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The Arabian Nights (Barnes & Noble Classics)

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The Arabian Nights is part of the Barnes & Noble Classics series, which offers quality editions at affordable prices to the student and the general reader, including new scholarship, thoughtful design, and pages of carefully crafted extras. Here are some of the remarkable features of Barnes & Noble Classics: New introductions commissioned from today's top writers and scholars Biographies of the authors Chronologies of contemporary historical, biographical, and cultural events Footnotes and endnotes Selective discussions of imitations, parodies, poems, books, plays, paintings, operas, statuary, and films inspired by the work Comments by other famous authors Study questions to challenge the reader's viewpoints and expectations Bibliographies for further reading Indices & Glossaries, when appropriate All editions are beautifully designed and are printed to superior specifications; some include illustrations of historical interest. Barnes & Noble Classics pulls together a constellation of influences--biographical, historical, and literary--to enrich each reader's understanding of these enduring works.   Once upon a time, the name Baghdad conjured up visions of the most magical, romantic city on earth, where flying carpets carried noble thieves off on wonderful adventures, and vicious viziers and beautiful princesses mingled with wily peasants and powerful genies. This is the world of the Arabian Nights, a magnificent collection of ancient tales from Arabia, India, and Persia.   The tales--often stories within stories--are told by the sultana Scheherazade, who relates them as entertainments for her jealous and murderous husband, hoping to keep him amused and herself alive. In addition to the more fantastic tales which have appeared in countless bowdlerized editions for children and have been popularized by an entire genre of Hollywood films, this collection includes far more complex, meaningful, and erotic stories that deal with a wide range of moral, social, and political issues.   Though early Islamic critics condemned the tales' "vulgarity" and worldliness, the West has admired their robust, bawdy humor and endless inventiveness since the first translations appeared in Europe in the eighteenth century. Today these stories stand alongside the fables of Aesop, the fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm, and the folklore of Hans Christian Andersen as some of the Western literary tradition's most-quoted touchstones.… (mais)
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This translation from Arabic is a reconciliation of the anonymous English translation of Galland's French translation and Edward William Lane's original English translation from the Arabic. This reconciliation was accomplished by scholar and editor H. W. Dulcken for Dalziel's Illustrated Edition.
  matthewtbradley | Dec 25, 2020 |
I’d read excerpts here and there, of course; and seen movies about Aladdin and Sindbad; and read a “companion” (The Arabian Nights: A Companion); but I had never read a full version. (As it turns out, this isn’t a “full” version either, consisting of a couple hundred stories. It seems that there never really were 1001 stories but readers expected that many so various translators squeezed things in). This volume is an 1865 English translation of the 1817 French version of Antoine Galland, with an introduction and text notes by Muhsin al-Musawi. The English version was part of an “illustrated library”, and those illustrations – quaint to modern sensibility – grace the text.

I assume everybody is familiar with the basic idea; after being deceived by the sultana, sultan Shahriar determines to never be cheated again; he’ll wed a girl, spend a night with her, than kill her the next morning. Presumably concerned about the imminent shortage of girlfriends, Scheherazade, daughter of the Shahriar’s vizier, beguiles the sultan by telling him a story that can’t be finished in one night; he lets her live so he can hear the rest, and then she starts another story. A thousand nights and a night later, the sultan finally gives up and everybody lives happily ever after.

It would be pointless to review individual stories, so I’ll just mention arbitrary things that struck me.

A lot of the stories are “second order”; Scheherazade is telling a story about somebody telling a story. The famous Sindbad stories are like that; the wealthy Sindbad befriends a poor porter (Hindbad, presumably no relation) and narrates the stories of his voyages. Movies always show Sindbad as a ship captain – perhaps because that’s what “Sindbad the Sailor” implies to a western ear. In the stories, though, Sindbad is a merchant – he’s got nothing to do with sailing the ship, he’s just embarked on it with a cargo he wants to sell. Scheherazade, or whoever composed the original story, had obviously read Homer; in one adventure Sindbad and his companions are captured by an anthropophagous, one-eyed giant who they escape by blinding him with red-hot iron spits. In fact, the whole Sindbad story might be based on the Middle Egyptian Tale of the Shipwrecked Sailor.

Another interesting thing was the preponderance of food and drink. Almost every story includes a feast of some sort, and there’s an awful lot of wine drinking by putative Muslims. When Aladdin originally discovers the magic lamp, the he doesn’t ask the genie for wealth or power; he asks for something to eat. It’s a reminder that despite the framing device the original stories were not told by a nervous royal concubine to a wealthy sultan, but by a street storyteller to passers-by, and everybody involved probably had some acquaintance with hunger. I’m strangely reminded of recent reading about the Salem witch trials; when the witches encounter the tall dark man, he doesn’t seduce them with gold but, in monochrome gray New England, colorful clothes and picture books. Food in the Middle East and color in Massachusetts trump all other worldly pleasures.

Continuing with Aladdin, his is one of the stories that seems to have been invented in Europe; there’s no Arabic manuscript original. The Aladdin story is set in China – an imaginary Muslim China, ruled by a Sultan – but the illustrator shows everybody as Chinese, with queues and “Fu Manchu” mustaches, and one scene overlooks a harbor full of junks.

Long (almost 700 pages) and some of the stories drag, but most are fun enough. I’ve got another translation in the “to be read” stack; I’ll have to see how it compares. ( )
5 vote setnahkt | Oct 24, 2019 |
General interest. Black and white drawings. Includes a list of films, television series, musical works, literature, and games, both directly and indirectly inspired by the tales.
  CindyMcClain | Jul 20, 2015 |
I can honestly say that I have read The Arabian Nights. I'm sure that at the time of publication the stories were fascinating, however, in this day and age when many of the individual tales have been adapted to the silver screen, the stories have lost their luster. Some I had never heard before , others far too many times. ( )
  cyderry | Nov 13, 2014 |
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This text is based on H.W. Dul[c]ken's edition--serialized between 1863 and 1865--of the English version of Antoine Galland's French translation.

It should not be combined with other versions - e.g., not with the Richard Francis Burton translation or the Edward Lane translation.
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The Arabian Nights is part of the Barnes & Noble Classics series, which offers quality editions at affordable prices to the student and the general reader, including new scholarship, thoughtful design, and pages of carefully crafted extras. Here are some of the remarkable features of Barnes & Noble Classics: New introductions commissioned from today's top writers and scholars Biographies of the authors Chronologies of contemporary historical, biographical, and cultural events Footnotes and endnotes Selective discussions of imitations, parodies, poems, books, plays, paintings, operas, statuary, and films inspired by the work Comments by other famous authors Study questions to challenge the reader's viewpoints and expectations Bibliographies for further reading Indices & Glossaries, when appropriate All editions are beautifully designed and are printed to superior specifications; some include illustrations of historical interest. Barnes & Noble Classics pulls together a constellation of influences--biographical, historical, and literary--to enrich each reader's understanding of these enduring works.   Once upon a time, the name Baghdad conjured up visions of the most magical, romantic city on earth, where flying carpets carried noble thieves off on wonderful adventures, and vicious viziers and beautiful princesses mingled with wily peasants and powerful genies. This is the world of the Arabian Nights, a magnificent collection of ancient tales from Arabia, India, and Persia.   The tales--often stories within stories--are told by the sultana Scheherazade, who relates them as entertainments for her jealous and murderous husband, hoping to keep him amused and herself alive. In addition to the more fantastic tales which have appeared in countless bowdlerized editions for children and have been popularized by an entire genre of Hollywood films, this collection includes far more complex, meaningful, and erotic stories that deal with a wide range of moral, social, and political issues.   Though early Islamic critics condemned the tales' "vulgarity" and worldliness, the West has admired their robust, bawdy humor and endless inventiveness since the first translations appeared in Europe in the eighteenth century. Today these stories stand alongside the fables of Aesop, the fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm, and the folklore of Hans Christian Andersen as some of the Western literary tradition's most-quoted touchstones.

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