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The Djinn in the Nightingale's Eye by…

The Djinn in the Nightingale's Eye (original 1994; edition 1998)

by A.S. Byatt

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,3261712,166 (3.86)62
A collection of fairy tales for adults. The title novella is on a middle-aged Englishwoman attending a writers' conference in Turkey. She picks up an antique bottle and as she is washing it a djinn appears, offering to grant her three wishes. She asks for a younger body, then requests he make love to her.… (more)
Title:The Djinn in the Nightingale's Eye
Authors:A.S. Byatt
Info:Vintage (1998), Paperback, 288 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:short stories, fairy tales, illustrated

Work Information

The Djinn in the Nightingale's Eye by A.S. Byatt (1994)

  1. 30
    Possession: A Romance by A. S. Byatt (aces)
  2. 10
    Oriental Tales by Marguerite Yourcenar (nillacat)
    nillacat: Yourcenar's stories are sadder and more bitter than Byatt's, so be prepared. But they are hauntingly beautiful.
  3. 00
    The Two Doctors Górski by Isaac Fellman (bibliovermis)
  4. 01
    Die entführte Prinzessin, Von Drachen, Liebe und anderen Ungeheuern by Karen Duve (JuliaMaria)

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» See also 62 mentions

English (15)  French (1)  All languages (16)
Showing 1-5 of 15 (next | show all)
The first four stories are indeed pure fantasy fairy stories that take the reader back to a simple childhood fantasy land. They are beautifully and precisely written, but at the end of the fourth story Dragon's Breath I was wondering whether these tales were just an exercise in the execution of fairy tales; something along the lines of a famous author proving to herself that she can write in this vein. However the title story which is of novella length is worth the money spent on this collection. Byatt once again shows how she can mix literature, literary history and fantasy into a satisfying concoction that draws the reader into a compelling story.

The Djinn in the Nightingale's eye features Gillian Perholt a story teller whose profession as a narratologist takes her to a conference in Ankara Turkey. She is described as English and stolid and a little nervous of flying, but thoughts of tales from the Arabian nights has piqued her interest. She is presenting a paper on Chaucer's tale The Patient Griselda which allows Byatt to retell this piece of literary history whilst adding her own thoughts to the relevance of the story. Gillian meets an old colleague Orhan Rifat who takes her to Istanbul, to museums, to the famous covered market and to Hagia Sophia. Their fascination for stories lead them to re-tell the story of Gilgamesh and his love for Enkidu. A young student of Orhan presents Gillian with a dirty small glass jar which may be very old and here starts Gillian's own fantasy story, because when she uncorks the bottle a huge Genie (Djinn) appears and grants her three wishes for releasing him from his prison.

Gillian of course wants to know more, wants to know the history of the Djinn, she wants to know his stories. She falls in love with the Djinn, her life has become a fantasy story, how should she frame her wishes, how should she keep her connection with the Djinn, what wonderful things will happen to her now and how can she avoid the pitfalls of wishing for too much or too little. Byatt takes the reader on a wonderful fantasy ride with a knowledgable protagonist ready to ask the questions one might wish to ask if ever you were lucky enough to enslave a Djinn: the right sort of Djinn that is, because Gillian's Djinn is kind, thoughtful and everything you might want a Djinn to be. It becomes a love story and a story that will gladden the heart of the reader and effortlessly take him/her back to childhood fantasies, with the added bonus of delving further into the myths.

The interest and depth of the Djinn story made me wish to re-read the more simple first four fairy stories and so 4 stars for this collection ( )
  baswood | Jun 18, 2022 |
Intellectual fairy tales, in Byatt’s characteristically lush language. The longest, eponymous tale is a modern-day fable, but even more enchanting for being so. ( )
  Charon07 | Jul 16, 2021 |
Lucid, poetical, mysterious, and appealing. The title story, a nest of stories and a meditation on the nature of story and on the roles of men and women in the world, is a marvel. Some of Byatt's images strike horror into my heart in a way no other writer's images can, and she can move my contrary heart to joy unlike any other writer, as well. The other stories are gemlike as well. I particularly liked "The Eldest Princess." ( )
  dmturner | Jun 29, 2020 |
Read 2017. ( )
  sasameyuki | May 8, 2020 |
If you like storytelling, if you enjoy Italo Calvino or Borges or Neil Gaiman, you will love this little book of tales. Each is a perfect little postmodern fairy-tale, charming, frightening or enlightening. The tone is illustrated nicely by the Tale of the Eldest Princess, who, realizing she is in a story and not liking the role she is playing ("I do not want to be the princess who fails and must be rescued" and she cries), decides, after much reflection and with the brusque encouragement of a dangerous guide, to leave the road and abandon the story and create her own. Along the way she sees sometimes an old woman walking behind her, or ahead of her on the path. Much later she learns that there is always an old woman ahead of you or behind you... and I'm sure she will someday be the old woman to another young woman who chooses to make her own path. ( )
  nillacat | Jul 29, 2019 |
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» Add other authors (5 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Byatt, A.S.primary authorall editionsconfirmed
Chevalier, Jean-LouisTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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There was once a little tailor, a good and unremarkable man, who happened to be journeying through a forest, in search of work perhaps, for in those days men travelled great distances to make a meagre living ...
She had hated the stories of St Paul and the other apostles because they were true, they were told to her as true stories, and this somehow stopped off some essential imaginative involvement with them, probably because she didn't believe them, if required to believe they were true.

Once upon a time ... there was a woman who ... was merely a narratologist, a being of secondary order, whose days were spent hunched in great libraries scrying, interpreting, decoding the fairy-tales of childhood and the vodka-posters of the grown-up world, the unending romances of golden coffee-drinkers, and the impeded couplings of doctors and nurses, dukes and poor maidens, horsewomen and musicians.... Two or three times a year she flew to strange cities, ... where narratologists gathered like starlings, parliaments of wild fowls, telling stories about stories.
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A collection of fairy tales for adults. The title novella is on a middle-aged Englishwoman attending a writers' conference in Turkey. She picks up an antique bottle and as she is washing it a djinn appears, offering to grant her three wishes. She asks for a younger body, then requests he make love to her.

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Book description
  • A Glass Coffin
  • Gode's Story
  • The Story of the Eldest Princess
  • Dragons' Breath
  • The Djinn in the Nightingale's Eye
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