Throughout this project, I will refer to the book I am reading as The Arabian Nights. Yes, I know that is only one of its possible names. It might also be called The Arabian Nights Entertainments, The Thousand and One Nights, or The Book of A Thousand Nights and a Night.
In any case, the book’s ‘real’ name is ‘Alf layla wa-layla.
أَلْف لَيْلَة وَلَيْلَة
I also know that to describe the stories as ‘Arabian’ is a something of a misnomer when the collection apparently includes stories set in China, India, the Levant, North Africa, Persia, and Turkey, and therefore features plenty characters who do not speak Arabic.
However, set against all this is the fact that the version I will be reading – the three-volume Penguin Classics edition published in 2010 – is a translation from Arabic, and is formally published as The Arabian Nights: Tales of 1,001 Nights. I’d rather not keep typing all that, so for simplicity’s sake, I will just refer to it as The Arabian Nights in my recaps, for now at least. If anyone feels strongly that I should not do that, then please let me know.
Why do any of us read anything? I have been meaning to read the Arabian Nights, or The Thousand and One Nights, for many years. Whenever I tell anyone that I have an interest in non-linear fiction, they usually mention the nested, story-within-a-story structure for which the tales are famous. In response, I have always said that I would get around to reading the collection “at some point.”
During such conversations, I also tend to mention that one of my favourite authors, Jorge Luis Borges, was obsessed with The Thousand and One Nights. That fact alone is enough reason for me to read the stories, if only to understand Borges’ work and sensibilities a little better. So it has been on my ‘to read’ list for a while. Continue reading “A short introduction before we get started”