genie. The second part of the story is also quite Shakespearean, as it involves Princess Badoura dressing as a man and becoming a king through her own merit, although she ends up getting married to a woman along the way and a comedy of errors ensues.Anyway, it's a great collection of fairytales as well as a fascinating cultural study. I highly recommend it.
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  • Shirley Revill
    January 1, 1970
    I have read this book a few times over the years and I believe I was about thirteen the first time I read this book. A wonderful classic tale. Pure nostalgia.
  • Aya
    January 1, 1970
    King 1: I miss my brother king 2King 2: damn my wife is sleeping with a black slave I KILL HER AND HIM. oh and I will go see my brother. King 1: lets go hunting brothaKing2: no Im soo gloomy. Oh and btw your wife and every single one of your concubines are sleeping with black slaves too. I saw them.King 1: I KILL THEM ALL. King 2: damn bro this whole thing sucks I dont feel like being king any more.King1: me neither hey lets leave everything and go see if other mens wives suck too*they go off* King 1: I miss my brother king 2King 2: damn my wife is sleeping with a black slave I KILL HER AND HIM. oh and I will go see my brother. King 1: let’s go hunting brothaKing2: no I’m soo gloomy. Oh and btw your wife and every single one of your concubines are sleeping with black slaves too. I saw them.King 1: I KILL THEM ALL. King 2: damn bro this whole thing sucks I don’t feel like being king any more.King1: me neither hey let’s leave everything and go see if other men’s wives suck too*they go off*King1: look it’s a genie sleeping on a women’s lapWomen: this genie abducted me on my wedding night so as a revenge I have slept with like 500 men, now you two sleep with me!*both sleep with her*King 1&2 damn even man genies get cheated on, I guess this is life what can you do. Hey let’s be kings again because we can do whatever we want!King 1: I have an idea! I’m gonna sleep with every single virgin in the kingdom and KILL HER right afterwards so that she never gets to cheat on me! Vasir (prime minister) bring me all the virgins!*after a while*Vasir (totally not bugged that his only job as prime minister is to bring virgins to the king to sleep with then murder): crap I ran out of virgins the king is gonna KILL me..Vasir’s daughter Shahrazad: bring me dad!Vasir: ummm.. your nuts kiddo.Shahrazad: no I have a plan! I will tell him really interesting bedtime stories sooo slowly that by the end of the night he will let me live till the next night to hear the rest of my stories and I will till him like a THOUSAND of those!Vasir: that’s a pretty solid plan you got there. Still I’m gonna buy you a coffin just in case.*first night*Shahrazad: here’s a story with one angry genie, a bunch of women who are all witches, oh and everyone gets turned into animals!King: wow that’s a really cool story so what happens next?Shahrazad: oops its morning now, I will till you tomorrow night.King: guess I’ll have to keep you alive till tomorrow night then.And this goes on for one thousand nights more. I’ve seen the Arabian nights on my dad’s shelves as a kid but all the adults agreed that they are not appropriate for a child so I was never allowed to read them. Now Im all grown up and I’m reading it in its original language(Arabic) and although I was familiar with most of the poetry and the main plot, I couldn’t help hating it, then I realised that this is the kind of book you just should NEVER take seriously, that way I managed to enjoy it. I’m doing this thing where I read a couple of stories before bed as a kind of bedtime stories (you know like what the characters are doing in the book) and so I’m really taking my time with this one.Before starting this book you should be willing to enjoy it’s absurdity.
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  • Marc
    January 1, 1970
    "Fate is volatile, as you can see, sometimes there is joy, then sadness" I really enjoyed reading this classic. For the sake of clarity: I have been selective, of course, because digesting all 3100 pages in such a short time (one month) would have been too much, but I think I have certainly gone through half of the stories.What is particularly striking is the enormous diversity of this collection. To begin with, geographically: of course, the stories are largely situated in the Arab world, but "Fate is volatile, as you can see, sometimes there is joy, then sadness" I really enjoyed reading this classic. For the sake of clarity: I have been selective, of course, because digesting all 3100 pages in such a short time (one month) would have been too much, but I think I have certainly gone through half of the stories.What is particularly striking is the enormous diversity of this collection. To begin with, geographically: of course, the stories are largely situated in the Arab world, but in the time of the editing of the collection (roughly between the 8th and the 12th century) that world really did occupy a considerable space: the scene is constantly shifting from Baghdad to Damascus, to Cairo, to Andalusia, Persia, Turkey and central Asia; in some - more adventurous - stories there are hints in the direction of India, China, East-Asia and East Africa. The main characters are also very diverse: kings, caliphs, sultans and visors often play the leading role (especially the illustrious caliph Harun al-Rasjid), but also merchants (Sinbad the Sailor), fishermen and ordinary artisans and even slaves are regularly put in the spotlight. To a limited extent there are also fantastic characters: jinns (good spirit), ifrites (evil spirits), sorceresses and exotic magicians.The diversity also manifests itself in the scope and approach of the stories: there are short, edifying stories of barely half a page, but also epic stories of 130 pages. There is always an element of suspense: a challenge, an adventure, a conflict or a threat; and what stands out is that when the need is highest, the character concerned usually manages to save him/herself by telling a good story. That means that you get a very complicated and quirky structure: stories within stories, within stories, and one mustn’t forget that all this - spread over 1001 nights - is told by Sheherazade, in the hope of reversing her death sentence and moving the king to whom she tells the stories into clemency. This very ingenious structure apparently goes back to an ancient, Indian storytelling tradition.Love, of course, is one of the main themes: almost always someone (mostly men but also a few women) falls in love and both the lusts and the sorrows of that condition are highlighted. What struck me is how much poetry is put into the stories, sometimes refined and often rich and languorous, but sometimes also dull and once in a while very obscene.You could write an entire book about the image of women in these Arabian stories, because - in contrast to the common image in the West, diversity is also striking here. In most stories women are presented as almost unrealistically beautiful beings, their (bodily) beauty is praised in the most diverse tonalities; only in a few stories also intelligent women appear, who impress by their knowledge and refined insight. Although there are also some independent women (acting as merchants for example), most female characters are subordinate to men, both princesses and slaves have to follow their orders. And in contrast to the hymns of praise to women, women are also often represented as false and cunning, and in some stories as real shrews. But finally, let us not forget that the narrator of all these stories, Sheherazade, is the intelligent woman par excellence: she knows how to affect the cruel king through her stories and ultimately to move him into more humanity. Unfortunately, in the Dutch translation I read (by Richard Van Leeuwen) that aspect is almost entirely omitted: the gradual evolution of the king, under the influence of the stories of Sheherazade, his self-reflection and ultimately repentance, remain completely out of the picture, and that is very regrettable.There has always been a lot of fuss about the hedonistic and erotic nature of the 1001 stories, and that is understandable: in almost every story physical love is a recurring theme and sometimes is described very explicitly (there are even some homosexual and pedo-sexual scenes); wine flows abundantly and the extravagant banquets, refined smells and tastes constantly recur. In this sense too, this is a 'rich' collection, which gives a picture of the phenomenal civilization that the Arab world must have been between the 8th and 12th century.But do not be mistaken: both the frame of reference and the morality of the stories are both implicit and explicitly Islamic. No page goes by or there is a reference to God/Allah who directs everything, who represents the ultimate justice and to whom the human destiny (also that of the powerful and the rich) is subordinated. In some stories Jews and Christians come into the picture, usually in negative terms (especially the 'Frankish knights', the crusaders, are represented as cruel and uncivilized), unless they convert to islam.As mentioned, most of the stories are very entertaining and surprising because of their liveliness, creative intrigues, pointed dialogues and refined poetry. But honesty dictates that in the long run it all becomes a bit much: all those adventures, all those edifying stories, there is no end to it, and after a while, whilst reading, you can discern a sense of monotony and tediousness, despite the previously mentioned diversity. The wise advice is to take these stories to you one at a time and preferably every night before bedtime. Because if there’s one comforting lesson to be drawn from this classic collection it’s that even when times are bad, a good story can save the day (or even your life).
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  • Terry
    January 1, 1970
    Shahrazad turned to King Shahrayar and said, May I have your permission to tell a story? He replied, Yes, and Shahrazad was very happy and said, Listen:Of all of the worlds story collections, surely The Arabian Nights has the best framing devicethe best fictional pretext by which to justify the telling of the other stories. I mean the story of Shahrazad (as this text transliterates her name), the daughter of the vizier to King Shahrayar. Bitter over his first wifes betrayal, Shahrayar decides “Shahrazad turned to King Shahrayar and said, ‘May I have your permission to tell a story?’ He replied, ‘Yes,’ and Shahrazad was very happy and said, “Listen”:Of all of the world’s story collections, surely The Arabian Nights has the best framing device—the best fictional pretext by which to justify the telling of the other stories. I mean the story of Shahrazad (as this text transliterates her name), the daughter of the vizier to King Shahrayar. Bitter over his first wife’s betrayal, Shahrayar decides that he will avenge himself on womankind by marrying a different woman every night and having her killed in the morning. As the tally of victims rises, the vizier, who has been charged with procuring these wives from among the daughters of the kingdom’s princes, becomes more and more desperate until one day Shahrazad herself volunteers to marry the king and stubbornly refuses to be dissuaded by her father. On the night of her nuptials, Shahrazad begins to tell Shahrayar a story to while away the hours until dawn when she will be killed. When the sun rises before she can complete the tale, the king decides to spare her until the next night so that he can find out whether a demon kills the merchant against whom he has raised his sword. And so begins the endless series of narrative delays and nesting of tales by which the storyteller manages to make herself indispensable to the tyrannical king—and so too begins the tyrannical king’s education in empathy as he listens to tales of justice and injustice, of fidelity and betrayal, of statecraft and misrule. Some of the tales have more artistry than others. Some are sentimental. Some seem intended merely to titillate. To my mind, no single tale lives up to the best of Chaucer, whose Canterbury Tales are roughly contemporary to these. Still, the power of the Nights is cumulative in the way of good refrains. Again and again, we are told, “But morning overcame Shahrazad, and she lapsed into silence”—only to have the tale taken up again the next night. These lapses and interruptions invest even the silliest tales with gravity, reminding us that all art is an appeal against our common death sentence, a plucky assertion of the meaningfulness of human experience against the overwhelming evidence that we are powerless and disposable. What could possibly have motivated Shahrazad, the safest of all the kingdom’s virgins, to put her body in the tyrant’s bed? One can only call it love, terrifying as it is to invoke that word: love for the victims that led her to love their killer and to gamble her life on the humanity of his heart.Though a translator’s note informs us that “tradition has it” Shahrazad bears Shahrayar three children and somewhere along the way earns enough trust to have her death sentence lifted, the tales where never finished by their original author—whoever that may have been. Later editors have felt free to add material, including many of the tales we most commonly associate with the Nights: Sinbad the Sailor, Aladdin and the Magic Lamp, Ali Babba and the Forty Thieves. Husain Haddawy leaves these out of his translation, following the editorial choices of Muhsin Mahdi, whose fourteenth-century Syrian manuscript is the earliest one we have. The fascinating history of the text and of its translation into Western languages is thoroughly documented in Haddawy’s introduction—convincingly enough to persuade me that I’m in the hands of a good translator as I read.
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  • Diba
    January 1, 1970
    Although I simply have problem with the title, since it should be One thousand and one night, the translation of Burton is worthy to read and also should be praised to introduce such a masterpiece to Western literature. Not only do these stories depict cultural and social codes of Middle East and centra Asia, but also they convey how morality and wisdom were respected in these societies. As we are living in an era that most people are biased about their originality and are focused on the small Although I simply have problem with the title, since it should be One thousand and one night, the translation of Burton is worthy to read and also should be praised to introduce such a masterpiece to Western literature. Not only do these stories depict cultural and social codes of Middle East and centra Asia, but also they convey how morality and wisdom were respected in these societies. As we are living in an era that most people are biased about their originality and are focused on the small world of their own society, these incredible stories make us believe that there is a universality, no matter where we come from and in what era we live, that works out and overcomes violence beyond any power and that is the power of imagination and narrative.
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  • Ali
    January 1, 1970
    I really enjoyed this the second time around, and maybe even more so as I've matured. I have my favourite ones, but not enough to begin listing them as they all kept my interest much like they withheld the King's. They were short and full of adventure. I felt like I was able to inject myself in them as if I were one of the characters, or at least watching at a close distance as the stories unfolded. My plan was to read one per night before bed, but again, I enjoyed the stories so much I wanted I really enjoyed this the second time around, and maybe even more so as I've matured. I have my favourite ones, but not enough to begin listing them as they all kept my interest much like they withheld the King's. They were short and full of adventure. I felt like I was able to inject myself in them as if I were one of the characters, or at least watching at a close distance as the stories unfolded. My plan was to read one per night before bed, but again, I enjoyed the stories so much I wanted to finish, and I also want to start another book. I love reading books, and listening to them as well!P.S.What about those of you who have read it ... do you have your favourite stories? What are they?
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  • Ellinor
    January 1, 1970
    I listened to this on audio and it took me 8-9 months to complete it. I was surprised of quite a few things: 1. Here you have the first cliffhanger in history (well, I knew that before, but it was still surprising how early in history this method had been invented). At the same time the method of a story within a story (and often within another stroy) is used, also probably for the first time ever. 2. We think we know many of the tales mentioned but in fact we hardly do: The stories we best know I listened to this on audio and it took me 8-9 months to complete it. I was surprised of quite a few things: 1. Here you have the first cliffhanger in history (well, I knew that before, but it was still surprising how early in history this method had been invented). At the same time the method of a story within a story (and often within another stroy) is used, also probably for the first time ever. 2. We think we know many of the tales mentioned but in fact we hardly do: The stories we best know (or think we know) from the Arabian Nights are Aladin, Ali Baba And Sindbad. The first two were invented by European writers and never existed in the original book. Sindbad is an Arabian tale but was never part of the Arabian Nights. 3. This book is absolutely not for children. It is not a fairy tale book like the ones by Grimm or Andersen. There are so many rape and sex scenes children wouldn't understand or which just aren't suitable for their age. 4. Allah plays a big role in the stories. He's praised in every second sentence. Religion also is important in people's life. But at the same time people drink lots of alcohol (actually forbidden in Islam) and celebrate orgies quite often. This gives very interesting insights into the Arabian Culture. All in all a very interesting book. Even if you don't read it all you should at least read some of the stories which all have very varying topics.
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  • Adina
    January 1, 1970
    I remember the stories were among my favorites. After Anderson.
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