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Posts Tagged ‘The Arabian Nights’

Open Sesame

September 19, 2012 | by

Artist: John Gagliano

A writer stands outside a story yelling, “Open Sesame!” and the story, as if a seed, opens. And treasure is found inside. That treasure, of course, is just another story, and it all begins again…

Or else, say the writer is no different from any other of his tribe—say he’s actually a thief. And the story is no story, but really a mountain. “Open Sesame!” (this writer continues)—the mountain opens and my meaning is revealed.

A version of this nonsense—this magician’s stage business—occurs in the tale “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves,” popularly known from the One Thousand and One Nights.

But Ali’s tale is not to be found in the oldest manuscripts of that collection. Some scholars believe it to be the invention of one Youhenna Diab, known as Hanna of Aleppo, an Arab Christian storyteller said to have communicated it to Antoine Galland, the first translator of the Nights into French. Others argue for a purely Western source, and believe that Ali is the incorrupt fiction of Galland himself (though Richard Burton, the first translator of an unexpurgated Nights into English, claimed that Ali was to be found in an Arabic original, a mythical manuscript often forged but never found).

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What We’re Loving: High Fashion, Arabian Nights, and Field Mice

July 20, 2012 | by

Image via Synchrodogs

The genre of the 1,002nd night is one few storytellers can resist. Poe wrote one, so did R. L. Stevenson, Jospeh Roth, and Naghuib Mahfouz. Some of these sequels are orientalist camp; the better ones concentrate on The Nights’ true drama: that of a woman talking to save her life. I’ve been reading an advanced copy of Tales of a Severed Head, a collection of poems by the Moroccan poet Rachida Madani. Her Scheherazade, a voice that Madina breaks into many different voices, angrily laments the history of modern Morocco and particularly the fate of its leftist intellectuals. It is as much a critique of the legend as a continuation of it. Madina’s poet is even willing, at times, to stop talking:

She is silent so she can breathe
in the empty cannons
lift and weigh the sacks of gunpowder
and take aim.

Marilyn Hacker’s translation from French is scrupulous and lively. —Robyn Creswell

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Jane Austen, The Video Game; Katniss, the Baby.

July 16, 2012 | by

  • Quoth the Daily News, “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single individual in possession of a Facebook account must be in want of social interaction.” Meet Jane Austen’s Rogues and Romance.
  • Oh, and Jane’s ring sold for a bundle.
  • How to write a cookbook.
  • Grammatical shockers in history.
  • The evolution of the Arabian Nights.
  • The good news: baby names in 2012 are heavily influenced by literature. The bad news (for the babies): the literature is Game of Thrones and The Hunger Games.
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