Wednesday, March 16, 2016

The Arabian Nights (Thunder Bay Press)

When Westerners think of monumental and well-read Islamic books, only two ever come to mind - the Koran and One Thousand and One Nights. Most have never cracked the spine of the former book (myself included), but the latter book has had portions of it read almost universally. In fact One Thousand and One Nights has been adapted by popular culture many times over, with the most famous example being Walt Disney's Aladdin. Today, I am going to discuss The Arabian Nights, which contains tales from One Thousand and One Nights.

The Arabian Nights is a beautiful hardcover with gilded edges and a ribbon bookmark. It is approximately 700 pages long and is the translation of Sir Richard Burton. The book begins with an introduction that explains the significance of this text, how the translation became Westernized and evolved over time, and how popular it has become in the media. We then are treated to the tales. This edition rightly begins and ends with The Tale of Scheherazade. For those unfamiliar with the tale, the sultan was cheated on by his wife. In order to never be cheated on again, he took up the practice of marrying a woman and killing her the next day, so she wouldn't have the opportunity to cheat. Scheherazade, however, kept herself alive by telling the sultan half a story a night, so that he would have to let her live so she could finish the story. This idea is the framework of One Thousand and One Nights. There are twenty-one tales total in this edition, ranging from about a dozen pages to forty pages. A lot of them were unrecognized by me, but there are some familiar ones. such as Sinbad the Sailor, Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp, and Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves.

Overall, I found this book to be an adequate introduction to the classic which is One Thousand and One Nights. If you would like to read the whole work, you can find a three-volume paperback set from Penguin Classics. There are two things that could have made this book better. The first is illustrations. I don't need a picture on every page, but I feel some scattered throughout the pages could have eliminated the walls of texts your eyes stared at. The other thing that could have made this better were footnotes. Sadly, none of Sire Richard Burton's footnotes were included in this edition. I, like others, believe these would have greatly enhanced understanding and thus made the stories more enjoyable.

This book was provided to me for free by Thunder Bay Books in exchange for an honest review. If you found this review helpful, please click here and hit Yes!