Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Quest for the "real" Nights - part 1001

This quote from Muhsin Mahdi really encapsulates much of what I've been collecting and alluding to here, the insistence that somewhere out there must be a 1001 Nights, the real version.

"There is widespread resistance to raising and attempting to answer questions such as the following: What is the Nights? How and in what form have the stories survived? In what sense do they form a book? It is human to search for the completion and the end of every affair and to think that one can know the end from knowing the beginning. It is also human to fail to recognize that some things have no known beginning and may not have a knowable end. The desire to know the beginning is thus satisfied by inventing it, and the desire to know the end is satisfied by fabricating it. Such, in any case, have been the human failings from which the Nights has suffered most."

from The Thousand and One Nights (Alf Layla wa-Layla): From the Earliest Known Sources: Part 3 Introduction and Indexes. Leiden, EJ Brill, 1994.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

1001 Nachts the ride, and Amy Wolfe the bride

The "1001 Nachts" is a common "county-fair" type of ride, which, according to its wikipedia site (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ali_Baba_%28ride%29) is also called "Ali Baba," "1001 Nights," "Rainbow," and "Alladin."

Someone is actually married to the ride. Amy Wolfe, a church organist from Pennsylvania, garnered International attention for her obsession with the ride, going so far as to marry it and change her last name to Weber (after the ride's manufacturer). Her condition (that she has been diagnosed with as a medical condition), called objectum sexual (OS), is somehow also linked to her Asperger's Syndrome.

Though it's a serious illness that impairs "normal" functioning it's also a bit revealing about what makes people "normal" in the first place as well. As far as I can tell most all relationships, human/human and human/inanimate are imbued with several levels of fantasy and imagination on many different levels, many to a "religious" or even "obsessional" level.

Her blog post(includes lots of great pictures):


Article from the Telegraph UK:


Article from Starcasm: http://starcasm.net/archives/10223

and a video of her talking about the song for the ride:

and a mini-documentary about her (a section from the film Strange Love: Married To The Eiffel Tower):

here is a video of the ride in action at night:

and during the day (you can see more of the background in this video):

another decent night video:

from cummons scale amusement comes their HO scale version:


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

RSC - Arabian Nights

The Royal Shakespeare Company of Stratford-upon-Avon is performing their version of the Nights this winter until Jan 30. As I noted in an earlier post Ayesha Dharker plays the lead role, you may recall the English actress from films like The Terrorist, Star Wars Episode II, The Mistress of Spices and the made for TV 2000 version of the Nights.

Their interactive website has some cool features and graphics: http://www.rscarabiannights.com/

Here is their trailer:

And a mini-review from: http://www.guardian.co.uk/stage/2009/dec/20/aladdin-secret-garden-christmas-shows

"Arabian Nights
Courtyard theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, until 30 Jan

Dominic Cooke's urgent production (a revisiting of his 1998 show at the Young Vic) is an act of faith. This is low-tech, purist theatre. Its only special effect is its acting. It relies on hand and eye, voice and movement – and draws from a supply of stories to last a thousand nights. Black-eyed Shahrazad (Ayesha Dharker) holds the centre beautifully to save her life and reform her murderous husband (Silas Carson). Georgia McGuinness's set is a simple, pale disc, with a sheet of burnished steel at the back of the stage. There is one wonderful puppet – a gold pilgrim (in the story of Es-Sindibad) traversing a human landscape and many DIY disguises (men turn into black stones with the help of bin-liners). It will please anyone in retreat from Christmas bling or in search of homespun virtuosity. But the RSC are billing this as an "enchanting family show" and although it has its share of enchantments, Arabian Nights is cruel too: in one scene, a dismembered corpse is hurled about (a little girl in the front of the stalls was taken out in terrified tears). My sons (a safe 13 and 10) loved every minute of it – although the youngest, watching the butchery, uneasily inquired: "Is it real?" KK"

Saturday, December 19, 2009

sherazade the musical

Shiraz passes on information on a French language musical running in Quebec, Canada at the moment based on the Nights called "Sherazade."

Here is the website: http://www.sherazade1001nuits.com/home.htm

And a review/interview, also in French: http://lejournaldequebec.canoe.ca/journaldequebec/artsetspectacles/musique/archives/2009/12/20091217-215126.html

Friday, December 18, 2009

miro miroe - nights of arabia

Here's a thoroughly 80s song called "Nights of Arabia" by early electro group "Miro Miroe" (mostly Ian Ritchie: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ian_Ritchie)...

Lyrics include "One thousand and one nights of Arabia (nights of Arabia), One thousand and one flights of fantasy" (!!!)


disconet edit:

1982 klepperderep edit:

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

gangs of new york (2002)

dead rabbits

Picture from wikipedia (1857) is called "view from the "Dead Rabbit" barricade in Bayard Street, taken at the height of the battle by our own artist, who, as spectator, was present at the fight."

I watched Martin Scorsese's film Gangs of New York last night (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gangs_of_new_york) as a break from my work and of course there were several Nights-related things in the film!

1 - The Forty Thieves Gang - there are several mentions of a gang called "The Forty Thieves" which deserves further research because it is either a real gang (some websites claim it as the "first" known gang in NYC) and/or the nickname of the New York Council who operated out of the Tammany Hall building of both the film and history.

2 - A mention of Scheherazade and the Nights during the scene which opens the night of the celebration of Priest Vallon's death. There is a shot of the Chinese hall and several prostitutes are carousing with the suits and someone shouts something like: "Gentlemen, you are most welcome to this palace of enchantment with visions to rival Sheherazade and the tales of the thousand nights of Arabia!" Though the exact quote may be a bit different. Someone online has a screenplay they cobbled together from watching the movie but I don't think it's an exact quote (and is different from mine, they write "Gentlemen, you are most welcome to this palace of enchantment......with visions to rival the tales of Sheherazade and the Arabian Nights!" - http://www.script-o-rama.com/movie_scripts/g/gangs-of-new-york-script-transcript.html).

3 - the focus on the word "ghoul" - which may not be directly Nights-specific but I think it conjures something about the Nights and it's originally an Arabic word. The scene comes after Amsterdam sells a recently killed body to a morgue and the paper writes about a new "ghoul gang."

from the website above:

"What's that word?

It means bodysnatchers.

I didn't ask the meaning. I asked the word.



That's a good word. "

- That's about it for Gangs. I'm interested if anyone finds out anything or knows about the real life gang or political nickname "The Forty Thieves" that is more than what's online (don't trust anything on the Internet!) let me know, I'd be interested to hear about it.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

douglas fairbanks - thief of bagdad (1924)

Thanks to Irfan for passing on the link to the full version of the 1924 silent film Thief of Bagdad. Despite the datedness of some of the special effects this film is actually quite good and an important addition to the Nights film corpus. Its scenery and sets are still at times unmatched in their opulence and detail and at times I feel like this film really kind of captures the "true" rogue nature of the "thief" much more than the remake and the Disney version which both insist on a sort of 'heart of gold' undertone with endings that suggest a reinstatement of political norms (Disney and the other Thief remake both end with the "thief" becoming the new political ruler).

Fairbanks' version never gives up the rogue element of the main character and has him and his "love" not becoming the new rulers of the kingdom but rather escaping on their carpet to who knows where.

Enjoy! It's only like three hours long!

And sorry, for some reason archive.org embedded videos overstretch my menu. This one has Spanish subtitles though.

You can download the whole thing (for a long plane ride?) and other goodies at: http://www.archive.org/details.php?identifier=ThiefOfBagdad1924

Sunday, December 13, 2009

nights conference at nyuad

The Abu Dhabi campus of New York University is currently hosting a conference on the 1001 Nights with several well known Middle Eastern writers and a number of scholars and papers on the topic.

I pasted an article excerpt below from The National, an Abu Dhabi based newspaper - to view the entirety click link - http://www.thenational.ae/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20091214/ART/712139988/1007.

And here is the conference brochure:

Arabian Nights conference nyuad

Nights to remember

Ed Lake

* Last Updated: December 13. 2009 8:13PM UAE / December 13. 2009 4:13PM GMT

“I feel, personally,” says the scholar and novelist Marina Warner carefully, “that it’s in some sense sort of prophetic. Prophetic beyond just the reach of fiction. It really did envisage some aspects of the modern world.”

The “it” in question is The Thousand and One Nights, the ancient and anonymous story-cycle also known as the Arabian Nights, which introduced the world to Aladdin and Ali Baba (not that either of them were originally part of the sequence – but that’s another story).

Warner, the nearest thing Britain has to a celebrity mythographer, a reputation established over dozens of books and cemented last year with a CBE, is in Abu Dhabi this week for a conference to discuss how these medieval Persian and Arabic fables have shaped the modern world.

And, true to the impish spirit of the tales themselves, she has some provocative ideas.

“I think the present financial crisis is rather interestingly depicted in an enchanted form,” she says dryly, “with money coming out of nowhere and also vanishing into nowhere... The virtuality of contemporary systems certainly seems to me to have found a way of being told in the Arabian Nights.”

That kind of satirical swipe would fit neatly in a world where the tyrannical King Shahryar condemns all women for faithlessness and the story-teller Scheherazade must buy back her life at the cost of one fanciful cliff-hanger a night.

“That’s a kind of allegory of general abuses of power,” says Warner, “so there’s an exemplary side to the book. It is sort of philosophical in that sense.” And as far as that fairy gold goes, perhaps cautionary for us as well. Warner chuckles. “Unconsciously – it doesn’t have to be conscious.”

The strange thing about Nights’ impact, at least as Warner tells it, is just how unconscious we now seem to be of it. “How many European fairy tales have people flying in them?” Warner asks. “They’re all post-Nights... It’s not very common to fly around before that. Cinderella doesn’t fly, she gets into a magic coach.”

Now, of course, characters take to the air throughout western fantasy entertainment. As Warner says: “The cinema just took to that, because you can do it ... It’s an absolute commonplace of films that are targeted for the family entertainment audience.” And the silver screen isn’t the only place the Nights cast their shadow.

The three-day public conference at NYU Abu Dhabi’s new Downtown Campus this week will include papers on the Arabian Nights on stage, in film and in music.

It traces their influence on Voltaire, Samuel Johnson, Laurence Sterne and Walt Disney. Writers including Elias Khoury, Gamal el-Ghitani and Githa Hariharan, the filmmaker Nacer Khemir and the theatre director Tim Supple will be on hand to talk about how the stories are reflected in their work.

The Nights are everywhere, and all the harder to detect because of their ubiquity. “It becomes so natural and so accepted that it’s really almost become invisible,” Warner says.

It is not only in the West that the books have managed to inveigle themselves, either. In the late 19th-century there was an Arabian Nights craze in Japan. “They did a marvelous knight’s move,” says Warner. “They went through Middle Eastern orientalism to create their own Japanese orientalism. Just an anecdote, but apparently every wedding in Japan has to have a picture of a camel in the background, even though the camel is unknown in Japan.”

Goodness, I reply, I’d never heard that before. Warner seems doubtful for a moment. “I don’t know if everybody does,” she says. “It might be beyond the reach of some purses.”

Warner’s own area of expertise is magical tales, and it’s as a repository of magical tropes and atmospheres that she seems to find the book most interesting. What, I ask her, do the Nights give us that can’t be found in European traditions – the legends of King Arthur, say?

“People keep asking me what the differences are,” she says with a sigh. “One of the biggest differences is that the Arthurian romance takes place sort of in the countryside. Forests, lakes – rather obviously that geography doesn’t materialise in the Arabian Nights very much.”

Instead the Arabian Nights, for all its enchanted oases and fables about animals, is fundamentally about the city. “It’s not pastoral at all,” Warner says. “The real flavour of the Nights is an urban one.

“And it’s more modern ... It’s about consumerism, markets, trading, objects, manufactures, souks, vessels. It’s not about swords and knights. It’s sort of bourgeois and mercantile. And that’s a different character.” She laughs. “When an enchanted palace appears in an Arabian Night, it’s sort of full of goods. It’s like an emporium!”

Emporium or not, the book itself is certainly a treasure trove, though what it actually contains is harder to determine than you might think.

The earliest fragment of manuscript was found in Syria and dates from around 800 AD. The largest, and the one which ultimately made its way to Europe, was made 500 years later and contained around 300 stories. That’s the one the French Arabist Antoine Galland found in the early 18th century; he put out his own translation in French, and anonymous Grub Street hacks followed it in 1706 with a much-abridged first English translation. It was an instant hit.

“It had an absolutely amazing effect on writing,” Warner says. “Once you start looking at it, you can’t believe it. So many people suddenly realise there’s a way of writing things they wanted to write ... There was a huge a number of forms and devices found in the Arabian Nights that freed the tongues of people.”

Further important translations followed – a prudish one from Edward Lane that left out all the naughty bits, and a lubricious one from Sir Richard Burton that multiplied them. That kind of editorial meddling seems to have typified the way the Nights were treated, even before they made their way into English.

“The general view I think now is, let’s treat this as a collective work,” says Warner. “It in a sense is a woven tapestry of different voices, different hands, over time.

“[Jorge Luis] Borges wrote a marvelous essay called The Translators of the Nights in which he makes this point, that this is a book that grows, this is like a garden. You don’t want to take the garden back to the day it was planted; it would look like very little then.”

For one thing, it wouldn’t include Aladdin: though apparently of Middle Eastern origin, the tale of his magic lamp, not to mention that of Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves and the seven voyages of Sinbad the Sailor, were all European interpolations, included to bump up the numbers.

Such is the variety of the tales that do belong to the Nights, however, that odd men out like these would be difficult to spot.

Scheherezade’s stories include prototypes of the murder mystery and the sci-fi adventure. There are interplanetary voyages, under-sea worlds and a surprising number of robots. Coincidence reigns and the laws of time and space are put aside.

Indeed it was just this sort of anarchic fancifulness that made the Arabian Nights so appealing to the great 18th-century European satirists. As Warner explains, the likes of Voltaire and Jonathan Swift realised “if they made them fantastic, if they made them preposterous, if they put in this kind of humour, this wit and lightness and romance, and mixed it all together with terror and magic, it freed people to write. And of course it also eluded the censors ...” Well, for a while.

Nevertheless, the likes of Gulliver’s Travels and Candide, were funhouse mirrors held up to European society, their bulges and hollows modelled on the Middle Eastern tales.

“There’s a paradox,” says Warner, “because in a sense there’s a mockery of the forms of the Nights. There’s a mockery in Voltaire of the preposterousness and the coincidences, and the wife who dies several times and keeps recovering and being rediscovered, all these sorts of devices and untoward events. But at the same time they needed it.” The more outrageous Voltaire made his tales, the better he could hide his serious purpose.

And do we need the Arabian Nights today? Its influence rises and falls with the generations. As Warner says: “It’s a pulse, the use of the Nights. At the moment it isn’t a particular influence. But it has been in the past.”

She recalls the most recent peak. “The Sixties and Seventies, my youth, when I of course wore kaftans and so did my boyfriend. But that isn’t so salient now.”

Still, if the Arabian Nights teach anything, it’s that there is always another lease of life to be found in its stories.

The Arabian Nights conference runs at NYU Abu Dhabi’s Downtown Campus from tomorrow until Thursday. RSVP nyuad@nyu.edu.

The Dancing Gauchos - 1987

Irfan passes on another video he discovered. This is a 1987 performance by the then threesome "Dancing Gauchos" (http://www.circopedia.org/index.php/The_Dancing_Gauchos) performing at the Big Apple Circus (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Apple_Circus) in a performance called (according to this recording) "1007 Arabian Nights."

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Tales of the Arabian Nights - 1984 C64 video game

This is a complete run through of the game "Tales of the Arabian Nights" by Interceptor Software circa 1984 and made only for the iconic Commodore 64 computer. Details of the game and links follow the embedded video. Thanks to Irfan for finding and passing this on.

You can download this and other screenshots of this game at the Internet Archive here: http://www.archive.org/details/C64Gamevideoarchive97-TalesOfTheArabianNights

Game details:

Interceptor Software 1984
Creator: Ian Gray
Producer: Richard Paul Jones
Musician: Chris Cox
Genre: Arcade, Miscellaneous
Players: 1 Only

More game info: http://www.lemon64.com/games/details.php?ID=2596

pamela anderson in aladdin

The Pantomime, a musical comedy theater usually running around Christmas time in the UK, has been a long running theater form in the UK since at least the 19th century and both the Aladdin story and the Ali Baba story (and sometimes a combination of the two) from the Nights have long been a pantomime staple, if not one of the more popular pantomimes performed each year.

This year mega-star and model Pamela Anderson will be joining the stage for two weeks starting December 13 at the New Wimbledon Theatre in London playing the genie.

From the article linked below:

"If you have been living on Mars for the last two months or somehow managed to avoid the posters plastered on the side of London busses or all over the underground, then you'll have missed the pretty impressive line up accumulated for this year's production.

In a rare move the theatre decided to have guest stars playing the role of the genie while panto veteran Brian Blessed will be a constant throughout as the evil Abanaza as will Ashley Day, who played Troy Bolton in the UK tour of High School Musical, as Aladdin."

article link: http://www.yourlocalguardian.co.uk/leisure/4776458.Star_studded_panto_finally_gets_underway_in_Wimbledon/

Saturday, December 5, 2009

tin tan - las mil y una noches (1958)

Here's a pdf of a poster for the film Las Mil y Una Noches starring Mexican actor/comedian Tin Tan (wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tin_tan).

1001 Nights Spanish Poster

You can actually also find the entire film in pieces on youtube. Here is part one:

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

journal of the nights on ucsd library website

I'm honored to be a part of the UCSD Library's "SAGE" project, an online collection of trusted web sources both for UCSD students and affiliates as well as the general online public in many cases where no affiliation is necessary to view the website.

These types of research websites are vital to anyone looking for honest information as they are a compendium of reviewed sites by real researchers rather than just Google search results or random money-making websites.

I'm happy to have this blog as a part of this resource, you can view it under the "blogs" category at the following pages:

Comparative Literature:


Middle Eastern Studies:

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Fernandel - Alibaba et les 40 voleurs

Fernandel, the French comedian, actor and singer, sings his Ali Baba song in the French film Alibaba et les 40 voleurs(1954):

Sunday, November 15, 2009

how to tell a story - the porter and the three ladies

Safie, One of the Three Ladies of Bagdad - 1900 - William Clarke Wontner

The following is a selection of paragraphs from different versions of the English language Nights. All are from a favorite story of mine “The Porter and the Three Ladies of Bagdad,” which relies on a bit of fun with sexuality and at the same time gives a lot of agency to the female characters, making it a sort of sexually subversive scene.

In case you don’t know the story it involves a porter who is waiting for a job on the street, is picked up by a young woman who makes him carry a feast of foods that she buys, she takes him to a house/courtyard with a fountain and two other young attractive women, and the foursome end up drinking and frolicking and a joke is told involving everyone’s private parts that, if you haven’t read it, I won’t spoil the humor of.

Here are the various takes on it, some range from the nonexistent (Lane) to the over the top (Burton, though Burton’s is by far the most humorous in its tone), to the defensive and anti-poetic to the downright boring, how can you make this story so boring?!

I think Pasolini does it well in his film. And I also like Burton, Mathers and kind of Dawood but the others are too far gone to salvage. Bulak and the Egyptian Arabic versions are much more explicit and fun than the Mahdi/Galland manuscript too.

But I digress and let thou be thy own judge:


“The wine continued to circulate among them, and the porter, taking his part in the revels, dancing and singing with them, and enjoying the fragrant odours, began to hug and kiss them, while one slapped him, and another pulled him, and the third beat him with sweet-scented flowers, till, at length, the wine made sport with their reason; and they threw off all restraint, indulging their merriment with as much freedom as if no man had been present.”

Note 25 (at end of quote) – "I here pass over an extremely objectionable scene"

[this is the second time they drink in the story, as Lane has it - I can feel his fretting through his language, though why include the story at all if he’s so nervous about its contents?]



[I feel the need to include the entire section though I’ll just put the paragraph below, though Lane excises the whole “joke” of the story almost completely, leaving out the “what do you call this…” sections and ruining the need for the story at all. I’m a hesitant fan of Dawood’s even if his version has its own problems…]

“When they had drained their cups a second time, they rose and danced round the fountain, singing and clapping their hands in unison. They went on drinking until the wine took possession of their senses and overcame their reason, and, when its sovereignty was fully established, the first girl got up and cast off all her clothes, letting down her long hair to cover her nakedness. She jumped into the fountain, frolicking and washing her body, filling her mouth with water and squirting it at the porter. At length she came out of the pool and threw herself into the porter’s lap. Then she pointed down to that which was between her thighs and said: ‘Darling master, what do you call that?’”


Grub Street Edition/ Robert Mack editor:

(also a little on the tame side and no “what do you call it” joke):

“After they had eat a little, Amine, who sat next the sideboard, took up a bottle and cup, filled out wine and drank first herself, according to the custom of the Arabians, then she filled the cup to her sisters, who drank in course as they sat; and at last she filled it the fourth time to the porter, who, as he received it, kissed Amine’s hand; and before he drank, sung a song to this purpose: That as the wind brings along with it the sweet scents of the perfumed places through which it passes, so the wine he was going to drink, coming from her fair hands, received a more exquisite taste than what it had of its own nature. This song pleased the ladies so much, that each of them sung another in their turn. In short, they were extraordinary merry all the time of dinner, which lasted a long while, and nothing was wanting that could make it agreeable.”


And then of course Burton:

“Then the lady took the cup, and drank it off to her sisters’ health, and they ceased not drinking (the Porter being in the midst of them), and dancing and laughing and reciting verses and singing ballads and ritornellos. All this time the Porter was carrying on with them, kissing, toying, biting, handling, groping, fingering; whilst one thrust a dainty morsel in his mouth, and another slapped him; and this cuffed his cheeks, and that threw sweet flowers at him; and he was in the very paradise of pleasure, as though he were sitting in the seventh sphere among the Houris of Heaven. They ceased not doing after this fashion until the wine played tricks in their heads and worsted their wits; and, when the drink got the better of them, the portress stood up and doffed her clothes till she was mother-naked. However, she let down her hair about her body by way of shift, and throwing herself into the basin disported herself and dived like a duck and swam up and down, and took water in her mouth, and spurted it all over the Porter, and washed her limbs, and between her breasts, and inside her thighs and all around her navel. Then she came up out of the cistern and throwing herself on the Porter’s lap said, “O my lord, O my love, what callest thou this article?” pointing to her slit, her solution of continuity.”

(vol 1: 90)

Haddawy: (I hear the humor in Burton, there is none here, I feel, just my humble opinion):

Thus receiving the full and returning the empty, they went on drinking cup after cup until the porter began to feel tipsy, lost his inhibitions, and was aroused. He danced and sang lyrics and ballads and carried on with the girls, toying, kissing, biting, groping, rubbing, fingering, and playing jokes on them, while one girl thrust a morsel in his mouth, another flirted with him, another served him with some fresh herbs, and another fed him sweets until he was in utter bliss. They carried on until they got drunk and the wine turned their heads. When the wine got the better of them, the doorkeeper went to the pool, took off her clothes, and stood stark naked, save for what was covered of her body by her loosened hair. Then she said, “Whee,” went into the pool, and immersed herself in the water.

[here Haddawy has a night and morning section]

I heard that the doorkeeper went into the pool, threw water on herself, and, after immersing herself completely, began to sport, taking water in her mouth and squirting it all over her sisters and the porter. Then she washed herself under her breasts, between her thighs, and inside her navel. Then she rushed out of the pool, sat naked in the porter’s lap and, pointing to her slit, asked, “My lord and my love, what is this?”


The new Lyons edition:

She then took the cup, drank it and sat down with her sister. They continued to drink, with the porter seated between them, and as they drank, they danced, laughed and sang, reciting poems and lyrics. The porter began to play with them, kissing, biting, rubbing, feeling, touching and taking liberties. One of them would give him morsels to eat, another would cuff him and slap him, and the third would bring him scented flowers. With them he was enjoying the pleasantest of times, as though he was seated among the houris of Paradise.

They went on in this way until the wine had taken its effect on their heads and brains. When it had got the upper hand of them, the doorkeeper stood up, stripped off her clothes until she was naked, and letting down her hair as a veil, she jumped into the pool. She sported in the water, ducking her head and then spitting out the water, after which she took some in her mouth and spat it over the porter. She washed her limbs and between her thighs, after which she came out from the water and threw herself down on his lap. ‘My master, my darling, what is the name of this?’ she said, pointing to her vagina.



Again the young girl took the cup to the porter and, after holding it to his lips, sat down beside her sister. Soon they began to dance and sing and to play with the wonderful petals, the porter all the time taking them in his arms and kissing them, while one said saucy things to him, another drew him to her, and the third beat him with flowers. They went on drinking until the grape sat throned above their reason, and, when her reign was fully established, the portress rose and stripped off all her clothes until she was naked. Jumping into the water of the fountain, she began to play with it, taking it in her mouth and blowing it noisily at the porter, washing all her body, and letting it run between her childish thighs. At length she got out of the fountain, threw herself on the porter’s lap, stretched out on her back and, pointing to the thing which was between her thighs, said:

‘My darling, do you know the name of that?’


Jack Zipes, in his Arabian Nights vol II, an “adaptation” of Burton, keeps everything Burton has but takes out the sentence about the Houris for some reason. Zipes’ version is quite readable for contemporary readers actually and may be one of the better adaptations, though lacking in the poetics of say Burton or Mathers.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Albert Letchford and Adolphe Lalauze

These pictures were passed on to me by someone who is wondering of their origins and/or the names of the illustrations.

I believe the first is by Albert Letchford who did paintings for the second Burton edition and the second is by Adolphe Lalauze who did engravings for the same edition. I'm not sure of the titles of these but does anyone have a copy of them with titles for the illustrations?

The first publication of Burton's second edition of his Nights with these illustrations is: The 1894-1897 Burton Club edition by Nichols and Smithers - Albert Letchford and Adolphe Lalauze (who did engravings) illustrators. This puts the earliest date for the illustrations at 1894.

There were 70 illustrations by these guys (one collection of the illustrations is on ebay at the moment for $550!) and subsequent editions had less than 70 as far as I can tell.

If anyone could add anything more please do as a reply to this posting and thank you in advance.

This is what I suspect to be the Letchford painting (there is something about Letchford in several of Burton's biographies, he was a good friend of Burton's and painted most of his paintings for the Nights in Naples with local landscapes as backgrounds). It is from the frame story and illustrates the poor fate of the brothers Shahryar and Shahzaman...

Not sure what story this is from but the name on the bottom is clearly A. Lalauze, a semi-famous French engraver and artist.

- M

Sunday, November 8, 2009

sesame street

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the US children's show Sesame Street, whose name's origins are definitively situated in the Nights lore.

From their website: http://www.sesameworkshop.org/inside/pressroom/season40/40things

"Why the name Sesame Street? After a long search for a catchy name, one of the show’s writers suggested “Sesame Street.” The word “sesame,” an allusion to the fabled command from The Arabian Nights, “Open, Sesame!,” suggested excitement and adventure. Since the show was set in an urban street scene, “Sesame Street” seemed an ideal combination. "

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Arabian Nights Murder

This is an old 1936 detective novel featuring the character Dr. Fell. Not sure of the connection to the Nights in particular but it's got a nice looking cover. I haven't read it but here's the plot summary from wikipedia:

"When Scotland Yard detective John Carruthers attends the Wade Museum of Oriental Art, and begins to investigate the interior of one of a series of carriages on exhibit, he is sarcastically told by the night watchman "Watch out when you touch it! There's a dead man inside!" Of course, a dead man tumbles out. The corpse has been stabbed with an elaborate Persian dagger, is wearing an obvious set of false whiskers, and is clutching a cookbook. Gideon Fell must investigate the death and explain all the bizarre circumstances of what was a very busy night at the museum."

And more about the author: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Dickson_Carr

And some other covers of the same book:

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

grub street

JC passes on some scans of his "Grub St" collection (the first English edition of the Nights). He suspects they are first editions but isn't sure if 1707 was the first year these particular volumes were published (or if they were also published in 1706 like volumes 1-4). If anyone knows when these particular volumes (5 & 6) came out (they are later additions to the Grub St collection) please comment below.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Pasolini's Inspiration

Pasolini's film version of the Nights is one of the few versions, filmic or otherwise, of the story collection dealing explicitly with the sexual nature of the stories and also includes some relatively unknown stories from the Nights (no Ali Baba, Aladdin or Sinbad!) which I suspect comes at the prompting of Burton.

In his "Terminal Essay" Burton writes:

"The pederasty of The Nights may briefly be distributed into three categories. The first is the funny form, as the unseemly practical joke of masterful Queen Budur (vol. iii. 300-306) and the not less hardi jest of the slave-princess Zumurrud (vol. iv. 226). The second is in the grimmest and most earnest phase of the perversion, for instance where Abu Nowas [70] debauches the three youths (vol. v. 64-69); whilst in the third form it is wisely and learnedly discussed, to be severely blamed, by the Shaykhah or Reverend Woman (vol. v. 154)."

Pasolini uses stories from both "Zumurrud" and "Abu Nowas" and incorporates and makes much use of the blurry lines between what constitutes homosexual and heterosexual sexuality.

I doubt that Pasolini read the entirety of Burton and picked those stories at random, it seems more likely that Burton's essay prompted Pasolini to take a closer look at those particular stories instead.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Aladin in Bollywood

The latest incarnation of Aladdin comes from India and is a Bollywood musical revisionistic retelling of the unlikely hero and his quest for love and power.

Aladin releases India-wide in theaters on October 30 and stars Bollywood megastars Sanjay Dutt and Amitabh Bachchan and is said to combine the Aladdin story with a more complex subtext involving the hazards of power and the blurred lines between right and wrong, with some dancing and singing of course.

The trailer looks pretty slick with heavy emphasis on the film's special effects, I can't embed it from its official youtube page but you can see it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wm56IEZ7clo.

from a review here: http://www.ibosnetwork.com/newsmanager/templates/template1.aspx?a=21863&z=4 comes some more info:

"Aladin showcases Ritesh Deshmukh as the college going youngster 'Aladin' and pageant winner Jasmin Fernandez as Jasmine. It is being directed by Sujoy Ghosh who had debuted with the hit Jhankaar Beats several years back. Along with the Ajay Devgan, Salman Khan starrer London Dreams, Aladin releases all over India on October 30th."

There are a ton of songs and videos from the film on youtube, one notable one is the Genie's rap here, when "drop it shorty" meets the 1001 Nights: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NjufFwloYV8

Here's the whole Genie song, dance remix?, music only (for the film clip see above link):

Sunday, October 18, 2009

additional children's books on wax

JC passes on a couple of books on record (that come with books to read along with) from his collection:

Little Golden books. They produced a series of books that included a 45 rpm record. Ali Baba was part of the series. Narrated by Dave Teig.

A 1970 record of Sinbad the Sailor. Story by Jimmy Johnson.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Taha Hussein - An Egyptian Childhood

Here is an excerpt from Taha Hussein's An Egyptian Childhood with reference to the Nights (one of many references by the author throughout his works, most notably with the 1943 Dreams of Scheherezade).

"So it was in the heart of our friend. He would be a Sufi and practise magic, all the while believing that he was pleasing God and getting our of life the best of its pleasures.

Among the stories brought by the book-pedlars, which were often in the hands of the lads, was one which was an excerpt from The Arabian Nights, and known as the story of Hassan of Basra. This story contained an account of the adventures of a Magician who turned brass into gold, and also an account of that castle which stood behind the mountain on lofty pillars in the air, where-in resided the seven daughters of the Jinn, and whither Hassan of Basra repaired. Then again came the adventures of this man Hassan, telling how he made a long and difficult journey to the abodes of the Jinn. Now among these adventures there was something that filled the lad with admiration, and that was the account of the rod given to this Hassan on one of his journeys, one of the special properties of which was that, if you struck the ground with it, the earth split open and there came forth nine persons to carry out the behests of the possessor of the rod. They were of course Jinn, all-powerful and ethereal, who flew, ran, carried heavy burdens, removed mountains and worked wonders without limit.

The lad was fascinated by this wand, and so greatly desired to get possession of it that he was sleepless at night and perturbed by day. So he began to read books on magic and Sufism and sought among magicians and Sufis for a means of getting hold of it."

(p 51)

Monday, October 12, 2009

children's records

I found this website that contains several Nights related children's records from the States in the 1950s and 1960s, they are great recordings and you can visit the site and download them yourself. If I ever figure out how to host them in an embedded player here I'll post them. There's all the usual stories plus one has the Physician Douban!

here's the website: http://www.artsreformation.com/records/

And some pictures of covers (these would make great t-shirts):

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Vintage Barbie Arabian Nights

These were some dolls made by Barbie in the mid-1960s as part of their Little Theater Series.

Vintage Barbie Arabian Nights #874 (1964-1965) Pink Satin Top
Long Skirt
Pink Chiffon Sari
Gold Slippers
Turquoise Bracelets (2)
Gold Bracelet
Gold & Turquoise Bead Necklace
Gold Filigree Drop Earrings
Gold Plastic Lamp
Theatre Program

Vintage Ken Arabian Knights #774 (1964-1965)

* Red velour coat with gold braided trim and tie belt
* Gold lame pants
* Matching turban with "emerald" surrounded by pearls
* Red velour slippers with gold braid trim
* Theater program

Here, also is the updated version of the Nights theme ala Ken and Barbie:

From the product description: "Barbie and Ken re-create the legend of how Scheherazade saved her own life by captivating the sultan with a story for 1,001 successive nights. Barbie, as Scheherazade, is absolutely ravishing in a spectacularly patterned skirt, with a matching top embellished with golden highlights. She wears pink and blue veils in her hair that spiral gracefully around her, adding an air of mystery. Ken, as the sultan, is Barbie's dashing companion. He wears a pink tunic with golden trim over billowy golden pants. A blue-and-purple sash ties at his waist and serves as a place to rest his trusty sword. His colorful turban shines with a faux ruby and is topped with a golden plume."

Here is an article on the dolls from the now defunct magazine Barbie Bazaar - click fullscreen to see it clearer:

Barbie 1001 Nights

Monday, October 5, 2009

Scheherazade in England by Muhsin Jassim Ali

Scheherazade in England: A Study of Nineteenth-Century English Criticism of the Arabian Nights (1981). By Muhsin Jassim Ali, a mini review.

This book attempts to capture the reception of the Nights in England throughout the 18th and 19th centuries and despite its breadth does a good suggestive job at getting the ball rolling on critical studies surrounding the Nights. It is one of the few books about the influence of the Nights in European literature on a general level and one of the few focusing primarily on the critical reception of the Nights particularly.

The book’s (forgivable) failings include a sort of patchwork design that never seems to congeal underneath one clear and specific thesis. This is due, I suspect, to the book’s attempts at such a broad topic but what needs to be better stated is what the main argument is beyond the general notion that the Nights and their versions had individualistic influences on England and Europe. Also despite stating that his goal was to differentiate between the versions of the Nights and how the various critics responded to them at times it seems like it’s uncertain which version is being talked about.

One of the many positive things about the book its insistence that the different versions of the Nights were both reflective of different historical periods and also had different impacts as well. This is a main feature of my own study, just in its beginning stages really, but I’d like to insist that each manifestation of the Nights, from Mahdi to Disney and beyond, has its own unique set or sets of varying elements that are both suggestive of some notion of the past versions of the Nights but also carry with them their own unique sets of influences which have varied throughout history quite dramatically.

Another good point is that most of the focus of the book is on what critics say about the Nights in the pages of the periodicals and books of the time, a focus on evidence like this certainly points to some revealing and more general understandings of what the Nights was seen as at the time. This should though be done with caution as many studies I’ve seen (and even done!) have glossed over the journals themselves, several journals of the 19th century for example were decidedly pro-Burton because of Burton’s affiliation with those journals (or anti-Burton if it were the case), and of course the critics and editors all had their own agendas as well, which needs to be accounted for in any serious study.

Here are some quotes and points I found interesting:

“Excepting Sheila Shaw’s remarks on the value of Galland’s version for eighteenth-century fiction (Muslim World, XLIX [1959], 232-38; PMLA, XC [Jan. 1975], 62-68), there is virtually nothing written on the necessity of classifying and interpreting the impact of and responses to such various editions as those of Galland, Edward William Lane (1838-1841), John Payne (1882-1884), and Richard Burton (1885-1888). Central to my argument is the premise that these translations or redactions reveal much about contemporary predilections, and must be seen as significant signs of the prevailing literary concerns of the times” (6-7).

“Beyond the emphasis on the Nights as a useful repository of information, there was a growing concern to verify this information by a study of the original manuscripts. Perhaps it was no longer entirely safe to trust the Galland version. Accordingly, by the end of the [18th] century, critics and scholars were insisting that fully accurate translations of the tales be undertaken. No sooner was the authenticity of Galland’s version vindicated than Richard Hole and others called for an erudite, well-annotated and scholarly edition of the Nights” (27) - with note 45: “For a discussion of the authenticity of Galland’s version, see Gentleman’s Magazine, LX-VIII (Sept. 1798), 757; LXIV (1794), 784; and Monthly Review, XXIX (1799), 475” (35).

“Rather than revealing a uniform and consistent appreciation of Scheherazade’s aesthetics, a careful reading of nineteenth-century literary responses will indicate diverse and varying estimates and evaluations that form integral parts of the raging literary controversies of the day. Whereas the reading public as well as romantic critics saw in the very enjoyment of these recognizable beauties the sole pupose [sic] of reading, others, especially mid-Victorian critics, devoted a great deal of their time and energy to the study and analysis of the tales from contemporary perspectives” (74).

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Chinese Translations of The Arabian Nights

Rui Zhang, a student at Boston University, has been kind enough to share with the blog her paper on the Chinese versions of the Nights and their variances. Rui recently took a course at BU on the Nights taught by Professor Margaret Litvin.

I've uploaded the paper to Scribd. To read it full screen click the button in the top right corner of the document 'toggle full screen.'

Chinese Translations - Final

Friday, September 18, 2009

what time were the tales told

The question of when the stories of the Nights were "officially" told by "Shahrazad" and who she them to who seems contentious and different in most every version of the Nights and is an interesting aside that I notice as I'm studying them and perhaps will come back to if time warrants in the future.

In the last section of Burton's Supplemental Nights vol. 1 which mostly seems to contain stories from the Breslau edition of the Nights Burton writes in a footnote:

"1 The Bresl. Edit. (xi. 318-21) seems to assume that the tales were told in the early night before the royal pair slept. This is no improvement; we prefer to think that the time was before peep of day when Easterns usually awake and have nothing to do till the dawn-prayer" (250).

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Murukami & the Nights

A friend gave me a copy of Haruki Murukami's book Kafka on the Shore which is a great read if you haven't read it or any Murukami. It was a gift because the friend enjoys Murukami (not because of the references below).

The main character (Kafka Tamura) is a teenaged boy in contemporary Japan who, among many other bizarre events, runs away from home and spends time reading all day in a small private library in the suburbs.

Sometimes when you study something you see it everywhere just because you are reading things into things or are trying to fit everything into your thesis (when you study psychology you swear you have all of the mental illnesses you read about or when you read Marx you see everything as a class conflict...! for example).

But what if it really is everywhere?

In Murukami, Kafka begins browsing the library's collection, reflecting in a sense the larger literary points that the narrative weaves:

"When I open them, most of books have the smell of an earlier time leaking out between the pages - a special odor of the knowledge and emotions that for ages have been calmly resting between the covers. Breathing it in, I glance through a few pages before returning each book to its shelf.

Finally I decide on a multivolume set, with beautiful covers, of the Burton translation of The Arabian Nights, pick out one volume, and take it back to the reading room. I've been meaning to read this book" (36).

- Kafka then engages with a character named Oshima and they talk about hermaphrodites (something Burton also brings up several times throughout his Nights) before Kafka returns to his book.

"Back in the reading room I return to 'The Tale of Abu-l-Hasan, the Wag,' but my mind wanders away from the book. Male/male, male/female, and female/female?" (37).

This means that Kafka is reading Burton's volume one of his Supplemental Nights, and no, I'm not that nerdy, I just happen to have read this story yesterday, and yes, it is all strange coincidence.

What is interesting (among many other things) here is that the narrator refers to the story title that is not the Burton title. Burton's title of this story is "The Sleeper and the Waker." In a footnote in his main Nights Burton does mention the story by this exact title but it is in reference to Lane:

"Lane (ii. 352) here introduces, between Nights cclxxi. and ccxc., a tale entitled in the Bresl. Edit. (iv. 134) “The Sleeper and the Waker,” i.e. the sleeper awakened; and he calls it: The Story of Abu-l-Hasan the Wag. It is interesting and founded upon historical-fact; but it can hardly be introduced here without breaking the sequence of The Nights. I regret this the more as Mr. Alexander J. Cotheal-of New York has most obligingly sent me an addition to the Breslau text (iv. 137) from his Ms. But I hope eventually to make use of it."

(this footnote comes in Burton's 271st Night)

I wonder what the case is here, is Murukami being clever by putting the Lane title in the Burton book? Or is it a mistake? If anyone has the original Japanese and can tell me if the title of this story is "The Story of Abu-l-Hasan the Wag" in Murukami's book please let me know, though I can't really see the English translator of Murukami choosing this title if Murukami wrote "The Sleeper and the Waker."

Later, after a few episodes in his own adventure, Kafka returns to the book:

"I head off to the reading room and back to Arabian Nights. Like always, once I settle down and start flipping pages, I can't stop. The Burton edition has all the stories I remember reading as a child, but they're longer, with more episodes and plot twists, and so much more absorbing that it's hard to believe they're the same. They're full of obscene, violent, sexual, basically outrageous scenes. Like the genie in the bottle they have this sort of vital, living sense of play, of freedom, that common sense can't keep bottled up. I love it and can't let go. Compared to those faceless hordes of people rushing through the train station, these crazy, preposterous stories of a thousand years ago are, at least to me, much more real. How that's possible, I don't know. It's pretty weird" (53).

This is a nice passage and one can't help but imagine the author's voice seeping in through his teenaged character giving voice to, on some level, what reading and stories are all about, let alone in the frame of Burton's Nights, especially reading as a teen and/or young adult, moving away from the childish and yet still dragging it with you (or it dragging you) into adulthood and more serious concerns.

There are a few more references (though the whole book is on many levels Murukami's rewrite of what he says Burton's Nights are above):

"I go back to the reading room, where I sink down in the sofa and into the world of The Arabian Nights. Slowly, like a movie fadeout, the real world evaporates. I'm alone, inside the world of the story. My favorite feeling in the world" (54).

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Some Grub Street Reflections

Robert Mack's edition of Arabian Nights' Entertainments allows the reader to see the Nights how they looked to the first English readers as it is a (slightly) edited version of the first "Grub St" English edition which started appearing in England between 1706-1721.

(for a brief history of the Nights see the link - "What is the Arabian Nights" on this blog)

What strikes me as interesting so far is the frame story and how much emphasis it places on the reasons for Scheherazade wanting to marry "Schahriar" (as he is spelled here).

She seems particularly concerned with the future fates of her fellow townswomen, maybe more so than I recall any other version.

The background of Schahriar's unique marriage situation is explained as such:

"The rumor of this unparalleled barbarity occasioned a general consternation in the city, where there was nothing but crying and lamentation. Here a father in tears, and inconsolable for the loss of his daughter; and there tender mothers dreading lest theirs should have the same fate, making the air to resound beforehand with their groans. So that instead of the commendations and blessings which the sultan had hitherto received from his subjects, their mouths were now filled with imprecations against him" (10).

And Scheherazade comes to the rescue:

"I have a design to stop the course of that barbarity which the sultan exercises upon the families of this city. I would dispel those unjust fears which so many mothers have of losing their daughters in such a fatal manner" (10).

She later says "If I perish, my death will be glorious, and if I succeed, I shall do my country an important piece of service" (11).

Burton's edition has these reasons but they are backgrounded behind the necessity of Scheherazade as being next in line due to the lack of any other living marriageable young women:

"and mothers wept and parents fled with their daughters till there remained not in the city a young person fit for carnal copulation" (14)

and Scheherazade wants to "save both sides from destruction" (15), not just the townfolk, putting more of an emphasis on the innocence of Shahryar, that he was acting in some ways rationally given the betrayal of his wife (vs. the Grub Street edition which doesn't give him that much play)...

Another thing that is interesting to me is the set up of the storytelling, in Grub St. Dinarzade wakes her sister up before dawn in order to hear the rest of the story, when dawn comes Scheherazade stops (and promises to resume for her sister the next evening if she lives). Schahriar takes a backseat to the whole thing, kind of creepily listening in the dark and secretly being interested in the stories (vs. being the or a main person who listens and can't wait for the rest of the stories, as is more popularly portrayed).

Burton's has Scheherazade telling stories for the enjoyment of both her sister and her king: "'Tell on,' quoth the King who chanced to be sleepless and restless and therefore was pleased with the prospect of hearing her story" (24).

Thursday, September 3, 2009

ali baba book cover

JC has provided the details of this nice looking version of Ali Baba, the book, he says "was published by J.M. Dent & Co. Aldine House, 1895. Illustrations are by H. Granville Fell. It is part of the Bainbury Cross Series of childrens books. It's a small book,9x15 cm, only 63 pages but it has a nice cloth cover with the blind stamped illustration on it. Inside are a number of full and half page illustrations."

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

“Quest of Scheherazade” update

The Nights related Hollywood (live-action, not animated) film “Quest of Scheherazade” was scheduled to have retired actor Sean Connery in it, which may have changed according to Phil Butler (see link after quote).

"Earlier reports that Sean Connery is to team up with Orlando Bloom and Bollywood’s hottest female lead Celina Jaitley may not be true, but it sure would be nice if they were. Last October, Jaitley said that Connery and Bloom were both signed to star in the upcoming, and highly anticipated “Quest of Scheherazade”, which was scheduled to begin shooting back in January. No official word is out as to who actually will star in the film besides Celina, but Wikipedia and other sources suggest a remote possibility.

Connery, who is by the way this writer’s all time favorite actor (well besides the Duke), has been in retirement since 2003’s League of Extraordinary Gentleman. Connery, who lives in the Bahamas, has not even heard of the project according to his representative Nancy Seltzer. I have actually been stressing wondering how Connery has been, since we have not heard from him in so long, but the same reports I am reading confirm his health is actually very good. As for Jaitley, this film will be her first excursion into Hollywood. She is reported to be slated to play an Iranian princess is the film, which with the two other actors mentioned, would be a box office hit from the start."

link: http://www.pamil-visions.net/sean-connery/24918/

Bibliography of Doctoral Dissertations in English on Arabic-Western Literary Relations, 1902-1997

Bibliography of Doctoral Dissertations in English on Arabic-Western Literary Relations, 1902-1997

This list is compiled by the University of Indiana and is a pretty interesting read just to see the sort of angle everyone is taking on the subject of the Arabic/Western literary relationship. Several of the dissertations are Nights related.

Here is the list: http://www.libraries.iub.edu/index.php?pageId=2159

From their website:

"This work lists 433 doctoral dissertations that were written in English on the broadly defined topic of Arabic-Western Literary relations. It attempts to consolidate materials that are otherwise scattered throughout a number of sources. In most cases, the original documents were not reviewed, but every effort was made to be as comprehensive as possible and to verify the accuracy and completeness of each entry. In order to keep the size of the bibliography manageable and its scope and coverage reasonably comprehensive, it was decided to exclude non-English and non-doctoral level theses. In fact, without the development in recent years of online databases that provide reasonably comprehensive coverage of all English language doctoral dissertations, this project would not have been feasible for a single author to undertake in a short time span."