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Old 05-10-2017, 01:59 AM   #1
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One Thousand and One Nights

Also called The Arabian Nights Entertainment.

Erotic, brutal, witty and poetic, One Thousand and One Nights are the never-ending stories told by the young Shahrazad under sentence of death to King Shahrayar. Maddened by the discovery of his wife's orgies, King Shahrayar believes all women are unfaithful and vows to marry a virgin every night and kill her in the morning. To survive, his newest wife Shahrazad spins a web of tales night after night, leaving the King in suspense when morning comes, thus prolonging her life for another day.

Written in Arabic from tales gathered in India, Persia and across the great Arab empire, these mesmerising stories tell of the real and the supernatural, love and marriage, power and punishment, wealth and poverty, and the endless trials and uncertainties of fate. (From Goodreads.)

This is the MR Literary Club selection for May 2017. There are many different versions available, so you should find the one that suits you. We shall be getting the flavour of the work rather than nominating specific stories to read.

Whether you've already read it or would like to, feel free to start or join in the conversation at any time, and guests are always welcome! So, what are your thoughts on it?

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Old 05-10-2017, 08:32 AM   #2
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A source that might be interesting is Arabian Society In The Middle Ages: Studies From The Thousand And One Nights by Edward William Lane. It is available free from Project Gutenberg.

The chapter titles include Religion, Demonology, Saints, Magic, Women, and Slavery among others.

Of course much has been done since Lane and some of the recent editions such as the Oxford volume by Mack and the Penguin edition by Dawood also have many insights. Still, this is a major study by a very fine Orientalist who lived in Egypt. He even sent his sister Sophia Lane Poole to get information directly from Egyptian women as Lane believed (Rightly) that the men were not particularly good sources for the topic. She even wrote about her experiences: The Englishwoman in Egypt: Letters from Cairo, written during a residence there in 1842, 3 & 4, with E.W. Lane Esq.. This does not appear to be available in PG but Lane made extensive use of his sister's information.

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Old 05-10-2017, 01:03 PM   #3
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Very interesting fantasyfan; thanks. I'm still leaning towards the Dawood mostly because I want to give a go at reading some entire edition and that seems the most well-rounded so far without being too long. Since the Lane is free and you recommend it so highly I'll probably download and read parts of it too, especially for the annotations.

For anyone who didn't read the vote thread, I made this post concerning possible versions (fantasyfan also made this post there but he's already eloquently posted his information above).

Haddawy seems a very good option too, but it's in two volumes that total around 700-800 pages. Apparently, he is very critical in the first volume's introduction of versions that aren't from the 'correct' sources that he uses and since he followed those particular sources so fervently he left out some of the most popular and well-known stories, which is why there is a second volume, as at some point he decided to (or else his publishers convinced him to) include those well-known stories left out from the first volume in a shorter, second one.

I haven't found much info on what Mack's version is like yet. From looking at its Amazon page, I do see it's longer (at around 1,000 pages) than both volumes of Haddawy combined, but I do like Oxford editions. I see that it is the earliest English translation (from a French translation) and not a newer one, but it does have extensive notes and criticism.
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Old 05-10-2017, 09:45 PM   #4
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My library has a Penguin edition translated by Malcolm & Ursula Lyons. It's a very lengthy 3 volume set. I am considering purchasing the Dawood because it seems like a good overview.

Thanks for the information on the reference book by Lane, fantasyfan!
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Old 05-11-2017, 12:43 AM   #5
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We do have the book in the MR Library I believe. Not all the stories in the complete edition are for kids though. The "Harvard Classics " version leaves quite a number of tales out due to their rather adult nature.
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Old 05-11-2017, 01:43 AM   #6
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As I understand it, all the various Victorian period translations left out the "naughty bits". And I believe from what I have read that the really well-known stories such as Aladdin and Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves are interpolations, possibly by the Frenchman Antoine Galland. That would explain why Haddawy did the second volume - a bit like the Apocrypha!

I downloaded three different versions - the Lane one from Gutenberg (which is volume 1 of the three volume set), one done by Andrew Lang (presumably aimed squarely at children) from ManyBooks, and one translated by Jonathan Scott which is complete and is about 1800 pages on my iPad Mini. I then read one story (The Story of the Fisherman) in the three different versions, and actually quite liked the Jonathan Scott version, which I found at epubbooks.com. So that's the extent of my "research", but I have ordered the Haddawy from my library. The Lang is a simplified version.

Some time ago I read a book by Marina Warner called Stranger Magic, which was a study of the stories and their history. and her impressive bibliography included the Lane and Haddawy versions among many others, including various French translations.
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Old 05-11-2017, 01:53 AM   #7
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We do have the book in the MR Library I believe. Not all the stories in the complete edition are for kids though. The "Harvard Classics " version leaves quite a number of tales out due to their rather adult nature.
Thanks crich70. I hunted it down and it appears under Anonymous and is the Richard Burton version (which does include the naughty bits), taken from Gutenberg and tidied up by the late and much missed Patricia, for whom the library is named.

I have downloaded it as well and am interested to see how it compares with the others.
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Old 05-11-2017, 03:42 AM   #8
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Thanks crich70. I hunted it down and it appears under Anonymous and is the Richard Burton version (which does include the naughty bits), taken from Gutenberg and tidied up by the late and much missed Patricia, for whom the library is named.

I have downloaded it as well and am interested to see how it compares with the others.
The cut down version might be considered to be 'bowdleized' a term named after Thomas_Bowdler
Some people will maim anything that they feel offends their sense of what is proper. I can understand wanting to protect children from something too old for them but some people take it too far.
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Old 05-11-2017, 09:36 AM   #9
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I did sample the same story in Burton's version and found his deliberately archaic style hard to put up with. But others may like it.
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Old 05-12-2017, 03:02 PM   #10
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The Delphi edition has four translations namely those by Payne, Burton, Lang, and Scott. There is also an "adaptation" by Julia Pardoe.

Lane is represented by Arabian Society In The Middle Ages. The ebook does have some very beautiful illustrations but I noticed that the notes aren't easily accessed.

While I would agree that Burton's translation is quite vivid and atmospheric, it is also aggressively erotic and most would consider it racist as well--both in the text and in the notes. Payne does not Bowdlerize nor does Dawood but both show more restraint than we encounter in Burton.

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Old 05-12-2017, 03:12 PM   #11
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I haven't found much info on what Mack's version is like yet. From looking at its Amazon page, I do see it's longer (at around 1,000 pages) than both volumes of Haddawy combined, but I do like Oxford editions. I see that it is the earliest English translation (from a French translation) and not a newer one, but it does have extensive notes and criticism.
You are quite right, Sun surfer. The Mack edition is a scholarly reproduction of the first English edition of the French translation. I find it interesting and the annotations good. But it may not be to everyone's taste when the Dagwood and Haddawy are available. I particularly like the Dawood and Haddawy"s version certainly looks good but I'm not sure that I would purchase it until the ebook has both volumes available.

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Old 05-13-2017, 01:52 AM   #12
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I just read samples (the same prologue of the two brother kings) from both the Dawood and the Haddawy. Of this section, the Dawood is shorter on detail and more concise, and the language clearer and plainer. The Haddawy seems almost deliberately hazier, the language more convoluted and it takes about twice as long to convey the same info.

I was leaning toward the Dawood beforehand however now I'm leaning toward the Haddawy. I like the greater description (even if it will be at the expense of less overall stories) and I especially like that it's more... spellbinding. I feel like the haziness and convolutions work to give it an alluring air of bygone exotic foreignness appropriate to these tales.

Both the Haddawy volumes are available as ebooks but separately and they end up together being twice as much as the Dawood in the U. S. (Haddawy $20 total versus $10 for Dawood). And together they have about 300 more pages than the Dawood which I don't necessarily want because I'd like to try to read an entire version. But I think in the end the translation I like best is going to be my deciding factor, though I think both translations are good choices so I'll sleep on it first. Just wanted to post this info right away for anyone still deciding on a version.

ETA- The Dawood version of the two kings prologue is easy to sample on Amazon but the Haddawy version is harder. I didn't try much but on the U.S. Amazon site, for Haddawy you can read the tiny Kindle version sample then click over to its pbook sample to continue (minus a random page or two).

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Old 05-13-2017, 03:53 AM   #13
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Thank you Sun Surfer, for those very useful comments.
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Old 05-13-2017, 04:24 AM   #14
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I have got my library copy of the Haddawy and the first thing that struck me was that it is written as the stories are supposed to have been told. That is, dawn breaks when Shahrazad is part way through a story and so she stops at an interesting point, to keep her husband wanting more.

And I agree with you sun surfer - the essence of the work is that it is convoluted, with tales within tales. A kind of labyrinth of stories, almost mesmerising and definitely exotic.
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Old 05-15-2017, 06:24 PM   #15
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I bit the bullet and got the Haddawy translation. I think that my approach will be to read the Oxford edition and make occasional comparisons between it and other versions in the process in the hope of glimpsing something of the beauty residing in the imaginative world of the tales.

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