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The Arabian Nights: Tales from a Thousand…

The Arabian Nights: Tales from a Thousand and One Nights

by Richard Burton

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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This is the selection of tales of The Arabian Nights as translated by Sir Richard F. Burton and published by The Modern Library. The story of Scheherazade's ingenuity is of Persian origin and its origin has been traced back to 944 AD. However the tales are more Arabian than Persian in flavor. Over the centuries the tales multiplied and eventually comprised an convoluted form that has been a source of admiration as a miracle of narrative architecture. While Boccaccio's Decameron and Chaucer's Canterbury Tales are similar to them in construction, in that they are collections of stories within stories, the Arabian tales is infinitely more complicated.

The frame of the work consists of a whimsical plot arrangement that depends upon the jealousy of Shahriyar, King of India, for his wife and her wanton ways; after executing her he vows to take his revenge on wall woman-ways. Night after night he marries some beautiful girl, only to order her beheaded the next morning. That is until he meets Scheherazade whose wile and intelligence is more than a match for the King. She manages to spin a bewildering number of yarns and, by suspending the ending of each, eludes the executioner. The tales she tells include such stories as "Aladdin's Lamp" and "Sinbad the Sailor" and many more that, while less famous, are equally entertaining.
"the most marvelous article in this Enchanted Treasure was a wonderful Lamp with its might of magical means." (p 712, "Alaeddin; or, The Wonderful Lamp")

The resulting compendium of stories has been popular ever since inspiring many translations and different forms. This translation by Richard F. Burton may be the most entertaining of all. ( )
  jwhenderson | Sep 5, 2018 |
A wide range of fantastics stories many of which I enjoyed and that very effectively took me to the setting. ( )
  brakketh | Apr 22, 2018 |
good but very long. a lot of foot notes to help you understand the culture... ( )
  MonicaEH | May 23, 2017 |
Book #21 - The Arabian Nights: Tales from a Thousand and One Nights - A huge collection of interesting and sometimes fun fantasy.

There are a number of other translations of these stories, with varying amounts of liberties taken with the content (western-isms introduced, raunchier parts bowdlerized, stories condensed or omitted completely, etc.). I had this edition recommended to me as the definitive version. I'm glad I read it with the stories in the proper cultural context, but it certainly would have been easier going to read a more abridged version that was perhaps less true to the original Arabic.

Richard Burton (not the actor) includes extensive footnotes comprising nearly a quarter the length of the stories themselves, some running on for several pages apiece. These footnotes explain metaphors, context, the translators own experiences in the East, etc. The best of these footnotes were illuminating and informative and really added to the experience; the worst are catty criticisms of previous translators. At first I read them thoroughly, but halfway through I took to skimming those that were going on at length about precise derivations of the original Arabic words.

Note: A couple vague spoilers follow.

The stories ranged from the fantastic to the meandering. The book starts off strong, with a racy story about how the King and his brother got into the whole marry-for-a-night, kill-her-in-the-morning thing, and how Shahrazade and her sister decided to risk their lives to stop the King through quality storytelling.

She then launches into stories, many of which contain other stories (which occasionally contain OTHER stories) in a web of narration with each tale leaping into the next. Sometimes the flow is natural, such as "which reminds me of the tale of..." (a story related in theme) but other times it's a blatant non-sequitur, such as "They also tell of..." (completely non-related tale).

Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves is here, complete with the "Open Sesame" treasure cave. It's a longer, more violent story than the way it's typically depicted in cartoons, but held my interest. Similarly, Alaeddin and his wonderful lamp is a longer, more complex story but had a satisfying conclusion.

However, Sindbad was nothing like the adventure movies I grew up with. In fact, the seven voyages all boil down to the following formula: "Sindbad decides to sail somewhere, gathers a crew (who somehow don't know that he gets shipwrecked by the second paragraph each trip), is the sole survivor of a shipwreck (told you so), encounters something amazing and through unlikely coincidences rebuilds his fortune, then returns home vowing never to sail again". Curiously, the better stories are the first voyages so, rather than building to a climax, the stories seem to go on way too long. And really, after the second or third trip, he was just being an ass.

A couple tales I had heard of before but only as vague references were the City of Brass and the Ebony Horse. They were enjoyable fantasy stories.

One bizarre story was about a man named Abu Hasan who once publicly broke wind and how it changed his life. Really.

Note: A pretty specific spoiler about one tale follows:

The Three Apples is about a man who, when his wife became ill and craved apples (not native to the area) took great pains to obtain three for her. Later that day, he observes a slave eating an apple and when asked, the slave says that his lover's cuckold husband had bought the apple and a couple others. The man goes home and finds his wife with two apples so he stabs her to death, dismembers her body, stows it in a trunk and throws it in the river. He then learns that the slave was just kidding. Oops. Too bad, really, that's probably the kind of jape his wife would have appreciated if he hadn't just horribly murdered her.

One of the longest and most pointless stories with the riveting title "Tale of Nur Al-Din and His Son Badr Al-Din Hasan" begins when two close brothers get to talking one night about how great it would be if they both met great women, got married and had children of the opposite sexes at about the same time so that one day their children could marry (relationships between first cousins are acceptable there). They then argued so severely about how much the hypothetical dowry would be that they vowed never again to speak to each other and one brother went into exile. Coincidentally, although no longer in contact, they both get married and have children of the opposite sexes at exactly the same time. Even more coincidentally, both children grow up to be the most attractive in the land. Ridiculously coincidental events have two djinn arguing about who is fairest and get the young couple together briefly, where they fall instantly in love and spend many pages barely missing each other in a series of misunderstandings that would have Jack Tripper saying "Oh, that's just stupid!", before their fates again become intertwined and the story goes on and on. If there's a moral or a point, I missed it entirely. If it's intended as comedy, then "Three's Company" would be an epic masterpiece.

To sum up, this is a fascinating work. Some stories are epic adventures, some are the basis for famous stories we all know, and some go on and on and on for no reason whatsoever. I would recommend "Arabian Nights", but suggest anyone who doesn't have a particular interest in Arabic culture go for a more accessible abridged edition instead. ( )
  Shijuro | Apr 2, 2015 |
ألف ليلة وليلة أو لدى الغرب تعرف الليالي العربية هي مجموعة متنوعة من القصص الشعبية عددها حوالي مئتي قصة يتخللها شعر في نحو 1420 مقطوعة، ويرجع تاريخها الحديث عندما ترجمها إلى الفرنسية المستشرق الفرنسي أنطوان جالان عام 1704م، والذي صاغ الكتاب بتصرف كبير، وصار معظم الكتاب يترجم عنه طوال القرن الثامن عشر وما تلاه. وقد قُلّدت الليالي بصورة كبيرة واستعملت في تأليف القصص وخاصة قصص الأطفال، كما كانت مصدراً لإلهام الكثير من الرسامين والموسيقيين. وتحتوي قصص ألف ليلة وليلة على شخصيات أدبية خيالية مشهورة منها علاء الدين، وعلي بابا والأربعين حرامي ومعروف الإسكافي وعلى زيبق المصرى والسندباد البحري، وبدور في شهرزاد وشهريار الملك، والشاطر حسن.
أما الحقائق الثابتة حول أصلها، فهي أنها لم تخرج بصورتها الحالية، وإنما أُلّفت على مراحل وأضيفت إليها على مر الزمن مجموعات من القصص بعضها لها أصول هندية قديمة معروفة، وبعضها مأخوذة من أخبار العرب وقصصهم الحديثة نسبياً. أما موطن هذه القصص، فقد ثبت أنها تمثل بيئات شتى خيالية وواقعية، وأكثر البيئات بروزا هي في مصر والعراق وسوريا. والقصص بشكلها الحالي يرجح كتابتها في القرن الرابع عشر الميلادي 1500م. وقد قامت دولة مصر منذ عدة سنوات بإنتاج عمل درامي إذاعي لهذا الكتاب، أخرجه محمد محمود شعبان وبطولة الفنانة زورو و نبيل وعمر الحريري وآخرون. وفي عام 1984 قام التلفزيون المصري ولأول مرة بإنتاج مسلسل ألف ليلة وليلة سيناريو وحوار أحمد بهجت وبطولة نجلاء فتحي وحسين فهمي وإخراج عبد العريز السكري. ( )
  Awasha_Albadri | Dec 27, 2014 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Richard Burtonprimary authorall editionscalculated
Burton, RichardTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Byatt, A.S.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Cerf, BennettEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Savage, StelleIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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This Modern Library edition is a rearranged selection by Bennet Cerf from the Burton translation. The most recent paperback editions are introduced by A. S. Byatt. ISBNs include: 0679602356, 0812972147 and 0375756752.

Please DO NOT combine this work with other abridgements unless they have the same ISBN or you have confirmed they are exactly the same work with the same translator/editor. Please DO NOT combine abridgements with complete works. If you see abridgements and complete sets/editions combined together, please help by separating them. If in doubt, please DO NOT combine. Especially not when combining large numbers of copies. It takes a lot of time and effort to separate and recombine works.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0812972147, Mass Market Paperback)

Full of mischief, valor, ribaldry, and romance, The Arabian Nights has enthralled readers for centuries. These are the tales that saved the life of Shahrazad, whose husband, the king, executed each of his wives after a single night of marriage. Beginning an enchanting story each evening, Shahrazad always withheld the ending: A thousand and one nights later, her life was spared forever.

This volume reproduces the 1932 Modern Library edition, for which Bennett A. Cerf chose the most famous and representative stories from Sir Richard F. Burton's multivolume translation, and includes Burton's extensive and acclaimed explanatory notes. These tales, including Alaeddin; or, the Wonderful Lamp, Sinbad the Seaman and Sinbad the Landsman, and Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, have entered into the popular imagination, demonstrating that Shahrazad's spell remains unbroken.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:21:03 -0400)

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"Full of mischief, valor, ribaldry, and romance, The Arabian Nights has enthralled readers for centuries. These are the tales that saved the life of Shahrazad, whose husband, the king, executed each of his wives after a single night of marriage. Beginning an enchanting story each evening, Shahrazad always withheld the ending: A thousand and one nights later, her life was spared forever." --Back cover.… (more)

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