Saturday, May 30, 2009

Umm Kulthum - Alf Layla wa Layla

A bunch of great versions of Umm Kulthum's song 1001 Nights (Alf Layla wa Layla).

أم كلثوم‎

ألف ليلة و ليلة

No real videos below, but good quality sound recordings.


Original soul sound instrumental:

Some dude's Oud version:

instrumental remake by Chaimae:

Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade

from wikipedia: Scheherazade (Sheherazade; Шехерезада in Cyrillic, Šekherezada in transliteration), Op. 35, is a symphonic suite composed by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov in 1888. Based on The Book of One Thousand and One Nights, this orchestral work combines two features common to Russian music and of Rimsky-Korsakov, in particular: dazzling, colorful orchestration and an interest in the East, which figured greatly in the history of Imperial Russia, as well as orientalism in general. It is considered Rimsky-Korsakov's most popular work.

Initially, Rimsky-Korsakov intended to name the respective movements in Scheherazade: Prelude, Ballade, Adagio and Finale. However, after weighing the opinions of Anatoly Lyadov and others, he settled upon thematic headings, based upon the tales from The Arabian Nights.
I. The Sea and Sinbad's Ship (Largo e maestoso — Allegro non troppo)
II. The Kalendar Prince (Lento — Andantino — Allegro molto — Con moto)
III. The Young Prince and The Young Princess (Andantino quasi allegretto — Pochissimo più mosso — Come prima — Pochissimo più animato)
IV. Festival At Baghdad. The Sea. The Ship Breaks against a Cliff Surmounted by a Bronze Horseman. (Allegro molto — Vivo — Allegro non troppo maestoso)

The composer deliberately made the titles vague, so that they are not associated with specific tales or voyages of Sinbad. However, in the epigraph to the finale, he does make reference to the adventure of Prince Ajib.[5] In a later edition, he did away with titles altogether, desiring instead that the listener should hear his work only as an Oriental-themed symphonic music, that evokes a sense of the fairy-tale adventure.[3]

Rimsky wrote a brief introduction that he intended for use with the score, as well as the program for the premier:

The Sultan Schariar, convinced that all women are false and faithless, vowed to put to death each of his wives after the first nuptial night. But the Sultana Scheherazade saved her life by entertaining her lord with fascinating tales, told seriatim, for a thousand and one nights. The Sultan, consumed with curiosity, postponed from day to day the execution of his wife, and finally repudiated his bloody vow entirely.[6]

The grim bass motif that opens the first movement is supposed to represent the domineering Sultan[3] (see theme illustrated below). This theme emphasizes four notes of a descending whole tone scale: E-D-C-A#.[7] But soon, after a few chords in the woodwinds reminiscent of the opening of Mendelssohn's Midsummer Night's Dream overture,[5] we hear the leitmotif that represents the character of the storyteller herself, Scheherazade, his wife, who eventually succeeds at appeasing him with her stories. This is a haunting, sensuously winding melody for violin solo, accompanied by harp.[6] Both of these two themes are shown below.

the youtube series below is:
Moscow Symphony - Arthur Arnold, conductor - Elena Semenova - violin - Live from The Hague.

No date listed.

Not sure why youtube has a 10 min limit but it makes for an interrupted listen (ala Sheherazade?)

Thursday, May 28, 2009

1200 Micrograms / 1001 Arabian Nights

music video of uncertain origins to the Goa trance song "1001 Arabian Nights" by trance crew "1200 Micrograms" out of Ibiza....

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Date Festival Indio 2009 - Videos

Check my post on the Date Festival with its 1001 Nights theme in Indio California here:

I think it would make a perfect place for an annual Nights conference! Maybe one day...

I also think we were some of the only out-of-towners at the festival/fair, which made for a very authentic usa county fair experience complete with 1001 Nights fare and a nightly show.

Here are some videos of the show, they are not good quality but I took them with a digital camera, I wanted to give an example of the songs featured in the stage production of Ali Baba that they did. Sorry for the shortness as well.

If anyone's interested I can upload the program for the festival and the play in pdf.

The most interesting part was the frame story that they gave before the Ali Baba show (and after the nightly "tribute to the troops" which I missed because we were late) - they didn't leave out any of the details of Shahriyar's wife cheating on him (though racial details were out) - and you can see from the first video the violence was left in even with the young age of the actors:

shahriyar catches his wife

ali baba and the 40 thieves intro song (abba! with thieves wandering through the audience)

this clip also has plenty of crying babies in the audience!

whoever wrote this script was pretty clever with the inclusion of some random songs, this one from the smiths!

and amy winehouse

and "kiss kiss" the remade turkish song into english pop dance hit!

you can see the audience has thinned out some, including those that i made come with me to the festival (meet you later...!)

Monday, May 25, 2009

Film/TV & the 1001 Nights

Film/TV & the 1001 Nights

I expect this list to contain even loosely based films and television shows with a slight reference to the Nights (vs. entirely based on the Nights) because onscreen the notion of the Nights as a flexible object seems to be the standard.

Films which are either called “Arabian Nights” or some story of them contain little if any resemblance to any of the stories in the collection while other films seem based entirely on stories from the Nights.

I’d like to include non-English versions here as well as there are so many of them and many of them do have English subtitles or dubs.

I’ve listed the films alphabetically by title. I’ll list “mentions” of the Nights in film and TV as a separate category after these primary listings.

Please email me your additional suggestions using a similar format as I have them below (email address via profile above) instead of commenting and I’ll add to the list. I expect it to grow immensely and also will add additional lists on other genres to the site shortly.

I’ve included links to the respective Wikipedia pages and some related youtube pages but I’m not responsible for what’s on those, though they are interesting and worth a look overall. I haven’t embedded the youtube videos on the page because it would take too long to load the page with all of them.

7th Voyage of Sinbad, The. Juran, Nathan H., dir. 1958. Note: First in the trilogy of Ray Harryhausen effects driven Sinbad films (other two are The Golden Voyage of Sinbad and Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger).

Youtube: voyage of Sinbad


Adventures of Prince Achmed, The. Reiniger, Lotte. 1926. Note: Oldest surviving animated film.

Youtube trailer:


Adventures of Sinbad, The. 1996-1998, various directors. Note: Canadian TV series with 45 episodes.

Youtube season 1: of Sinbad


Aladdin. Clements, Ron & John Musker, dirs. 1992. Note: Disney animated version, heavily based on the 1940 film The Thief of Bagdad.

Stories from the Nights included:
- Aladdin
- mentions of Ali Baba & Scheherazade in song by Genie



Aladdin and the King of Thieves. Stones, Tad, dir. 1996. Note: Disney’s second sequel to their Aladdin, after The Return of Jafar, like Return this one was also direct to video.



Alavuddinum Athbutha Vilakkum, (aka Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp). Sasi, IV, dir. 1979. Note: Bollywood film.



Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves. Lubin, Arthur, dir. 1944.



Ali Baba aur 40 Chor. Faiziyev, Latif & Umesh Mehra, dirs. 1980. Note: Hindi film.



Alif Laila. Sagar, Ramanand, dir. 2002-2005. Note: Urdu, Hindi & Bengali language television serial based on the Nights, ran 143 episodes at 23 minutes each. Concentrated around the stories of Aladdin (13 episodes), Ali Baba (15 episodes) and Sindbad (58 episodes).

Production website:
On youtube (not in English nor with English subtitles):


Arabian Knights. Barbera, Joseph & William Hanna, dirs. 1968. Note: Animated mini-series which ran as a recurring part of the children’s show The Banana Splits Adventure Hour.

(this user has many episodes posted:


Arabian Nights. Rawlins, John, dir. 1942. Note: Technicolor extravaganza (the first motion picture to feature Technicolor actually) featuring characters whose names come from the Nights but whose similarities end there.

Clip from film:
Maria Montez bellydance:


Arabian Nights. Barron, Steve, dir. 2000. Note: US TV version with Jason Lee. Notable for its inclusion of stories not typically found in film or TV versions like the Hunchback, the Sultan and the Beggar, a retelling of the frame story and the Three Princes, though they also do have Aladdin and Ali Baba.



Golden Blade, The. Juran, Nathan, dir. 1953. Note: Another cursorily related Nights film with Caliphs, Harun Al-Raschid, sabers, and a sinister Wazir named Jafar! Starring Rock Hudson!



Golden Voyage of Sinbad, The. Hessler, Gordon, dir. 1974. Note: Film #2 in the Ray Harryhausen Sinbad trilogy.

Youtube: Voyage of Sinbad


Il fiore delle Mille e una notte (English: “The Flower of the Thousand and One Nights,” also known in English as simply Arabian Nights). Pasolini, Pier Paolo, Dir. 1974. Note: Pasolini’s focus on sexuality in the Nights is one of the few film versions which actually does justice to the Nights’ own inherent sexuality/sensuality. His version also avoids the overused stories of Ali Baba, Sinbad and Aladdin. Netflix has this hard to find film available on its streaming service.

Stories from the Nights in the Film (refs to Burton edition vol:pg#):
- Ali Shar and Zumurrud (4:187-228)
- Aziz and Aziza (2:298-333, 3:1-8)
- The Porter and the Three Ladies of Bagdad (1:82-186)
- Abu Nuwas with the Three Boys (5:64-68)

More info:


La Rosa di Bagdad. Domenighini, Anton Gino. 1949. Note: Animated Italian film with Julie Andrews.

Youtube: Rosa di Bagdad


Last Voyage of Sinbad. Japanese film starring Toshiro Mifune.


Le palais des mille et une nuits (The Palace of the Thousand and One Nights). Melies, Georges, dir. 1905. Note (by Paul Nurse): "Silent, 20-min. fantasy film by France ’s pioneering filmmaker. Colour tinted."


Youtube (part 1/2):


Popeye the Sailor Meets Ali Baba’s Forty Thieves. Fleischer, Dave, dir. 1937. Animated short in Technicolor.



Return of Jafar, The. Stones, Tad, dir. 1994. Note: Animated Disney sequel to their Aladdin film and direct to video.



Scooby-Doo in Arabian Nights. Falkenstein, Jun and Joanna Romersa, dirs. 1994. Note: animated special featuring a whole host of characters from Hanna-Barbera with Scooby Doo and Shaggy in the frame story only.



Shazzan. Barbera, Joseph & William Hanna, dirs. Note: Animated series with only slight resemblances to the Nights but set in a mystical “Arabian” setting and several mentions of the Nights occur in the series as well.

Youtube Episode “A 1001 Tricks”:


Sinbad. Higuchi, Masakazu & Chinami Namba, dirs. 1993. Note: Animated Japanese short film based on Sinbad.


Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger. Wanamaker, Sam, dir. 1977. Note: Final film in the Ray Harryhausen effects driven trilogy.

Wiki: target="blank"
Youtube clips: and the Eye of the Tiger


Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas. Gilmore, Patrick & Tim Johnson, dirs. 2003. Note: Animated feature film from DreamWorks with voices from Brad Pitt, Catherine Zeta-Jones and other notable Hollywood celebrities.



Sinbad the Sailor. Wallace, Richard, dir. 1947. Note (by Paul Nurse): Technicolour postwar adventure film with Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. as the legendary mariner on his 8th voyage.



Son of Sinbad.  Tetzlaff, Ted, dir.  1955.

YouTube (Part 1):


Sumurun, (aka One Arabian Night). Lubitsch, Ernst, dir. 1920. Note: Silent Film.

Review of film:
Sunrise Silents’ DVD re-release:


Superfantagenio, (aka Aladin). 1986. Comedy starring Bud Spencer as the Genie in this modern day Aladdin story.

trailer in English:

youtube trailer in German:

youtube theme with clips from the film:


Thief of Bagdad, The. Walsh, Raoul, dir. 1924. Note: Silent Film.



Thief of Bagdad, The. Several directors, produced by Alexander Korda. 1940.

Stories from the Nights in the Film (refs to Burton edition vol:pg#):
- The Fisherman and the Jinni (1:38-82)
- The Ebony Horse (5:1-32)

Youtube trailer:
Youtube playlist:


Volshebnaia Lampa Aladdina, aka Aladdin's Magic Lamp. Rytsarev, Boris, dir. 1966. Note: Russian adaptation of Aladdin story.





Not Shazam! from wiki: Shazzan was a Saturday morning cartoon, created by Alex Toth and produced by Hanna-Barbera Productions in 1967 for CBS. The series followed the adventures of two teenage siblings (Chuck and his sister Nancy) traveling around a mystical Arabian world, mounted on Kaboobie the flying camel. During their journey they face several dangers, but they're always helped by Shazzan, a genie with magical powers out of this world.

This cartoon seems related to the Arabian Knights animated segment on the Banana Splits children show which ran in the late 1960s-1970s in the US. Shazzan is made by the animated power duo of Hanna-Barbera and has several Nights-esque themes and elements throughout the show.

Here is the episode: "A 1001 Tricks" on youtube:

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Fiction Influenced by the Nights

Fiction books, plays and short stories either based on the Nights or that contain a prominent "Nights theme." This list is not a list of "versions" of the Nights nor is it a list of books that simply mention the Nights. I have included both short stories and plays here, though operas, film and tv have their own pages.

Please email me your additional suggestions (email address via profile above) instead of commenting below and I’ll add to the list. I expect it to grow and also will add additional lists on other genres to the site shortly.

Al-Hakim, Tawfiq.  Shahrazad (1943).

---.   The Wisdom of Solomon (1943).

Anaya, Rudolfo. Serafina's Stories (2004).

Barth, John. Chimera (three linked novellas) (1972).

---. The Book of Ten Nights and a Night: Eleven Stories (2004).

---. The Last Voyage of Somebody the Sailor (1991).

Beachcroft, Nina. The Genie and Her Bottle. London: Mammoth, 1992.

Borges, Jorge Luis. "La camara de las estatuas" ("The Chamber of Statues") (1933). Short story based on The City of Labtayt.

---. "Historia de los dos que sonaron" ("Story about the Two Who Dreamt"). Short story using "The Ruined Man Who Became Rich Again through a Dream."

---. "Emma Zunz" (1964).

Boudjedra, Rachid. Les Mille et une Annees de la nostalgie (The Thousand and One Years of Nostalgia) (1979).

Byatt, A.S. - The Djinn in the Nightingale's Eye (1994).

Cullen, Seamus. A Noose of Light. London: Futura, 1986.

-----.  The Sultan’s Turret. London: Futura, 1986.

Daly, Augustin. An Arabian Night in the Nineteenth Century: A Comedy in Four Acts. First production: Daly's Theatre, November 29, 1879. New York, 1844.

Dennis, Ian. The Prince of Stars in the Cavern of Time. Woodstock, NY: Overlook P, 1989.

Djebar, Assia. A Sister to Scheherazade. Heinemann, 1993.

Gardner, Craig Shaw. The Other Sinbad. New York: Ace, 1991.

-----.  A Bad Day for Ali Baba. New York: Ace, 1992.

-----.  Scheherazade’s Night Out. New York: Ace, 1992.

Gautier, Theophile.  La mille et deuxieme Nuit (1923).

Goulden, Shirley. The Seven Voyages of Sinbad the Sailor. Illustrated by Maraja. London: W. H. Allen, 1964.

Gueullette, Thomas. Les Mille et Un Quarts d’heure. 1785. Cabinet des Fées 4. 2 vols. Arles: Éditions Philippe Picquier, 1994.

Gün, Güneli. On the Road to Baghdad: A Picaresque Novel of Magical Adventures, Begged, Borrowed, and Stolen from the Thousand and One Nights.  London: Picador, 1994.

Hariharan, Githa. When Dreams Travel (1999).

Hauff, Wilhelm. Sämtliche Märchen. 1826-28. Ed. Sibylle von Steinsdorff.

-----. Tales. Trans. S. Mendel. 1886. Bohn’s Popular Library. London: Bell, 1914.

Horch, Daniel. The Angel with One Hundred Wings: A Tale from the Arabian Nights. New York: Thomas Dunne Books, 2002.

Hussein, Taha. Sheherzad's Dreams (1943).

Irwin, Robert. The Arabian Nightmare (1983).

Jeon JinSeok. One Thousand and One Nights. Illustrated by Han Seughee. Vol 1-6. 2004-2006. Trans HyeYoung Im & J. Torres. Seoul: Ice-Kunion.

Joyce, James. Finnegans Wake (1939).

Khoury, Elias. Gate of the Sun (1998).

Langley, Noel. The Land of Green Ginger.  Harmondsworth: Puffin, 1975.

Lemirre, Elisabeth, ed. La Bibliothèque des Génies et des Fées.  Arles: Éditions Philippe Picquier, 1994.

Mahfouz, Naguib. Arabian Nights and Days (1995). Arabic title: Layali alf lela.

Maltaite, Eric. Les 1001 Nuits de Schéhérazade. Paris: Albin Michel, 2001.

Manuel, Don Juan. Count Lucanor, or The Fifty Pleasant Tales of Patronio. 1335. Trans James York. Broadway translations. London & New York: George Routledge & E. P. Dutton, n.d.

Masters, Phil. Arabian Nights: Magic and Mystery in the Land of the Djinn. Ed. Steve Jackson and Susan Pinsonneault. Austin, Tx: Steve Jackson Games, 1993

Meredith, George. The Shaving of Shagpat: An Arabian Entertainment (1856).

Mernissi, Fatima.  Dreams of Trespass. 1994.

Miles, Keith. Arabian Adventure: Based on an Original Screenplay by Brian Hayles. London: Mirror, 1979.

Morier, James. The Adventures of Hajji Baba of Ispahan. 1824. New York: Hart, 1976.

Nissaboury, Mostafa.  La mille et deuxieme Nuit (1975).

O’Neill, Anthony. Scheherazade: A Tale (2001).

Pickard, William Bashyr. The Adventures of Alcassim: An Iranian Entertainment. London: Jonathan Cape, 1936.

Poe, Edgar Allen. "The Thousand-and-Second Tale of Scheherazade" (1845).

Potocki, Jan. The Manuscript Found in Saragossa (1805-1815).

Resnick, Mike, and Martin H. Greenberg, ed. Aladdin: Master of the Lamp. New York: Daw Books, 1992.

Ross, Jack, ed. Parodies of the Arabian Nights (1992).

Roth, Joseph. The Tale of the 1002nd Night (1939).

Rushdie, Salman. Midnight's Children (1981).

---. Haroun and the Sea of Stories (1990).

Schami, Rafik.  Damascus Nights (1995).

Sebbar, Leila.  Les carnets de Sherazade (1985).

---.  Le Fou de Sherazade (1991).

---.  Sherezade, 17 ans, brune, frise, les yeux verts (1982).

Shwartz, Susan, ed. Arabesques: More Tales of the Arabian Nights (1988).

Smullyan, Raymond. The Chess Mysteries of the Arabian Knights. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1992.

Stevenson, Robert Louis. New Arabian Nights (1882).

----. More New Arabian Nights: The Dynamiter (1885); co-written with Fanny Van De Grift Stevenson.

----. Island Nights' Entertainments (also known as South Sea Tales) (1893).

Visotzky, Burton L. A Delightful Compendium of Consolation: A Fabulous Tale of Romance, Adventure and Faith in the Medieval Mediterranean (2008).

Voegeli, Max. The Wonderful Lamp.  Trans. E. M. Prince. London: Oxford UP, 1955.

Aladdin City, Florida

Aladdin City is a small area of Florida. Not too much is readily known about its history or relationship to the Nights but I'll put what I find on this page over time.

From wikipedia: Aladdin City is an unincorporated community in Miami-Dade County, Florida, United States. It is located about 20 miles (32 km) southwest of Miami within the unincorporated community of Redland.

There was mention of it and a great flyer in the following article on Opa Locka Florida and its Nights-inspired architecture, but I can't find the flyer for reproduction at the moment but will also post it here when I do.

Article: Dream and Substance: Araby and the Planning of Opa-Locka
Author(s): Catherine Lynn
Source: The Journal of Decorative and Propaganda Arts, Vol. 23, Florida Theme Issue (1998),
pp. 163-189
Published by: Florida International University Board of Trustees on behalf of The Wolfsonian
Stable URL:

Saturday, May 16, 2009

How the Arabian Nights Inspired the American Dream , 1790-1935

"How the Arabian Nights Inspired the American Dream , 1790-1935" is the title of a forthcoming book to be released in the USA in June of this year. I'm not sure how much of the book specifically talks about the Nights but it seems to be centered around American Orientalism and popular and consumer culture in general. Looks very interesting.

review and press release below from the UNC Press website here:

How the Arabian Nights Inspired the American Dream, 1790-1935

By Susan Nance

Americans have always shown a fascination with the people, customs, and legends of the "East"--witness the popularity of the stories of the Arabian Nights, the performances of Arab belly dancers and acrobats, the feats of turban-wearing vaudeville magicians, and even the antics of fez-topped Shriners. In this captivating volume, Susan Nance provides a social and cultural history of this highly popular genre of Easternized performance in America up to the Great Depression.

According to Nance, these traditions reveal how a broad spectrum of Americans, including recent immigrants and impersonators, behaved as producers and consumers in a rapidly developing capitalist economy. In admiration of the Arabian Nights, people creatively reenacted Eastern life, but these performances were also demonstrations of Americans' own identities, Nance argues. The story of Aladdin, made suddenly rich by rubbing an old lamp, stood as a particularly apt metaphor for how consumer capitalism might benefit each person. The leisure, abundance, and contentment that many imagined were typical of Eastern life were the same characteristics used to define "the American dream."

The recent success of Disney's Aladdin movies suggests that many Americans still welcome an interpretation of the East as a site of incredible riches, romance, and happy endings. This abundantly illustrated account is the first by a historian to explain why and how so many Americans sought out such cultural engagement with the Eastern world long before geopolitical concerns became paramount.
About the Author

Susan Nance is assistant professor of U.S. history at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada.


"Nance's original research appraises a variety of performances of and by West Asian 'orientals' as gendered fantasies of leisure and power within American consumer capitalism. Her book introduces a colorful array of entertaining individuals and reveals new insights about such groups as the Shriners and African American Muslims as it expands the dimensions of transnational cultural history."
--Timothy Marr, University of North Carolina, author of The Cultural Roots of American Islamicism

"Rich, provocative, and full of fascinating and little-known stories, this book makes a real contribution and will lead to many lively debates. What is particularly innovative about Nance's approach is her documentation of how Middle Eastern performers actively shaped popular perceptions rather than merely embodying American stereotypes about the Middle East."
--Laura Browder, author of Her Best Shot: Women and Guns in America

Friday, May 15, 2009

Zimmerman's Arabian Nights Chicago Run


ARABIAN NIGHTS To Be Performed At The Lookingglass Theatre 5/20 - 6/12

Thursday, April 23, 2009; Posted: 10:04 PM - by BWW News Desk

Lookingglass Theatre Company presents The Arabian Nights, adapted and directed by Ensemble Member Mary Zimmerman. This Lookingglass Original completes its tour in Chicago following sold-out runs at Berkeley Repertory Theatre and Kansas City Repertory Theatre. The production is scheduled to run May 20 – July 12, 2009, at Lookingglass Theatre Company, located inside Chicago’s historic Water Tower Water Works, 821 N. Michigan Ave. at Pearson.

Tony Award-winning Ensemble Member Mary Zimmerman returns to the Water Tower Water Works with her Lookingglass Original adaptation of one of the world's most enduring works of literature. When he discovers his wife in the arms of another man, King Shahryar vows to ruthlessly murder every virgin in the kingdom. His brutality is interrupted only when he encounters the clever maiden Scheherezade, whose captivating stories may just save her life. This boldly re-imagined visual feast celebrates the redemptive power of storytelling.

“We first produced The Arabian Nights in 1992 in the shadow of the first Gulf War,” says Zimmerman. “It remains for us an attempt to embody the remarkable richness of one of the great masterpieces of world literature. In spite of time, distance and the rhetoric of difference, we find in these characters and tales – over and over – ourselves.”

Lookingglass Theatre Company’s 21st season is marked by impressive Lookingglass Ensemble participation. The Arabian Nights is a notable platform for ensemble acting, one of the trademarks of Lookingglass Theatre Company. The production features Ensemble Members Andy White (Abu al-Hasan), Artistic Director David Catlin (The Robber), Artistic Associate Louise Lamson (Scheherezade) and Artistic Director of New Work Heidi Stillman (Dunyazade).

The cast also includes Barzin Akhavan (Harun al-Rashid), Usman Ally (Mad Man), Ryan Artzberger (Shahryar), Minita Gandhi (The Other Woman), Emjoy Gavino (Boy/Slave Girl), Allen Gilmore (Ishak of Mosul), Susaan Jamshidi (Sympathy the Learned), Ronnie Malley (Musician), Ramiz Monsef (Sage), Nicole Shalhoub (Perfect Love), Louis Tucci (Musician).

The Arabian Nights is an important part of Lookingglass’ storied history. In 1992, Lookingglass first rehearsed and produced The Arabian Nights at the Kinnicutt Center in Islesboro, Maine, followed closely by productions at Chicago Filmmakers and an extended run at Remains Theatre that fall. The Arabian Nights was again produced by Lookingglass in 1997 at The Actors’ Gang in Los Angeles and Brooklyn Academy of Music, finally closing after critically-acclaimed run in the Steppenwolf Studio Theatre. The Arabian Nights garnered Jeff Citations for Best Production, Best Direction, Best Ensemble and Best Original Music. The 2009 production, featuring ensemble members David Catlin, Andy White and Heidi Stillman, all of whom appeared in the inaugural production, illustrates the continued relevance of these timeless stories when the world’s relationship with the Middle East has become deeper and more complex.

Designers include company members Andre Pluess (composer/sound designer) and Mara Blumenfeld (costume design), Daniel Ostling (scenic design), Alison Siple (associate costume designer); T.J. Gerckens is the lighting designer. The production stage manager is company member Sara Gmitter.

Lookingglass Original productions are developed through gglassworks, an initiative that is unique to Lookingglass. Gglassworks supports the writing process while providing the resources necessary for artists to explore their material through various forms of performative expression as dictated by the needs of the story. Tailoring the development of each theatrical piece with its own specific protocol is the hallmark of gglassworks, and developing new work by this method can take anywhere from two to five years. The resource-intensive process of nurturing new work, crafting innovative new metaphorical images, and re-imagining disparate techniques for the stage demands a heavy investment in the gglassworks process.

Tickets, $30-$60, are available online,; by phone, (312) 337-0665; or at the Lookingglass Theatre box office, located inside Chicago's historic Water Tower Water Works, 821 N. Michigan Ave. at Pearson. For more information and box office hours, visit

Previews of The Arabian Nights are May 20-29, 2009. The production runs through July 12, 2009. Tickets are $30 for Previews and $30-$60 during the regular run. Target Saturday Matinees offer a limited number of buy one, get one free tickets which are available to all 3:00 p.m. Saturday matinees. This program is made possible with the generous support of Target, working with Lookingglass to make the arts accessible to all. A limited number of student tickets are available the day of the show for $20 with valid student ID.

Lookingglass Theatre is located in the heart of the Magnificent Mile shopping district inside Chicago's historic Water Tower Water Works, 821 N. Michigan Ave. at Pearson. Discounted parking is available for Lookingglass patrons at nearby Olympia Centre Garage (161 E. Chicago Ave.).

To purchase tickets, call the Lookingglass Theatre box office at (312) 337-0665 or visit

Lookingglass Theatre Company was founded in 1988 by eight Northwestern University students. 2007-2008 marked the company’s 20th anniversary season. Lookingglass is home to a multi-disciplined ensemble of artists who create story-centered theatrical work that is physical, aurally rich and visually metaphoric. Lookingglass has staged 50 world premieres at 23 venues across Chicago, and garnered 41 Joseph Jefferson Awards and Citations.

Work premiered at Lookingglass has been produced in New York City, Los Angeles, Seattle, Berkeley, Philadelphia, Princeton, Hartford, Kansas City, Washington D.C. and St. Louis. In the coming year, touring productions include Lookingglass Alice at The Alliance Theatre in Georgia and The Actors Theatre of Louisville in Kentucky as well as Around The World in 80 Days at Centerstage in Baltimore, Maryland. Lookingglass Originals have been produced across the United States.

The Lookingglass Theatre in Chicago's landmark Water Tower Water Works opened in June 2003. In addition to developing and presenting ensemble work, Lookingglass Education and Community programs encourage creativity, teamwork and confidence with more than 15,000 community members each year.

Lookingglass Theatre Company continues to expand its artistic, financial and institutional boundaries under the guidance of Executive Director Rachel Kraft, Artistic Director David Catlin, Producing Artistic Director Philip R. Smith, Artistic Director of New Work Heidi Stillman, a 22-member artistic ensemble, 14 artistic associates, 13 production affiliates and administrative staff a dedicated board of directors led by Lisa Green. For more information, visit

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Pasolini's "Trilogy of Life" DVD release (Europe)

The Italian filmmaker Pasolini directed three films which all are loose remakes of literature's three great frame tale story collections (The Decameron, The Canterbury Tales and the Arabian Nights).

These were long out of print but have been released on DVD in Europe and, if the online rumors are true, soon to be in the US as well.

Here's a review of Pasolini's Arabian Nights:

Arabian Nights
16-04-2009 18:00 | 1791 views | Noel Megahey |

The celebrations of life, death and sexuality as it pertains to the common man in Pier Paolo Pasolini’s ‘Trilogy of Life’ could be seen to reach its apotheosis in the final film of the trilogy, Arabian Nights (1974). True, the magnificent surroundings of the film’s location shooting in Iran, Yemen, Ethiopia and Nepal present a more obviously attractive and meaningful historical context for the back-to-the-source exploration of the essential life-force that drives all humans than the dark, grim medieval and Middle-Ages settings of The Decameron (1970) and The Canterbury Tales (1972), but essentially the subject remains the same as does its reliance on the method of storytelling to subvert traditional roles. While it still deals with all aspects of living and dying, the difference with Arabian Nights is that the tone is more geared towards sexuality as a force for liberation and the roles that the film subverts are not so much those of the rich and poor or the sacred and the profane as much as the sexual roles.

Arabian Nights then is a film that revels in the pleasures of the flesh, finding in the form of the body and in the nature of love that all men and women are exalted and made equal. It’s there in the story of Berhane and Giana, two deities who recruit a young man and a young woman on their travels in order to settle a bet and discover that love does not discriminate between the plain and the beautiful. Most evidently, it’s in the running thread story that opens the film, where Zumurruo (Ines Pellegrini), the Lady of Moons, rejects offers from rich merchants and important men who long to possess her and instead chooses at random a young man at the market, Nuredin (Franco Merli), to be her lover. The path of their love is not so simple however, and it takes Zumurruo and Nuredin through many twists and turns that weave through the other stories and stories-within-stories of others whose paths they cross, Zumurruo in the course of their story even becoming a man and honoured as a King.

There is no sign of a Shahrazad in this Arabian Nights, but rather it’s in the multiplicity of the stories, of love and love in its many forms that Pasolini seeks to find a wider view of human love and sexuality, the film opening and closing with the quotation “The complete truth does not lay in one dream, but in several dreams”. These many facets of love and sexuality are explored in the other stories, not only showing the joys that love brings, but also how men can also have the capacity to deceive and betray in the name of love, and can act out of self-interest as well as self-sacrifice. A young man, Aziz (Ninetto Davoli), about to be married, falls under the spell of another, and learns from his ex-fiancée the words to move her heart, ultimately understanding the nature of true love, but gaining the wisdom perhaps too late. The stories also take on a fabulous nature, with young men daring to do battle with djinns and demons, trying to cheat fate and destiny, and sometimes, as the story of Princess Dunya, succeeding in creating their own destiny or capturing their own nightingales.

Pasolini’s version of The 1,001 Arabian Nights however has little in common with the traditional telling of fairytales, and while there are fabulous stories, the effects are a bit cheap-looking and the acting is amateurish, Pasolini seeming to bring it all a bit more down-to-earth. As a Marxist filmmaker, the stories and the storytelling tradition rather represent the voice of the people, their hopes and desires and how they can all be made equal. There are many non-professional actors, few of them conventionally handsome in a movie-star way, but they are natural in Pasolini’s celebration of their nakedness where it matters not whether one is rich, poor, ugly or beautiful to enjoy what these bodies have to offer.

This return to the essence of what makes us human and thus equal is the ultimate aim of Pasolini in his ‘Trilogy of Life’ series of films and by taking these stories back to their source, divesting them of falsehood, adornment and symbolism, Pasolini succeeds in Arabian Nights in touching on deeper, human qualities, finding them in the desert locations where civilisation was first born, celebrating the magnificence of being human and having the capacity to love and be exalted by love.


Arabian Nights is released on Blu-ray in the UK by the BFI. The film is held on a BD50 disc and comes with a 1080/24p encode. Extra features are all also presented in full HD. The disc is region coded for Region B (UK and Europe)only.

First of all, it has to be said that the new transfer that the BFI have sourced from the original 35mm negative film elements is light-years ahead of their previous standard definition release of Arabian Nights. There are however still problems that seem to have been picked up during the film’s digital restoration and transfer. Most obviously, blacks are very flat, shadow detail is poor, there is strong contrast and there may even be less detail available in dark interior scenes than the old DVD edition. There is much less grain visible than in the previous release of the film and only one or two minor flecks, but it seems to have come at the cost of HD-DVDNR filtering. Due to the nature of the rather shaky camera movements that are characteristic of the film, the noise reduction also seems to have a side effect of introducing some blurring and very minor morphing or shifting of objects during movements, which I didn’t detect in the transfers of The Decameron or The Canterbury Tales. While it might not be as impressive then as the other two ‘Trilogy of Life’ films, the benefits of the HD transfer are certainly evident elsewhere, particularly in the colours and skin tones, all of which show excellent detail and definition. When it looks good it’s great and sometimes even rather impressive, but it’s not consistently strong enough.

The film’s original Italian soundtrack is presented in 48 kHz PCM 2.0 and the tone is clear throughout. Ennio Morricone’s orchestral arrangements come across with excellent warmth of tone, dialogue and sound effects are all fine, and there are no problems with background noise, hiss or distortion. Problems with lip-syncing are down to how the film was made, it being synchronised in post-production.

English subtitles are optional, the font white and clearly readable throughout. The translation isn’t exact, translating most, but not all of the dialogue in full detail as it is spoken, but they manage to get a reasonable balance between accuracy, brevity and readability.

The English version (2.10:15) differs only from the Italian in its United Artists title and English language opening credits, the film itself being the same transfer as the main feature only with an English language dub. The quality of the audio track is much the same as the Italian and it’s no worse dubbed - it may even be better, suggesting that some of the actors may have been speaking their lines in English. In any case it’s there as an alternative, and also has optional English Hard of Hearing subtitles.

The film’s United Artist’s Trailer (2:36) is included, with English titles but no dialogue.

The Deleted Scenes (21:11) are not post-dubbed, but have a music score added. They would seem to be extensions to two of the stories in the film. The appearance of Nuredin’s mother and father’s in one sequence would suggest that this might have been intended as the opening sequence of the film. The other segments all seem to be an extension of the Dunya story, which does now seem to end rather abruptly in the film. In his original review of the film (included in the booklet here), Tony Rayns notes that the original length of the film was 155 minutes when premiered at Cannes, so it’s possible that these are the sections cut from the film and not two complete stories, but since these have no dialogue, I’m not sure if this is in fact the case.

A booklet is also included containing commentary on the film and its literary source by Roger Clarke and the film’s original 1975 review from Monthly Film Bulletin by Tony Rayns, as well as the same essay by Sam Rohdie on The Trilogy of Life and Geoffrey Nowell-Smith’s biography of Pier Paolo Pasolini found in the booklets of the other two films, The Decameron and The Canterbury Tales.

There is a great deal more to Pasolini’s adaptations of the three films in the ‘Trilogy of Life’ than them being controversial bawdy stories with a great deal of medieval sex and nudity, but this element would inevitably be seized upon by the film industry and exploited for commercial purposes, opening up a whole subgenre of cheap, smutty Italian medieval erotic comedies. This may have had something to do with Pasolini eventually repudiating the films and, when combined with the complex issues of his personal life, effectively propel him towards the depiction of a darker side of human nature in his final film Salò, but in Arabian Nights at least there is conviction in his return to a more innocent time, finding truth and beauty in the magnificent stories. The condition of the original materials proves to be more problematic here than in the other two ‘Trilogy of Life’ films, but the benefits of the BFI’s High-Definition transfer is certainly evident and the film consequently often looks as fabulous as it should.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Burton Translated

Xah Lee - a Nights fan and English teacher has an interesting website featuring Burton's expurgated version of the Nights with unusual Burtonesque words highlighted and defined on the side panel. Well worth a look:

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Dubai's Giant Storyteller Statue

A recent design competition for an emblematic design for one of Dubai's parks was held and the winner was a proposal to build a giant statue/tower over the park of a hakawati (or "storyteller"). The hakawati statue would move his arms and head and tell stories ala the 1001 Nights and small speakers around the park would broadcast the stories. The statue would be large enough to have an elevator and people could go to the top and see Dubai.

Dubai is still pushing the "bold" limits. Thank you!

I've pasted the article below from:

Also more info at this blog:

visiondivision: al hakawati (the storyteller), dubai

al hakawati (the storyteller) zaabeel park, dubai
image courtesy visiondivision

the thyssenkrupp elevator award was a competition which asked architects to develop
an iconic tall emblem structure for zaabeel park in dubai.

for their proposal visiondivision designed a statue based around al hakawati - a storyteller, whose profession that goes way back in ancient arabic times and still is performed in the arabic world today. the statue will be a home of stories; a children’s library in its base and various spaces for performance and reading inside of the statue.

in every part of the park, small speakers will be set up so people can gather around them and listen to the statue when he recites stories; perhaps great legends from one thousand and one night, historical anecdotes from the city itself and future speculations, all this performed with an animated body language.

the statue
the walls in the base are stairs on the outside which leads to the platform where the storyteller begins to rise. windows punctuates various stairs for a bright indoor environment without any direct sunlight. the statue also has big rooms inside of it for reading,relaxing and other social activities. each big room has its own theme, be it a gold room, a crystal cavern, a green room or a room full of fish tanks, or the night views of dubai.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Current Arabic Versions of the Nights


While there is some resurgent interest in the Nights in the Arabic speaking world there still seems to be a lack of diverse versions in Arabic.

I've uploaded some pdfs of Arabic versions that I've found and that Moti passed along to give you an idea of what is currently available, although one scan below is from a library book published in 1901.

I visited several bookstores in Damascus, Syria last summer and found only a couple of versions of 1001 Nights in Arabic. One was an older one from the 1950s-1960s or so that both bookstores I went to wanted about $30-$40 for. It was one volume, white cover with black and white illustrations. I didn't buy these because of the quality of them, they were sold as sort of antique/collectable books and were quite worn.

There was a four volume set in hardcover that I bought for about $20. The only publishing information says "Al Maktaba Al Thakafiya" (which means cultural library) from Beirut Lebanon. Anyone have any info on this publisher? There is no date or author listed on the Thakafiya version.

This volume, it turns out, is exactly the same as another Green covered four volume version I bought in the USA. I also saw the Green version cover for sale in Syria in several shops. The Green version is interesting for a lengthy introduction on the Nights by Dr. Omar Farouq Al Taba (دكتور عمر فاروق الطباع). This version also listed the publication date as 1993 and the publisher as Dar Al Kalam from Beirut. (

Here are the two pdfs of these two: (sorry for the blurred page on the second) - they are just the covers and a couple of pages scanned.



Dar Al Kalam:


Here is the version Moti bought:


And the older version from the library here at UCSD:

Library 1001

Monday, May 4, 2009

What is The Arabian Nights?


BALLURIAU Paul, 1860-1917 (France)

What is The Arabian Nights?

by Michael Lundell

It's a question which permeates any conversation, writing, reproduction, production, translation, interpretation, conversation or statement about anything to do with The 1001 Nights, The Arabian Nights, The Arabian Nights Entertainments, etc. etc. etc.

What is it?

The answer is not so clear and can't be, ever, which is either the 1. frustrating or 2. liberating part of the 1001 Nights.

Much of the academic inquiry into the Nights seems focused if not obsessed with trying to figure out the history of the Nights, looking for the “right” answer to the Nights’ origins which, because of its very nature and history, has eluded everyone who has dared to ask about it.

The Nights basically seem to be the ultimate jazz-riff on story-telling: a general frame story to bracket it and then you are free to do whatever you like after that, but even this loose definition has issues (Disney’s “Aladdin” for example, part of the “Nights”? Yes! And No?!)…

Is the Nights situated within Western "Orientalism" (both traditional and Saidian) and Western perceptions (and misperceptions of the Middle East)? Yes more than No, but absolutely No too.


Some facts can be narrowed down, however, but even these stand on very shaky ground:

1. The 1001 Nights is a collection of stories framed by the story of Shahriyar and Scheherazade (names and their spellings vary in different versions but not drastically, though translators like Burton find this point to be especially important) in which Scheherazade tells stories each night to her new husband Shahriyar, dramatically either leaving off the end of the story or insinuating a newer better story to come the next night so that he doesn’t kill her the next morning.

Before he married Scheherazade, Shahriyar had his new brides killed the next morning, because his original wife committed adultery, and he believes women are not to be trusted. He listens to Scheherazade’s stories instead of killing her, however.

- This “fact” is problematic on several levels, take another look at the Disney example – there is no Scheherazade in Aladdin and yet “Aladdin” is a well established part of the “Nights” canon, existing as a part of, and even as a separate representation of, the Nights.

- Also in some versions Scheherazade tells the stories to her sister Dunyazad and Shahriyar listens from the side, permitting his new bride to continue the next day.

1a. (more speculative truths to follow here in 1a!): These stories are thought to have existed in oral form for years before they were written down, told to crowds by storytellers in cafes and marketplaces in the medieval Middle East, though very little evidence exists to really prove this.

In written form there are no clear origins for the stories though many seem to agree that some of them come from Persian (at least the frame story’s characters’ names), ancient Greek, Arabic, Indian and other European sources, though it is impossible to ascertain these origins beyond some general “sense” of where they come from.

2. The earliest (hand written) manuscript versions have been found to originate from Syria and Egypt, written in Arabic. The earliest printed published Arabic versions originated from Egypt and India (printed in Arabic by the British in India).

The first European version Les Mille et Une Nuits was published in French by Antoine Galland in 1704. An anonymous English translation of Galland titled Arabian Nights’ Entertainments was published in 1706. There are now “translations” in just about every language on the planet, though what they are translations of would be an interesting starting point to think about when approaching them.

2a. Galland’s version was so popular that Galland’s publisher insisted that Galland, and later other authors writing under Galland’s name, expand the story collection and find more tales to put in. Galland’s version was thus created between 1704 and 1717. Galland himself was interested in finding a “complete” version of the Arabic Nights, containing “all” “1001” tales but he was unable to find such a version.

3. There is no original version and no original author.

4. The earliest Arabic titles for the collection include One Thousand Nights and One Thousand Nights and a Night). Though some versions have no title. The following timeline is compiled largely from The Arabian Nights Reader listed in the bibliography below so look there for verification of what I’m saying and the other titles are commonly found.

Some historical references to the title:

Late 800s AD – reference to “Alf Layla” (One Thousand Nights) on a paper found by Nabia Abbott

Masudi (900s AD) – mentions a book “One Thousand Nights and a Night” (Alf Layla wa Layla) – also mentions the Persian book “Hezar Efsane” which translates to “One Thousand Stories” (or “Tales”) of which the Arabic book Masudi was looking at was supposedly a translation of.  No Persian original has ever been found.

Ibn Al-Nadim (900s AD) – mentions a book “One Thousand Nights” (Alf Layla)

Galland’s Arabic Manuscript (1400-1500s AD) (oldest version of the Nights found to date) – no title? - but has "Alf Layla wa Layla" in between the chapter headings, at least according to the picture on this page, which still is unverified as to what manuscript it really is.

Galland’s French translation (1704) – “Les Mille et une Nuits” (The One Thousand and One Nights)

First English Translation (1705 or 1706) – “Arabian Nights’ Entertainments”

Bulaq (1835ish) - “Alf Layla wa Layla” – One Thousand Nights and a Night

Calcutta II (1839ish) – “Kitab Alf Layla wa Layla” – Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night


5. The first use of the name “Arabian Nights” comes from an anonymous author’s English translation first published in 1705 or 1706 of Antoine Galland’s French version (or what he had translated/written to that date) which started appearing in 1704. The first English version is titled “Arabian Nights’ Entertainments.”

6. Beyond the frame story of Shahriyar and Scheherazade and the titles and general themes of some of the core stories there is often little continuity between versions or translations of the 1001 Nights.

7. Many (arguably the most famous) stories of the 1001 Nights, “Ali Baba” (and the Forty Thieves), “Aladdin,” and “Sindbad,” first appeared in the 1001 Nights in Antoine Galland’s French version. No original Arabic manuscripts for “Ali Baba” or “Aladdin” have ever been found. Galland said he heard some of the stories in his collection from a Syrian man named Hanna Diab. “Sindbad” existed in a separate Arabic manuscript but was not a part of any separate story collection. Galland seems to have inserted “Sinbad” into the 1001 Nights collection himself.

8. The timeline of the Nights’ history is debated but the earliest mention of the Nights is on a scrap of paper that has been dated to the late 800s AD by Chicago scholar Nabia Abbott in 1948. The contents of the paper include the title “Alf Layla” (One Thousand Nights) and mention of the frame story but no stories are printed on the paper.

9. Additional mentions of the story collection appear in the 1100s AD in writings by medieval historians Ibn Al-Nadim and Masudi. These early mentions also reference a Persian book called Hazar Afsaneh (“1000 Tales”) which, Masudi says, the Arabic versions were a translation of. No existing Arabic version of the 1001 Nights before 1400AD nor the Persian story collection “Hazar Afsaneh” have ever been found, however.

10. The earliest existing collection of stories containing the frame story of Scheherazade and Shahriyar and the "core" tales is the three volume set, written in Arabic, in the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris. This set was part of the original collection that Antoine Galland used for his French translation in 1704. This earliest version has been dated to the 1400s-1500s AD.


In a way, the “Nights” is much more of a concept than an actual book. The title has been used as an adjective in many many many settings and for many reasons. Consider phrases like “something out of the Arabian Nights” or “like a character from the 1001 Nights” and you’ll start to understand the breadth of the usage of the story collection’s title, let alone the stories themselves.

The Nights as a story collection has been talked about and studied using just about any theoretical approach possible: political theory, feminist theory, literary theory, translation theory, psychological theory, etc. Variations of the Nights have been made into literary works including poems, plays, novels, and stories. They have been mentioned in just about every piece of literature you can imagine. The Nights have also been featured prominently as a theme in films, paintings, music, opera, cartoons, board and card games, comic books, video games, political events, cultural representations, city planning and more.

The search for the right answer to the history of the Nights has only led to more questions than answers but is not likely to go away any time soon, nor is it likely to come to any sort of definitive conclusion any time soon.

Maybe the story collection’s elusive nature leads itself to have so many broad applications. The open ended nature of Scheherazade’s tales themselves seems to allow this to happen.

In any event, then, perhaps there are NO misconceptions or misuses of the Nights after all because just about anything is applicable to its name.

I think I’ve covered the main (and only, and shaky) truths that can be said about the Nights so the next time someone talks about them ask them questions: what do you mean? Which version? What story are you talking about? Where did you hear that? Etc…And you’ll come up with some interesting questions/answers/things to look into further.

Remember also when you write or speak about the “Nights” and a particular version or derivative it’s almost as if you are talking about a separate book (the version you are reading) than any representative of the Arabian Nights as a whole. Look into the particulars of whatever version you are studying rather than drawing general conclusions about the Nights as some kind of concrete book with an “original” somewhere, I think it will provide more specific and more fruitful discussion.

That said, every author and scholar of the Nights does have his or her own weird ideas about the existence of the “1001 Nights” as a whole somewhere in the universe as a jumping off point for their own versions and articles and inquiries but they are all based on fantastic speculation, which may be just fine after all.

I'm particularly interested in seeing if any "core" identity of the Nights can be discerned at all, through all of its many mirrored faces, though I'm fairly certain it's a very shaky task.

Whatever you do don’t get involved in some weird cultural debate/chest-thumping contest over the Nights and their origins, you will be 100% wrong whatever you claim unless you claim “nobody knows where these stories are from, they are probably from all places and all times.” Why do I mention this? Check the “1001 Nights” wikipedia discussion page for a fierce debate about the Nights and their origins here as an example: (I have avoided getting involved in the wikipedia page on the Nights or its debates because it needs so much help I figure I can just write my own page here).

An editorial in the Egyptian newspaper Al Ahram daily has suggested a pro-Persian conspiracy on wikipedia and mentions the Nights:


For English readers interested in the Nights here is a good list of sources and versions you can take a look at with my own take on them, you can also find in them verification for the facts I’ve presented and further bibliographies should you be interested in pursuing the mad trail of the Nights:

1. Reynolds, Dwight F. "A Thousand and One Nights: a history of the text and its reception." Arabic Literature in the Post-Classical Period. Eds. Roger Allen and D. S. Richards. Cambridge University Press, 2006.

- This is by far the best and most concise history of the 1001 Nights I’ve ever read. You need to get a copy of this and read it if you are interested in the Nights and their history at all. In a future class I’d like to teach on the Nights this would be the first thing I’d have students read. This book might be hard to get (ie expensive) if you are not affiliated with a university library and can check it out but it might be worth a local university library membership if you are interested. Most university libraries will let you enter and photocopy (for a small per page fee) without affiliation, however.

1.5 Nurse, Paul.  Eastern Dreams:  How the Arabian Nights Came to the World.  Penguin.  2010.

A complete and straightforward introduction to the textual history of the Nights, one of the best books on the subject and part of the Nights canon, to be sure, for years to come.  This book is especially important as it gets into the details of Galland's life and his publication of the Nights, which does not exist at any length elsewhere in English.

2. Ross, Jack. “A new translation of the Arabian Nights.”

This is a free online article and great introduction to the various English language versions of the 1001 Nights and their histories and differences. A must read for anyone interested in seeing what version they should start reading.

3. “The Arabian Nights Reader.” Book edited by Ulrich Marzolph, 2006. This reader has several important scholarly articles on the history of the Nights including Nabia Abbott’s study of the papers she found in 1948 and a short essay on the history of the titles. Other articles are hit and miss but the book is important for the historical articles.

4. Read the introductions to the online versions I have linked here or any introduction to the Nights and you’ll get a feel for the variations of the Nights and what each author thinks of their history.

5. If you are looking for a version of the Nights to buy and are discouraged by seeing Richard Burton’s 16 volume edition with footnotes and crazy language, never fear, there are several decent and smaller versions that can give you at least a taste of the Nights.

Both of these are fairly inexpensive on Amazon and will certainly give you plenty to work with:

NJ Dawood’s “Tales from the Arabian Nights.” Penguin. Despite having many problems with the author’s introduction this version is quite readable and in my opinion better written than the Haddawy translation. Although again, it is very problematic on its own but so is every version. This is a very small selection of the Nights but its prose is also quite readable and it contains most of the popularly known stories.

Robert Mack, editor: Arabian Nights’ Entertainments. Oxford World's Classics. This is the “complete” English translation of Galland’s French version (as Galland's version looked in 1705 before later additions), all in one volume, quite a big paperback but not too huge to hold. This version’s language holds up quite well over the years and is surprisingly accessible even to the contemporary reader and includes the crowd favorites “Ali Baba,” Sindbad,” and “Aladdin” as they were first read in English in 1705/1706. Of course you can download this version too for free on Google books but it’s probably cheaper just buying a cheap copy on Amazon than printing it or messing up your eyes by reading it online!

Robert Mack's introduction in this volume is also a great historical account of the Nights and its timeline is written in a straight-forward and readable manner.

6. Jorge Luis Borges, “The Translators of the Arabian Nights.” This is a somewhat abstract article (in Borgesian fashion) on the different versions of the Nights and makes for an interesting and poetic theoretical approach to the Nights.

7. Mia Gerhardt. “The Art of Story Telling.” This is a difficult academic book to find but it does a good job of introducing the history of the Nights and also has some interesting literary takes on the Nights stories in general. A sort of must-have in the canon.

8. Robert Irwin. “The Arabian Nights: A Companion.” This book is interesting and is somewhat of a canonical text vis-à-vis the Nights. Though it feels a bit unfocused at times the book attempts to cover just about everything regarding the Nights you can think of (history, reception, setting, influences, etc.). The most interesting part of this book to me is the historical information about medieval Cairo and its crime stories and their relationship to some of the stories in the Nights.

There are about three tons of literature and scholarship on the Nights, check out my “free articles” link on this blog and you will find some online bibliographies that are a good starting point for investigating the Nights phenomenon academically.

Thanks, feel free to add your own 2 cents and book recommendations below,

- ML

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Second Life & the 1001 Nights

Apparently there are several Nights related portions of the metaverse in the online world of "Second Life."

Here are some I found on youtube:

The Journey to Qasr Al Jinn ("Castle of the Jinn (aka Genie)" in Arabic)

This series depicts a traveller from the West on a journey to a foreign land called Qas'r al Jinn. A fantasy roleplaying sim called 1001 Nights inside Second Life.

Second Life: Arabian Nights - Shahrzad Palace

An Arabic dance club in Second Life:

Qas'r Al Jinn - The Fortress of Spirits

A fantasy roleplaying sim soon to open in Second Life. Built by the amazing Zhella Nishi and the concepts and dreams of Harla Kurri and Twisted Surface. (1st draft edit. Not final version.)

Arabian Night in SL

- Some fantasy tent dance thing?!

A Dream of 1001 Nights - In Second Life under WindLight

A story of a beautiful dream I had.