Simanaitis Says

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THE ARABIAN NIGHTS REVISITED PART 1

THE LONDON REVIEW of Books has enriched its online presence with Diverted Traffic, reappearances of LRB articles from years past. Recently here at SimanaitisSays, I’ve shared Diverted Traffic adventures of “John Taylor, Georgian Rascal.” Today and tomorrow, in Parts 1 and 2, are tidbits gleaned from Marina Warner’s 2008 “Travelling Text” review of two books, newly published at the time, about The Arabian Nights: Tales of 1001 Nights.

The Arabian Nights in Historical Context: Between East and West, edited by Saree Makdisi and Felicity Nussbaum, Oxford, 2008.

The Arabian Nights: Tales of 1,001 Nights: Volumes 1-3, translated by Malcolm C. and Ursula Lyons, introduction by Robert Irwin, deluxe boxed set (Penguin Classics), 2011.

A Bibliophilic Note. The Arabian Nights: Tales of 1001 Nights, all 2715 pages of it, was listed in Warner’s review at £125. The hardcover Deluxe Boxed Set shown here, published by Penguin in 2011, has taken on a collectible status, listed at $2870.99.

Each of the three volumes of the Lyons translation is available in paperback for around $15; for example, see The Arabian Nights: Tales of 1,001 Nights: Volume 1 (Penguin Classics).

Scheherazade’s Life-saving Story-telling. So the story goes, Persian king Shahryar found his first wife to be unfaithful. Dispatching her and to eliminate any further unfaithfulness, he vowed to wed a new virgin every day—after beheading the previous day’s wife.

Scheherazade was the 1002nd of these virgins, and apparently the first wily one: To avoid the earlier wives’ fate, she began a tale for the sultan each evening, but left it unfinished. Each day, Shahryar prolonged her life so she could finish the tale. And, each evening, she left him hanging [ed: reword?] with a new unfinished tale.

Scheherazade. Nineteenth-century painting by French-born British artist Sophie Gengembre Anderson.

Eventually, Shahryar fell in love and made Scheherazade his queen. And maybe they both got a decent night’s sleep.

Tomorrow in Part 2, we’ll see the tale’s influence on European Orientalism, including a sentient sofa. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2020

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