Here is an excerpt from a recent review of Paul Nurse's Eastern Dreams in The Toronto Star newspaper and website. It's an ok review, some critique of the academic nature of the language but overall a positive one. A link to the review follows the snippet and the artwork is linked from the Star as well.
Published On Fri Nov 26 2010
"Among the interesting points:
• Why is a book with nowhere near 1,001 stories (less than a third, actually) widely known as The Thousand and One Nights? Nurse explains that in ancient Arabic society, 1,000 “denoted the highest number attainable.” Thus, 1,000 denoted infinity or a never-ending story. As for why 1,001, Muslims considered odd numbers “to be intrinsically worthier” than even figures. “From the classical Muslim perspective, Scheherazade, to make her stories worthy, to imbue them with luck, required an extra night,” Nurse writes.
• The world’s most famous Arabic storybook, Nurse points out, is actually “a compendium of tales culled from India, Persia, Arabia, Ottoman Turkey and Egypt, probably infused as well with stories from Hebrew, Greek and Roman sources.” For example: The striking similarity between Sinbad’s fight with a carnivorous, one-eyed giant and Odysseus’s battle with the Cyclops Polyphemus in The Odyssey.
• The popular stories of Sinbad, Aladdin and Ali-Baba and the Forty Thieves were not part of the original but picked up from various Arabic sources by Frenchman Antoine Galland, “the man who brought Nights to the West” with his translations in the early 1700s. Galland is responsible for the often used shorthand title Arabian Nights because, as a shrewd marketer, he capitalized on the West’s fascination with the “East,” particularly Arabia.
• Nights influenced Western literary greats Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Lord Byron, the Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Andersen and Charles Dickens. In “The Christmas Tree,” Dickens enthused about the impact on children: “All common things become uncommon and enchanted. All lamps are wonderful; all rings are talismans.” Edgar Allan Poe concocted “The Thousand-and-Second Tale of Scheherazade,” in which she tells her husband about a land resembling the 19th-century Western world. He goes along with her talking about such inventions as the telegraph and steam power, but is enraged when she describes a woman’s bustle. Regarding it as beyond acceptable boundaries, he orders her execution after all.
• There are marked similarities between Nights’ Sinbad and Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe and Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels.
• The Arab world is ambivalent about Nights because of its often violent and sexual content, feeling that it gives a bad impression. Still, Nights is popular reading among the inmates at Guantanamo along with another set of fanciful books, Harry Potter.
Susan Goldenberg is a Toronto author and freelance writer."
link to article: http://www.thestar.com/entertainment/books/article/897590--eastern-dreams-how-the-arabian-nights-came-to-the-world