Monday, December 12, 2011

Panda Bear - Scheherazade (2011)

Here is a song by Panda Bear (aka Noah Lennox - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panda_Bear_%28musician%29) called "Scheherazade."  Good stuff from an artist who is well known in his circles and set to break out any moment.  The song is from his 2011 album Tomboy - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tomboy_%28album%29.

Lyrics are pasted after the youtube link.



"I see it up ahead
I've seen it all behind
I see it at the sides
Though I've no point to try

But if I could do
Then what I would do to you

I see it in the day
I see it in the night
I see it all the time
Though I might not desire

But if I could do
Then what I would do to you"

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

James Joyce's copy of Burton's Nights

Here's something you don't see everyday, and something I was particularly excited to get to look at, the volumes of Richard F. Burton's Nights that were a part of the library of James Joyce.  I don't know much about the particularities of the volumes, where Joyce bought them, etc., but do know he got them and read them (via a couple of articles by Aida Yared) after writing, or shortly before finishing, Ulysses.

They are housed as a part of the Poetry Collection of the University of Buffalo (NY) Libraries, along with a ton of Joyce related writings and other incredible things, like the original of Yeats' order form for Ulysses, and etc. etc.

Many thanks to the staff at the Library, very cool people, always be nice to your librarians, they run the world.

I took these pictures, but they are owned by The Poetry Collection of the University Libraries, University at Buffalo, so don't use them elsewhere!  Thank you!

As an aside, it is known that there are no markings in the books, and that most of the pages are cut (they used to have every page sealed, and you had to cut them to read them), but what has never (as far as I've read) been remarked on is that Volume 10 ("Terminal Essay," etc.) has a particularly well creased spine, the pages laid flat, unlike all of the other volumes (yes, I asked to look through all of them...), and, most interestingly, the pages of Volume 10 smelled of smoke, other volumes didn't.  Immortality indeed.  Yes.


From JJ Nights



From JJ Nights



From JJ Nights



From JJ Nights



From JJ Nights



From JJ Nights



From JJ Nights

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Secrets of The Arcadian Library

Many thanks to Paul for passing along this, a great TLS book review, by Marina Warner, of the book The Arcadian Library:  Western appreciation of Arab and Islamic civilization by Alastair Hamilton.

The library is a top secret, entrance-by-invitation-only, private library containing, it seems, a treasure trove of books relating to West/Middle East relations, including many rare copies of the Nights.

As an aside, Marina Warner also has a Nights-related book out this month, another new translation called Stranger Magic:  Charmed states and the Arabian Nights.

I've pasted an excerpt from the review below, but you can read it in its entirety here:  http://www.the-tls.co.uk/tls/public/article812318.ece

"The Arcadian collection of editions of the Arabian Nights is one of the most multitudinous in the world, in keeping with the tales themselves. They were the reason for my visiting the Library in the first place, and the sight of the towering bookcase, dedicated to this accumulation of volumes from the first translation (l704–21) by Antoine Galland onwards, in differently coloured fine bindings, made me gasp like a seeker in one of the stories discovering the egg of the giant roc in its nest.

The Arcadian Library does not need to expand on these holdings; it does, however, reproduce some of the illustrations on another glorious gatefold, and it pictures a scattering of pages from a bundle of seventeenth-century manuscript notebooks in which stories of the Nights are told.

These have been annotated with exclamations and invocations of the owner, and survive between battered boards, the pages’ edges carefully patched here and there to preserve them. Perhaps they belonged to an itinerant storyteller, a hakawati, as Nacer Khemir calls himself; they have been lovingly read to bits.

With this lavish study of the Arcadian Library, it is to be hoped that a similar process has begun. As readers discover the knowledge assembled in the collection, it can start to flow and spread through our consciousness, altering many received ideas about the relations between East and West."

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Scheherazade the Ballet - Ireland



Posting's been a bit light during job application season, my apologies, but the Nights rolls on, and will do so, regardless... here's news on Scheherazade, a ballet currently touring in Ireland, from the Irish Times:

Link: http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/features/2011/1028/1224306620296.html

"Choreographer Morgann Runacre-Temple bravely created a full-length Scheherazade for Ballet Ireland, now the National Ballet of Ireland, tackling the tale of an Arabian king who beheads a slew of virgin wives. Not your typical ballet narrative, Scheherazade begs for big, sultry movements to match Rimsky-Korsakov’s grandiose score, but the best part of this production was the behind-the-scenes artistic team, not what we actually saw on stage.

Designer Lorna Ritchie’s parachute-sized swathe of white silk served as the main set piece augmented by Paul Keogan’s lighting, and the silk took on a life of its own, sometimes meriting more attention than the dancers. It morphed from bedroom decor to window dressing to a ship’s mast, loosely carrying the ballet forward as a backdrop for Scheherazade’s stories.

Katherine Kingston and David Horn offered dependable characterisations of King Shahryar and Scheherazade, but their roles lacked dynamism. While Runacre-Temple adroitly handled the king knocking off his other wives in what could have been the most off-putting part of the story – little gems like this were nearly lost with everything else going on.

The dancing almost crescendoed when eight men presented a potentially powerful nautical number, but instead of testosterone-fuelled movement, the steps remained even-keeled. Throughout the ballet, Kieran Stoneley proved the most interesting dancer to watch.

Stoneley first appeared as a magician, beguiling us with his wonderfully sinister demeanour – a seductive character in a melee of princesses, sultans and magic lamps. As a member of the corps, he burst beyond the ordinary steps with his compelling presence, exactly the calibre of artist the company should be trying to attract.

The iconic American choreographer, Mark Morris, once said his best advice to young choreographers is “not to put everything you know into one ballet”, and rather than creating such busy scenes, Runacre-Temple would do well to allow personalities like Stoneley to dazzle on their own.
Runs until Saturday, then on national tour until December 18"

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Habibi by Craig Thompson

Many thanks to Irfan for passing along this news item about the graphic novel Habibi, a 750+ page book with a Nights-esque relationship.


Here is the book's website: http://www.habibibook.com/

This website is from Minnesota Public Radio and features an interview with the author: http://minnesota.publicradio.org/collections/special/columns/state-of-the-arts/archive/2011/09/graphic-novel-habibi-intertwines-holy-books-with-comic-books.shtml

"Thompson spent seven years researching, writing and drawing his latest book "Habibi," a love story that takes place in a Middle Eastern desert. MPR's Euan Kerr met up with Thompson recently, who explained that his childhood in a strictly religious family in Wisconsin has had a lasting influence on his work.

"The book is like a mash-up of the sacred medium of the holy books, like the Koran and the Bible, mixed up with the vulgar story of pulp medium of comic books, which would have been my two biggest influences growing up, the Bible and comic-books," Thompson said.

"And then there is a nod to "1,001 Nights" and this sort of theme of Sheherezade telling stories for survival, and one story folding in on an other, so that you lose track of where you began."

Thompson also makes use of the magic squares designed by Arab mystics, who found meaning in the shapes, designs and even narratives in numeric patterns.

"It's basically mystical sudoku," he says. "Sudoku has its own narrative, it's a mathematical narrative, and I exploited that for the sake of the book."

Habibi is a complex interweaving of the sacred and the profane, touching on themes of power and politics, human trafficking, environmental exploitation and the joys and sadnesses of love. Critics have raved about its beauty."

--------------------------------

Here is a critique of Habibi in the post "Can the Subaltern Draw?" - on this blog:  http://hoodedutilitarian.com/2011/10/can-the-subaltern-draw-the-spectre-of-orientalism-in-craig-thompsons-habibi/

"I find that Habibi is a tragically familiar Orientalist tale that a reader can find in books by Kipling or many a French painter."

Saturday, October 1, 2011

The Flying Carpet is Now Real

A student at Princeton just made a real Flying Carpet, sort of. Are magic lamps next?

From: International Business Times: http://www.ibtimes.com/articles/223144/20111001/arabian-nights-flying-carpet-comes-to-reality-video.htm

"Forget The Arabian Nights: This ‘Flying Carpet’ is Real"

By IBTimes Staff Reporter | October 1, 2011 7:33 AM EDT

As soon as you hear the phrase "flying carpet," your brain, in a fraction of second, draws a picture of characters out of The Arabian Nights sitting on it. However, the time of The Arabian Nights is over, and a flying carpet has landed in the real world.

A Princeton University graduate student with origins in India has designed a miniature magic carpet made of plastic, which took flight in a laboratory there.

According to a BBC report, the 4-inch (10-centimeter) sheet of smart transparency is driven by ripple power, waves of electrical current driving thin pockets of air from front to back underneath it.

The prototype, described in Applied Physics Letters, moves at speeds of about a centimeter per second. Improvements to the design could raise that to as much as a meter per second.

Talking about his creation, Joah Jafferis said: "It has to keep close to the ground because the air is then trapped between the sheet and the ground. As the waves move along the sheet, it basically pumps the air out the back." "

Thursday, September 29, 2011

1001 Nights in Granada

I posted awhile back about the Nights conference that was (then) going to be held in Granada Spain.  I hear it was a great success.  Many thanks to Nathalie for passing along this video picture montage with some great music:


Congreso de Bagdad a Granada by 3alyiah

You can also see it at her blog:  http://deunaorillaaotra.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Whitewashing Tales from The Arabian Nights: WPR Interview

Here is an interview from Wisconsin Public Radio on the Nights featuring a conversation between Andrei Codrescu and Reza Aslan on the story collection.

Here's the link, you can download the program:

http://www.wpr.org/hereonearth/archive_110614k.cfm

From the site:

"In the original telling, Scheherazade’s story was wild and wicked enough to keep the Sultan awake for a 1001 nights. Reza Aslan and Andrei Codrescu uncover the libidinous side of the Arabian Nights as we talk about the seductive power of storytelling.

Guest
  • Andrei Codrescu, author of Whatever Gets You through the Night: A Story of Sheherezade and the Arabian Entertainments
  • Reza Aslan, founder of AslanMedia.com, Associate Professor of Creative Writing at the University of California, Riverside"

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Amado Carrillo Fuentes & Palacio de Mil y Una Noches

Notorious, and long gone, Mexican drug lord Amado Carrillo Fuentes (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amado_Carrillo_Fuentes), who died after undergoing a botched facial plastic surgery to change the way he looked, had a mansion in Mexico that everyone called Palacio de Mil y Una Noches (The Palace of the 1001 Nights). You can see from this picture, from the article on Border Reporter, its Orientalistic architecture.

I don't have time to look into this any more than this at the moment, but it's a fascinating story, I've excerpted the article below, and I wonder if the place had ever been torn down? The article is from 2006. Feel free to add more links/info in the comments section (I'd be interested in learning more about this house).

From 1001 Nights

"Apr 4th, 2006 | By Michel Marizco | Category: General News, Organized Crime, Politics

HERMOSILLO, SONORA – Gov. Eduardo Bours Castelo wants to tear down one of the last vestiges of the most powerful drug lords Mexico ever knew.

Topped with Russian cupolas and covered in graffiti, the narco-castillo of Amado Carrillo Fuentes stands three stories in the air, looming over the swank homes in Hermosillo’s Colonia Pitic neighborhood.

Amado, the Lord of the Skies, dominated the cocaine trade between Colombia and the United States, buying 747 jets in the U.S. and ferrying tons of cocaine up to the border at Ciudad Juarez and El Paso.

In the 1990s, he purchased the unfinished castle from the proprietors who were left holding it when Tucson’s own drug lord was arrested in 1988. Jaime Figueroa Soto, the biggest drug lord ever arrested in Arizona, went down hiding in a closet in his million-dollar home in Scottsdale.

Narco-castillos dot the desert of northern Mexico. This one, dubbed the Palacio de Mil y Una Noches, is estimated to cost upwards of $5 million, sitting less than a quarter-mile from the governor’s mansion in this provincial Mexican capital.

In a frank discussion with reporters Monday, Gov. Bours said he’s asked the Mexican Federal Attorney General’s office to turn the seized property over to the state so it could be torn down and the property turned into a park.

Describing it as a haunted house in El Imparcial newspaper, Bours said he’s asked the feds to knock it down but that they say they can’t because the case is still in federal court. The feds seized the house in 1993.

History has a strange way of repeating itself and familiar names keep coming up in the narco-world.

Jaime, now 57, was released from a U.S. prison in Florence, Colo., March 20, 2006.

Amado Carrillo Fuentes died July 4, 1997 after a bad reaction to a plastic surgery operation. His death certificate listed him as a ganadero, a cattle rancher."

Monday, September 19, 2011

Samia Gamal

The legendary Samia Gamal was an actress and dancer from Egypt who also made it big in foreign films, including France's Ali Baba with French comedian Fernandel.

Here she is dancing in Ali Baba, aka Ali Baba et les quarante voleurs (1954).



She also stars in the 1949 Nights-related film Afrita hanem, (And I just wrote its English wikipedia page, feel free to add to it - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Afrita_hanem), where she plays a dancer/genie.

More on Samia Gamal - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samia_Gamal

Saturday, September 17, 2011

"The French Translations of The Thousand and One Nights"

I'm excited by current trends in Nights scholarship that are focusing on specific versions, because there is several lifetimes of things to look into on the Nights, particularly by focusing on only one of its versions.

This speech below is from a Princeton website from 2003. Professor David Wrisly of the American University in Beirut is studying the particulars surrounding the 1806 French version of Jean-Jacques Antoine Caussin de Perceval (1759-1835).

The following is from the website http://www.princeton.edu/rbsc/fellowships/2002-03/wrisley.html.

"David Wrisley
American University of Beruit

"The French Translations of The Thousand and One Nights"

The English-speaking world knows the Arabian Nights by the famous translations of Burton and Lane. The first European translation of those medieval Arabic of stories entitled "Alf Leila wa Leila" was made, however, by the orientalist Antoine Galland. He published this work in French in twelve volumes between 1706 and 1720. Between that early eighteenth-century translation and the second major translation in French made by Joseph Mardrus a century later (1808-12), a flurry of other editions and reprints (some 75 according to Chauvin's Bibliographie des ouvrages arabes) of the Galland text appeared first in French and then in the other major languages across Europe.

J.H. Hanford's article for the Princeton Library Chronicle (XXVI, 1964-65) on the diverse collection of the Arabian Nights in English held at the Princeton University Library along with my scholarly interests in the practice of orientalist scholarship and the history of translation inspired me to take a look at the variety of French translations. Thanks to a Friends of the Princeton University Library short-term visiting fellowship, I was able to study in detail a number of these eighteenth-century French editions of the Galland translation in the summer of 2002.

In my research I noted not only on the textual modifications from edition to edition, but also investigated the French orientalists responsible for those editions. After examining the Galland edition ([Ex] 2263.2706.2), its form and its content, I chose to study the subsequent "reprints" of that base translation, in particular a fascinating one composed in nine volumes by Caussin de Perceval printed in 1806 ([Ex] 3229.616.123). From my research I intend to draft an article based on the latter, situating it in the context of French literary history of the period. I intend to focus on the plethora of paratextual material included in the eighteenth-century editions (notes, prefaces, commentaries) that give us an idea of the cultural meaning and worth of this translation to Europe. Linguistic features of the various translations from Arabic are complex and are detailed in the introduction to the now standard edition by Hussain Haddawy (1990-95).

Jean-Jacques Antoine Caussin de Perceval (1759-1835) was one of the well-placed orientalists in France in the generations following Antoine Galland's death in 1715. As a young man he was curator of the king's Oriental manuscripts. Later in life, he was appointed professor at the Collège de France. He made translations into French, in 1796 Apollonius of Rhodes' Expedition of the Argonauts from Greek, and in 1802 Howain's History of Sicily. In that same year, he published a two-volume Suite des mille et une nuits. Caussin was not alone in wanting to expand the original edition of Galland. Others such as Jacques Cazotte, a Frenchman who lived in Martinique, solicited the help of a Levantine (i.e. Arabic-speaking) monk to "translate" other tales not included in the manuscript held by Galland. No medieval edition of the text actually contained 1001 stories, but the popularity of the translations in Europe created a "demand for a complete edition" (Beaumont). Indeed, a textual history of the tradition of the 1001 Nights (to this day incomplete) would have to take into account numerous forgeries, inventions and varied sources from the Orient. It has been argued that the European expanded versions of the 1001 Nights even shaped, as if in a game of mirrors, the content of modern Arabic editions in India and Egypt by exporting new "authentic" texts.

The Princeton University Library's beautifully preserved 1806 edition in nine volumes of Caussin de Perceval gives one such example of a complex evolving textual history. Seven of the nine volumes contain a newly edited (and importantly, newly annotated) version of Galland's Mille et une nuits. The last two volumes complete the work, not only expanding the number of stories, but changing its overall scope and tone. It is to this composite work that I would like to turn.

Galland added footnotes occasionally to his tales of the Arabian Nights, thereby explaining some of the exoticism in his text. When Caussin de Perceval reprints Galland's text though, he takes this process of annotation to an entirely new level. At the beginning of the first volume, Caussin excerpts a portion of La Harpe's Lycée, the mammoth text of eighteenth-century literary historical scholarship. The passage chosen contains La Harpe's canonization and appropriation of the 1001 Nights as a great monument of "our literature." Caussin's editorial style continues in that spirit opening the medieval Arabic tales for the enjoyment and the edification of all readers and especially gens de lettres. In fact, this edition illustrates very well the professionalization of the Orientalist and the presentation of his erudition for public consumption.

At every turn, we are reminded by Caussin of the interest of such a text to the general reader, but unlike Galland's minimal annotation which seemed to privilege the literary integrity of the tales, Caussin's frequent interventions frame the 1001 Nights as a document of endless anthropological and historical interest. In the initial seven volumes (corresponding to Galland's original text) we read numerous footnotes commenting on questions of religious custom and the history of Islam, numismatics, Semitic etymologies, botanical and zoological facts, with even occasional comparisons to European cultural heritage. The last two volumes (8 and 9) illustrate most directly the spirit of Caussin's compilation. The stories themselves are taken from the same kind of "native informants" as those published by Cazotte and Chavis, yet Caussin is quick to distance himself from what he calls their "classicizing effect". He claims to translate the Arabic text more faithfully.

Caussin, it can be easily shown, also distances himself from Galland's style of translation where the clarity of the French-language text and its masterful composition can in and of itself please an audience. Caussin's 1806 text does not reflect the notion of language of a Boileau or a Racine, but suggests the something indeed has been lost in the translation. Annotation is essential. The philological commentary in volumes 8 and 9 is much more elaborate and Caussin even inserts back into the text transliterated Arabic and Persian fragments in italics which would seem designed to give back some the translation's lost authenticity. This re-orientalizing process goes along with a proliferation of commentary comparing the Arabic tales to great works in the Western tradition, Greco-Roman literature, medieval French and Italian stories and even the Song of Songs.

A further analysis of Caussin's edition will need to put these competing tendencies in his editorial practice into a larger context. His edition is after all both a testimony to his great predecessor Galland, and a renewal of the text, enriched by a (then) highly developed field of Oriental studies, created for a different audience with new expectations of Oriental literature and of the reading of foreign literature itself."

Monday, September 5, 2011

The Thousand and One Nights - Hanan Al Shaykh & Tim Supple

Yes, it's true.  Another version of the Nights joins us this year.  This one was recently published in the UK and written by Hanan Al Shaykh, and a play version is available in the US by both Al Shaykh and Tim Supple. I'm sure you can get the UK version somehow in the US as well though.

Many thanks to Irfan and JC for passing this info along.


From 1001 Nights



From 1001 Nights


Hanan Al Shaykh is the author of the version of the Nights that Luminato was based on, Tim Supple directed the play.  I believe it is now touring, but I'm not exactly sure.

From what I've read Al Shaykh's version is quite risque, giving voice to what was a vital part of the original manuscript, and was well received.

I'll post some reviews as I collect them.  It will be interesting to see her version, I've read a couple of her books and they are recommended if you are interested in feminism, the Middle East, and contemporary viewpoints from that region via Al Shaykh's particular vision, not to mention being good reads that stand on their own and will draw you in you regardless of your own interests.  Here's her wikipedia page:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hanan_al-Shaykh

You can read the beginning of the frame story at the publisher's website here:  http://www.bloomsbury.com/One-Thousand-and-One-Nights/Hanan-Al-Shaykh/books/details/9781408826041

I think it's a really well done version from the excerpt, very funny, I'm looking forward to getting a copy.

Here's a video of author Tahmina Anam (thanks Irfan!) talking about the Nights and Al Shaykh's version, among other things:

                   

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Stories of 1001 Nights

This is a Dutch book I saw recently on ebay Australia. Looks like a great looking cover. From the description of the sale it was listed as a larger size book, published in Amsterdam by Mulder and Zoon, the seller said there was no date but he thinks it was from the 1930s (why, I'm not sure), he says there are illustrations inside and eight stories.

From 1001 Nights

A Thousand and One Erotic Nights (1982)

Here is a picture of a poster for sale on ebay, a Yugoslavian poster of the film A Thousand and One Erotic Nights (1982)....

From 1001 Nights

Monday, August 22, 2011

Arabian Nights Plot to Kill Stalin

I need to stay away from this because it's pretty interesting and deserves much more research. I know if I start, I'll get lost, and never finish my dissertation! Maybe you can fill in the blanks? But, the men who were allegedly plotting to kill Stalin, apparently used the Nights as a code book to outline their plans.

This is from the NYT/IHT, news from 1936? 75 years ago today kind of thing:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/22/opinion/22iht-oldaug22.html

From the International Herald Tribune
100, 75, 50 Years Ago
Published: August 21, 2011

"1936 Code in Stalin Plot Revealed

How “The Arabian Nights” served as a secret code for the Russian terrorists who were to slay Josef Stalin and other Soviet chiefs was told by Ivan Holtzmann, one of the 16 accused in the Moscow treason trial, before a sweltering courtroom today [Aug. 21], as the prisoners continued to recite their murderous intentions. Among those who are being tried are Gregory Zinoviev, former secretary of the Third International, and Leo Kamenev, former Ambassador to Italy and Trotsky’s brother-in-law. They are accused of plotting with Trotsky, in exile in Norway, to assassinate the present Soviet government leaders and to seize power. Holtzmann said he was ordered to hand over a report on the Stalin regime to Sedov Trotsky, son of the exiled revolutionary, together with a marked copy of “The Arabian Nights,” which was used as a code by the terrorists. Pressed to say how this code worked, Holtzmann said that he could not remember, except that the characters in the stories represented the various Soviet leaders. Like most of his fellow prisoners, Holtzmann today retracted his previous statement that he had no participation in the plot to kill Stalin. “I was not only morally, but actually responsible,” he said. "

Friday, August 19, 2011

new review of Paul Nurse's Eastern Dreams

Here is an excerpt of a new review of Paul McMichael Nurse's Nights book Eastern Dreams:  How the Arabian Nights Came to the World (2010).

The review is by Maria Tatar of Harvard.  She writes a lot about the history of the Nights as well as mentioning the book.

Here is the link:  http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/arts/books/eastern-dreams-by-paul-mcmichael-nurse/article2123216/

Excerpt:

"The daily review, Tues., Aug. 9


A cross-cultural classic by committee


From Tuesday's Globe and Mail
Charles Dickens and William Wordsworth read the tales when they were young and treasured them into adulthood. Edgar Allan Poe was so intoxicated by their sorcery that he wrote The Thousand-and-Second Tale of Scheherazade. O. Henry alluded to them repeatedly in such tales as A Night in New Arabia and A Bird of Bagdad. And Stephen King created in his novel Misery a latter-day Scheherazade in the person of Paul Sheldon, who (re)writes a story to save his life.

In the words of Jorge Luis Borges, the Arabian Nights has become a work so vast that “it is not necessary to have read it.”"

-----------------------------------

"Eastern Dreams brilliantly maps the massively complex, culturally fraught and highly contested history of a collection that exists only in versions of itself. What is referred to collectively as Arabian Nights’ Entertainments has at its core a lost Persian storybook called Hazar Afsanah, which consisted mainly of tales imported from India. Once translated into Arabic, in the eighth or ninth centuries, it received the title Alf Khurafa (A Thousand Stories) but was later referred to as Alf Laila (A Thousand Nights). By the late 12th century, with the addition of stories from Middle Eastern countries, the collection flourished as Alf Laila wa Laila (A Thousand Nights and One Night), becoming the source material for the first Western translation."

--------------------------------

"Eastern Dreams reminds us of the racing energy of story. The collection may be contained by a frame story, but it knows no boundaries. Ameba-like, it moves across cultures and centuries, absorbing new material as it is translated and transculturated. In the West, it has become a repository not only of Eastern tales but also of what Nurse calls “Western thought, perception and popular fiction concerning the Muslim East.” Oxygenated rather than depleted by each new cultural contact, The Thousand and One Nights reminds us that stories are infinitely expansive.

To be sure, there are many elements of imperial appropriation, cultural misunderstanding and racial stereotyping in the story of the collection and its international fortunes. But that is a story different from the one Nurse tells. In his reading, the stories have become a “co-operative product of both East and West – practically the only classic of world literature that has developed through the efforts of two cultures that are sometimes at violent odds with one another.”

Maria Tatar is the author of Enchanted Hunters: The Power of Stories in Childhood and The Annotated Brothers Grimm. She chairs the Program in Folklore and Mythology at Harvard University."

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Open Sesame - Kool & the Gang

Get down with the Genie!



Open Sesame - Kool And The Gang - Saturday Night Fever Soundtrack

Monday, August 15, 2011

Review of Andrei Codrescu’s _whatever gets you through the night: a story of sheherezade and the arabian entertainments_ (2011)

From 1001 Nights



Review of Andrei Codrescu’s whatever gets you through the night:  a story of sheherezade and the arabian entertainments (2011).

Princeton University Press:   http://press.princeton.edu/titles/9392.html

On the first day of class each quarter I tend to tell the students a little about myself.  Most of the students in Revelle (I currently teach at UCSD’s Revelle College Humanities Writing Program) are science majors, from solid academic backgrounds, and many of them are beginning, what I foresee to be, successful and long careers as scientists, engineers and doctors.

As such, and being freshman undergrads for the most part, they often have little understanding of what a humanities graduate student is, or even what the humanities is, or why it might be important to their lives.  So I set myself up against this task each quarter, for both them and to try to answer these questions for myself, and begin by declaring their sections with me to be the most important class they will ever take in their lives…

It’s a kind of cheesy and high and mighty statement to be sure, but it’s one, beneath the self-deprecatory remarks, that I really believe, not because of myself or my personal role in their class, but because of the importance of the material, the importance in its role in understanding their selves. 

I also tell them that I am a Literature major and that the reason I am most interested in Literature, and the (also kind of cheesy and high and mighty) reason why I think it’s the most important thing in the world to study, or read, or write or talk about, is that it is the study of life at its most true, via stories.

Stories are the things that drive us along each day, ping ponging through it all, they are the first things that wake us up, the last things that put us to sleep, and the things that confuse us as dreams during the night.  Without stories you can’t have life, you can’t have any of the secondary, lesser units of humanity: engineering, politics, science, dna, robotics, nuclear physics, mathematics, economics, astrobiology or whatever. 

It’s why I’m drawn to the Nights.

It’s also a very long, but related, introduction to this post, my review of/reflections on Andrei Codrescu’s whatever gets you through the night:  a story of sheherezade and the arabian entertainments, and why I find it so interesting. 

On page 153 Codrescu writes:

“The fold was the manner in which words were hinged to time in order to make one story attach to one another; we could also call this a drive, the mechanism that propelled words to gain dimensions, first as a story, then as an oft-repeated story traveling the world through storytellers, then as a three-dimensional object performed for an audience, and finally, after having gained sufficient circulation and weight, as flesh.  Flesh was story in all its dimensions.  Yes, Sheherezade discovered that words could be made flesh; storied characters became alive through telling and then stayed alive as long as they were told by others, dying only when they stopped traveling, when their seed dried up and their bodies shrank to nothing.”

Codrescu, incredibly prolific poet, writer, fictionist, professor, thinker, one of the voices on the cool PBS documentary on Coney Island I just happened to view last week & etc., (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andrei_Codrescu), gets to the meat of the Nights, and to storytelling itself, in his book. 

I have to admit I wasn’t expecting what this book was when I got it, I was expecting another vaguely Nights based riff on something or other to do with the Middle East, Ali Baba, or some romantic this or that.

What Codrescu does, however, is reinvents the Nights for the 21st century in a very exciting way.  His book is a “new” “translation” of the Nights, or at least some of its beginning stories, but is also a compendium of Nights related lore, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Zoroastrianism, Greek mythology, Plato’s Symposium, Saddam Hussein, Deleuze & Guatteri, Edward Said, Richard F. Burton, Edward Lane, Andrew Lang, Husain Haddawy, feminism, circumcision, underage brides, the contemporary Middle East, Wikipedia, DNA science, the past, the future, and present, among other things….

At its best the book is a sort of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead for the Nights.  It gets into the corners of previously unrevealed, yet nagging, things, and presents them:  What was the sex like for Shahriyar every night with a new bride?  What was it about Scheherazade’s stories that made Shahriyar not kill her?  What was Dinarzad doing in their bed and why wasn’t that weird, or was it??  Who was Scheherazade exactly, and perhaps most importantly, what did she do all day while waiting for her king to return in the evening?  What are those people doing with those pearls (read the book!)??!  How do you spell “Scheherazade” exactly?

All of these questions, and some possible answers, are suggestively brought up throughout the book in an at times playful, at times brutal, at times academic, at times popular, at times digressive, at times self-reflexive, at times factually incorrect, at times suggestively right-on, prose.

His book dives into the center of the Nights, and, like a family therapist, tries to get everyone together at the table to talk about things.  We finally get to see Haddawy and Burton and Galland together, talking to one another, as indeed they truly are, and have been, for decades:

“Richard F. Burton, or Clotho, the “spinner,” began to spin the story of what happened before Sheherezade assumed her storytelling destiny, with another invocation to Allah.  He said, ‘Praise be to Allah, the Compassionating, Lord of Three Worlds…,’ and so on, through all of Allah’s ninety-nine official names plus ones he set himself to inventing, such as ‘Who set up the Firmament without Pillars in its Stead and Who stretched out the Earth even as a Bed…’ until Husain Haddawy, Lachesis, the allotter, interrupted him angrily, exclaiming, ‘Why can’t you just say, ‘God knows and sees best’?’  Galland laughed.  This was not his duel.” (76)

The stories, as they are told here, and really, as they exist in the Nights and its textual identities, come second for the most part.  Codrescu finally, however, situates its storyteller, the fecund Scheherazade (or “Sheherezade”) as the focal point of the point of the Nights, as the Eve character of life, as indeed she should be, and manages somehow to overcome all of the seriousness that so many approach the Nights with, and find a kernel of its true essence within the net that he works in.

His book is peppered with “facts” that don’t seem to add up, just like most of the “facts” surrounding the history of the Nights, and his extensive footnotes rival Burton’s, both in length and in attempts at providing a Burtonesque shock value where footnotes and other appendages overshadow the actual text itself:

At one point, in footnote 46 (pages 78-9), he delves into artistic representations of Christ throughout history, “The wound in the side is sometimes depicted so that its meaty edges allow for a view to the interior of Christ’s body:  the bleeding carnal edges resemble a menstruating vagina or bleeding mouth.”...

The book opens with a quote from the Wikipedia page on the Nights, and a more appropriate form to suggestively have define something as nebulous as the Nights probably doesn’t exist.  The wiki page is rife with errors, political fighting, cultural battles, misunderstood conclusions, and a lot of crazy junk.  A lot like the stories in the Nights.  A lot like life itself.  And it can be changed by anyone willing to edit it, and battled over by hordes of wiki editors and other experts armed with this book or that to quote from. 

I wonder if people who are unfamiliar with the Nights - my own cursory conversational research suggests there are quite a lot - will appreciate the insider’s view of the Nights that Codrescu provides, or that they will find the stories and their constant sidetracked highways particularly compelling or pleasant reading, or that they will know what’s going on with this guy Burton, or Haddawy, or Galland, but that’s not the point of the book, and a reader insisting on a romantic or Middle Eastern infused Nights, or a clear definition of the Nights, will surely be confused, if not provoked.

whatever gets you through the night is a remarkable addition to the unstoppable history of the 1001 Nights, and it ends unfinished in the future, with the still living Scheherazade, and her endless stories, piled on top of each other forward over time by humankind, waiting to be told, to be revealed, to be laughed at, so that we, and Shahriyar, want to live one more day, to hear another story, to never see the end, to understand ourselves and others, to see ourselves stripped onstage, in the spotlight, and living forever.

And here is John Lennon, too:

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Scheherazade, Tell Me a Story (2009)

From 1001 Nights

Scheherazade, Tell Me a Story (2009) is a film from Egypt featuring a contemporary Egyptian retelling of some (it seems!) aspects of the Nights.

NYT review: http://movies.nytimes.com/2011/08/12/movies/scheherazade-tell-me-a-story-review.html

"A TV Host Seeks Fluff, but Real Life Intrudes
By JEANNETTE CATSOULIS
Published: August 11, 2011

Resetting “The Arabian Nights” in modern-day Cairo, “Scheherazade, Tell Me a Story” presents an environment of oppressive politics and repressed women.

There’s nothing stifling, however, about Wahid Hamed’s razor-sharp screenplay or Yousry Nasrallah’s exuberant direction. Repurposing the soapy structure and gaudy style of Egyptian melodrama, both men cleverly expose a society hobbled by fear of female autonomy. Central to the story is Hebba (Mona Zakki), a popular talk-show host whose preening new husband, Karim (Hassan El Raddad), wants her to abandon the political criticism she favors until he wins a coveted promotion at his state-run job.

To please him Hebba switches to what she believes will be fluff pieces on the lives of regular women. Her strategy backfires (in a canny reversal of the Scheherazade fable) when each successive real-life account evolves into an ever-more-horrifying struggle against legally sanctioned male entitlement. In the Arab world even love, it seems, is political."

Friday, August 12, 2011

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Axe Bahia - Ali Baba (Tres Deseos)

Your popular culture Nights fix of the week comes from the formidable continent of South America, the pop band Axe Bahia of Brazil (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ax%C3%A9_Bahia) sings (and dances to) "Ali Baba (Tres Deseos)" ("Three Wishes"):

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Arabian Nights Dinner Show, Orlando Florida

The Arabian Nights takes center stage in Orlando Florida, as a sort of horse-themed show which you are supposed to watch while you eat dinner.  I haven't been yet!

Here is a video someone made with some Matrix inspired beats:



Here is their website in case you ever find yourself in Orlando:


And from the site!:

"Scheherazade is joined by her father’s genie Abra Cadabra and her own young genie Hocus Pocus, whose magic grows stronger with each spell to entertain the princess. Hocus and Abra bring many of Scheherazade’s favorite childhood tales to life in an effort to both entertain her and improve Hocus’ magical skills.

On this magical night, Scheherazade also learns that the prince of her dreams, Prince Khalid, is real and that he also dreams of finding her."

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Howard the Duck 1st Annual 1977

The following are scans (excerpts for my (non-commercial, educational) blog!) from the comic book Howard the Duck from 1977 with a Nights theme.  The ending of the story is a direct lift of/riff on 1944 Thief of Bagdad.  I don't know much about Howard, besides the movie from the 80s is widely panned as being one of the worst films ever made.  Wiki on Howard (the wikipedia page says he's existentialist!):  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Howard_the_duck

Here are my scans, each one a different file, I picked some particularly Nights-esque pages, there is a "view in full screen" button at the bottom of each page that makes it easier to see close up.


Howard Cover

Bag Mom

Underground

Hall

Thief

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Mish Alf Layla wa Layla - مش ألف ليله وليله

Last year saw the premiere of the show "Mish Alf Layla wa Layla" ("Not The 1001 Nights"), a serial Egyptian television program.

Many thanks to the anonymous visitor who posted about the show, although, curiously, said visitor shortly after deleted it.


Here are some youtube videos from the show, the first is a sort of serious commercial about it, the second a commercial highlighting the show's humor and the third a commercial featuring the theme song, sung by Abou El Leef.


Glad to see the show's title, finally, something is admitting to "not" being the Nights!






Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Julie Harris reads Scheherazade

Here's a record I picked up on ebay recently:

From 1001 Nights


some details about it from musicstack.com

Condition: Vg
Label: Caedmon Records TC 1373
Genre: Spoken Word
Release Country: Usa
Release Date: 1957
Artist: JULIE HARRIS
Album: THE ARABIAN NIGHTS / STORY OF SCHEHERAZADE
Catalog Number: TC 1373
Vinyl Condition: VG 
Year Pressed: 1957
Format/Size: 33 - 12"
Additional features:
25-P-58

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Aziz and Aziza in Arabic

Here is a contemporary rendering of the story "Aziz and Aziza" I found on youtube.  It's in Arabic but it's very simple Arabic, so if you study the language at all it should be easy to follow.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Treasure Comics (1945)

Here's a picture of Treasure Comics #2 from 1945.

From 1001 Nights


Details below from mycomicshop.com:

"Cover Details
Genre Adventure
Pencils H. C. Kiefer (Signed)

Inks H.C. Kiefer (Signed)

10 page Arabian Knight story "The Thief of Bagdad"
Genre Adventure
Pencils H. C. Kiefer
Inks H. C. Kiefer"

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Luminato!



Yesterday was the opening of the Nights related stage production at Luminato, Toronto's art festival.  The Nights show runs through June 19.  It is directed by Tim Supple, who spent the better part of the past year, and more, traveling around the Middle East, rehearsing, and culling actors from the world stage, in order to present an "authentic" experience.  The so-called "Arab Spring" got in the way several times and he had to adjust his locations.

Here are a bunch of links, many thanks to Paul and Moti for passing them on.

From the show's site:  http://www.luminato.com/2011/1001nights

"A startling new theatrical version of an Arabic classic.


Dramatized and directed by Tim Supple

Stories adapted by Hanan al-Shaykh

In Luminato’s most ambitious commission to date, British director Tim Supple (A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Luminato 2008) unites with acclaimed Lebanese novelist Hanan al-Shaykh to unearth the true character of the One Thousand and One Nights.

Written in Arabic from tales gathered in India, Persia, across the great Arab Empire, the One Thousand and One Nights are the mesmerizing stories told by Shahrazad night after night, under sentence of death, to the king Shahrayar who has vowed to marry a virgin every night and kill her in the morning. Erotic, brutal, witty, and poetic, the tales tell of the real and supernatural, love and marriage, power and punishment, rich and poor, and the endless trials and uncertainties of fate.

Created with artists from throughout the Arabic speaking world, this spectacular theatre event is performed in Arabic, French, and English (with surtitles) and is told over two compelling parts, each of which can be seen and enjoyed on its own, or together on the same day for a truly intoxicating Festival experience.

Commissioned by Luminato.
This production includes mature content. Parental discretion is recommended."

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------

From the Toronto Starhttp://www.toronto.com/article/687780--1001-nights-sex-violence-and-political-tension

A utopian vision of the play's rehearsal:

"For this company of two dozen actors and musicians from around the Arabic world, this isn’t just a serious theatrical project that they believe in, it’s also an exercise in self-definition, as well as an almost magical piece of bonding that none of them ever dreamed of taking part in.

Although they share the same religion, the same basic language and many of the same basic traditions, Moroccans normally do not work with Egyptians, and Syrians have little to do with those from Tangier.
But all that has changed in the course of these rehearsals and the man who has made all of this happen sits on the floor like everyone else, holding tightly to one knee as he views his handiwork.

Tim Supple is known to Toronto audiences from his fantastic production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, set all across India, which electrified Luminato and the world in 2008."

The demand for the real:

"He takes great pains to point out that the versions of Alf Layla wa-Layla (as 1001 Nights was originally called) that we have come to know in the west are corruptions and betrayals of the work.
“There is no Ali Baba, he was the creation of the first French translator. Even the whole concept of calling it The Arabian Nights came from its English translator.

These are not fairytales for children. These are bold, often brutal, stories in which an entire culture reveals itself to us.”"

And -

"Walking through the winding streets of Fes, where donkeys, not cars, are the major mode of transportation and 785 mosques, some with the capacity of 20,000, welcome people to worship, it’s easy to see his point. Time hasn’t exactly stood still here, but it walks more slowly than perhaps anywhere else in the world.

“We are closer here than anywhere else in the Arab world to the real traditions, the true beliefs that still govern people and that makes it an amazing place to be,” affirms Supple.

But who are these people taking part in the project? Before returning to rehearsals, many of them wanted to talk about the countries they left to perform this show and how they felt about them.

“I feel that Tim Supple is like Saladin,” says Asaad Bouab, a Moroccan who now lives in France. “He united the Arab world in the 12the century and now Tim is uniting us. Politics was never a big part of my world until I started working with this cast. Now I have to share their feelings, their concerns."

_________________________________________________________


From the Times UK.  May 9, 2011.  "One Thousand and One Nights couldn't be more timely" by Benedict Nightingale.

More insistence on the real Nights:


"Supple, too, finds the stories far tougher than he expected. Western translation began in the 18th century and emphasised what was exotic in them, adding Ali Baba, Aladdin and other tales not in the original. But what he calls the “deceit and manipulation” was twosided.

Eastern versions were also distorted, becoming didactic and ideological “about bashing Christians, killing Jews or punishing women”: a racism contradicted by one of the funniest of his 20 chosen stories, in which a Jewish doctor, a Muslim cook and a Christian trader are equally menaced and forgiven when they mistakenly confess to having killed a king’s pet hunchback.

There are no swishing scimitars, baggy pantaloons or pantomime effects here, though the costumes are likely to vary from Arab medieval to Arab modern. These stories are, Supple says, folk tales from the old Arab cities and, for all their imaginative zest, reflect the concerns of people then and now:

“At their heart there’s a serious investigation into every aspect of social life: marriage, power, money, law, love, hate, parents and children. They’re graphic, startling, bleak, joyous and brutal about sex, violence and all human relations. Given the present situation there’s bound to be a focus on power and how people cope with rulers and their tyrannical decisions, but we won’t underline this . . .

“And there’s another revolution in the Arab world that shouldn’t be overshadowed: the position of women. How can men and women live together? How should men ask or force women to live? How should women be?” In the stories the answers come from strong, resourceful women who use their wiles to get their own way.

Many actors told me that the stories bring alive a world in some ways freer than their own. For instance, there are no religious extremists or Islamic enforcers in The Nights.

Wine flows. Sex delights males and females alike. Law exists for poor and rich, women and men, even if, as today, it is sometimes misused by kings and viziers. Indeed, The Nights can be seen as Shahrazad’s canny way of educating Shahrayar. “She teaches him to trust others,” Al-Shaykh says. “I ended up saying I’m sorry, Shahrazad. I thought you were a cliché and you’re amazing.”"

________________________________________________________


And from the Jewish Daily Forward:  http://forward.com/articles/138268/

"Supple Nights Promised in Toronto

A British-Jewish Director Re-Presents a Grown-Up Legend"

 "To direct an elaborate, ambitious new production of “One Thousand and One Nights” — translated by a Lebanese novelist and starring a pan-Arab cast — Toronto’s splashy Luminato arts festival turned to a British Jew. But director Tim Supple has built a career on connecting cultures: Acclaimed for bold reboots of stage classics, he brought “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” to India, “Twelfth Night” to British TV and “Midnight’s Children” to New York City’s Apollo Theater. With Arab-world turmoil as the real-life backdrop for “intense” rehearsals of “Nights” in Fes, Morocco, Supple talked to the Forward’s Michael Kaminer by e-mail."


Supple on his Jewish roots in this interview:



"It seems significant that a Jewish director is behind a massively ambitious production of a story with Middle Eastern roots, translated by a Lebanese author, with actors from Algeria, Morocco, Syria, Tunisia, Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and Iraq. What kind of perspective do you feel you’re bringing to the material?

My work on the project is as an artist working with other artists. My perspective comes from my past as a theater director. This past has been largely in the U.K., but has also involved much work and learning from elsewhere — Europe, India, North America, the Far East. So I bring many influences to this work. My family’s roots have never once struck me as relevant."

How the work is, to the interviewer, and director I suppose, political:


"Your organization, Dash Arts, is currently presenting an Arabic series to “challenge preconceived notions of Arabic culture, offering new perspectives and unheard voices.” It sounds like that kind of work is needed in the United States. Any plans?
 
Yes. We hope to take “One Thousand and One Nights” around as widely as possible. We would like to also ensure that our hugely successful dance piece, “Babel,” plays in the U.S. Our next project, the “Tribute to Oum Kalsoum,” will also be something we want to share with U.S. audiences.

What’s the biggest misconception about the work that you think your production will address?
 
That the “Nights” are a collection of fantasy adventures for children, coming from a generally exotic source. They are not; they are brutal, erotic, witty and complex explorations of the major challenges of adult life — marriage, sex, money, power and fate. They come from specific roots in Arabic-Islamic history, and they come from a culture that we must stop seeing as hostile and inferior. It’s neither."

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Grateful Dead



From what I have found, The Grateful Dead (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Grateful_Dead) have at least two songs with mentions of the Nights: "What's Become of the Baby?" and "Blues for Allah." Both songs interestingly, well perhaps not that interestingly, conflate the Nights with a Romanticized notion of Islam.

Here are the relevant song lyrics with links to a cool UC Santa Cruz academic website about the Dead and their songs:

"What's Become of the Baby?"

From the album: AOXOMOXOA (1969). Song: http://artsites.ucsc.edu/GDead/agdl/baby.html

"Sheherazade gathering stories to tell
from primal gold fantasy petals that fall
But where is the child
who played with the sun chimes
and chased the cloud sheep
to the regions of rhyme?"

Here's a mix of the song (can you smell the patchouli?!):



-----------------------------

"Blues for Allah"

From the Album: Blues for Allah (1975)

http://artsites.ucsc.edu/GDead/agdl/allah.html

"The thousand stories have
come round to one again
Arabian Night
our gods pursue their fight
What fatal flowers of
darkness spring from
seeds of light"

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Historical Background of the Nights

Here is a recent (April 2011) lecture I just chanced upon while procrastinating online, it is by John Curry from the University of Nevada Reno and is on teaching the 1001 Nights, though it is largely a historical background of the end of the Sasanid Empire and the Abbasid Caliphate in Baghdad.

I tried to save the audio to my computer but haven't figured out how to yet. As for now the lecture is up on the digital commons page at UNLV:

http://digitalcommons.library.unlv.edu/english_lectures_events/11/

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Kyle Ward's Arabian Knights (bought by Universal)

New movie in pipeline possibly (though not related to this or next year's 3D Arabian Nights, according to the article) related to the Nights, bought by Universal, according to Variety.

This one is written and pitched by Kyle Ward. How does one write and pitch I wonder. Seems more lucrative than grading papers somehow, not as cool though, you have to admit.

Whole article here: http://www.variety.com/article/VR1118037163

excerpt: "Universal Pictures is in final negotiations to acquire "Arabian Knights," a property from Blacklight Transmedia and feature scribe Kyle Ward, who is attached to script based on his own pitch.

Story details are under wraps, though the property is described as being radically different from FilmDistrict's "Arabian Nights" pic, which has Liam Hemsworth attached.

Blacklight's Zak Kadison will produce with Brian Grazer and Erica Huggins of Imagine Entertainment, while Eric Lieb will exec produce. Jeff Kirschenbaum and Kiska Higgs will oversee the project for Universal.

Studio previously acquired Ward's spec script "Fiasco Heights," which is set up at Platinum Dunes. Ward also wrote "Kane and Lynch" for Lionsgate and "Hitman 2" for 20th Century Fox. He is currently penning vidgame adaptation "Devil May Cry" for Screen Gems."

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Night Counter - Alia Younis


The Night Counter is a new Nights-related fictional novel written by Alia Younis, who teaches at Zayed University in the UAE.

Book website/author blog:  http://www.aliayunis.com/thebook.html

About the book (from the above site):

"Fatima Abdullah has been alive 85 long years, and she knows when her time will come. In fact, it should come just nine days from tonight, the 992nd nightly visit of the beautiful and immortal Scheherazade.

Each night, Fatima has told Scheherazade her life stories, all the while knowing that on the 1001st night, her storytelling will end forever. But between tonight and night 1001, Fatima has a few loose ends to tie up. She must find a wife for her openly gay grandson, teach Arabic (and birth control) to her 17-year-old great-granddaughter, make amends with her estranged husband, and decide which of her troublesome children should inherit her family's home in Lebanon--a house she herself has not seen in nearly 70 years. All this while under the surveillance of two bumbling FBI agents eager to uncover Al Qaeda in L.A.

Alia Yunis unravels four generations of Abdullah family secrets with a great sense of comic timing and a deft touch of magical realism. Touching on the histories of both the United States and the Middle East over the last one hundred years, this is a love story that crosses five generations with wit and warmth."

And here is a review by student Karina Anne Kabbash: http://kkabbash.blogspot.com/2010/11/night-counter.html

Excerpt from the review:

"Recently, I finished reading a fantastic novel by the name of The Night Counter. The fiction begins on the 992 night of storytelling by Fatima Abdullah, a Lebanese-immigrant-grandmother, to Scheherazade, the immortal storyteller from The Arabian Nights. Over the course of nine days, Fatima shares the stories of her home in Lebanon and of her life in the United States, until the 1001 night, the night her storytelling ends forever. Scheherazade brings Fatima’s stories to life by searching out the characters within them and following them for a day or two. Through Fatima’s tales and Scheherazade’s journeys, the reader is awarded a wonderful glimpse into life of an Arab immigrant to the Untied States and her struggle to reconcile her Arab self within American society, as well as the cultural changes that occur across generations in an Arab-American family."


Monday, May 9, 2011

French Filmmaker Producing Film about Opa Locka, Florida

I've written before (check Labels on the sidebar for "urban spaces" or "opa locka") about the city of Opa Locka, Florida, USA.  It is an economically depressed urban area with a history interestingly related to the Nights, several government buildings are built in "Eastern" styles and many of the streets have Nights-related names.

Now a film is being made about the city by French filmmaker Armand Morin.

I've quoted from The Miami Herald below.  Complete Article link is here:  http://www.miamiherald.com/2011/05/03/2188131/french-filmmaker-producing-documentary.html

"The documentary is expected to be released in June and is scheduled to appear in the Panorama 13 film festival in the northern French city of Lille. The city will receive free copies by June 2011 and will schedule a screening."

French filmmaker producing documentary about two sides of Opa-locka

By Ines Mato

Special to The Miami Herald

5/3/11


"Opa-locka’s Moorish architecture evokes tales of the Arabian Nights. But the neighborhoods surrounding the historic district reflect the harsh realities of residents who face unemployment and high crime rates.

This contrast was what drew Armand Morin, a French filmmaker, to direct Opa-locka Will Be Beautiful.

“I have been fascinated by two things: the history of this Moorish architecture and the fact that the community goes beyond this heritage and has to struggle with everyday challenges,” Morin said.
Through the voices of Opa-locka leaders and residents, the 30-minute documentary produced by Le Fresnoy connects the Arabian-themed roots of the city with the urban society of the present time.

In the first scene, a voiceover narrates how aviation pioneer and 1920s developer Glenn Curtiss founded the city inspired by the Arabian Nights. Following Curtiss’ fantasy, architect Bernard Muller designed buildings and houses that resembled the Arabian architectural style. According to University of Miami architecture teacher Jean-Francois Lejeune, the Opa-locka City Hall was once the center for Arabic festivals.

Lejeune also explains that Opa-locka was first built as a leisure place. The city featured a golf course, a zoo and a swimming pool. However, through the years, Opa-locka began to lose its leisure spaces and became a more urbanized place.

Now, far from the Arabian fantasy, Morin found a society that struggles with a rough economy and high crime rates.

"The city has a problem with crime and drugs. I think this is a problem of education and professional opportunities for the people," Morin said.

Even though the Arabian dream died a long time ago, the desire for change is still in the residents’ minds, especially in Opa-locka Community Development Corporation CEO Willie Logan’s mind, Morin said.

"You can see that this idea of having a vision for the city has always been very important. From Glenn Curtiss’ Arabian fantasy to Logan’s more pragmatic plan," Morin said.

Morin said that Logan intends to preserve the history, industry and architecture of the city, while at the same time improving the neighborhoods’ facades."

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Interpreting The 1001 Nights for the Stage - Tim Supple

Tim Supple was in Abu Dhabi recently and gave a presentation on the Nights at NYU Abu Dhabi's new campus.  He is the director of the Luminato project, a massive staged version of the Nights featuring actors from around the Middle East.

The video is linked here:  http://nyuad.nyu.edu/news.events/video.ad.10-11.html?110410

The presentation covers his adaptation of the Nights and some of the stories being read by various people.  As an aside, I am anxiously awaiting the results of a phone interview for a position at NYUAD.  This waiting period is stressful...!

Here is the information on NYUAD's website:

"November 4, 2010

Interpreting The 1001 Nights for the Stage
Stage director Tim Supple’s love of dramatic story-telling began at an early age and developed into a professional reputation for adapting plays, books, stories and poems into highly visual, musical and imaginative theatrical events. Before performing some brief illustrative rehearsal sketches, Supple will discuss his work on the adaptation of The Arabian Nights for the stage.

Tim Supple Stage Director

Houda Echouafani, Lassen Razzougui and Ramzi Choukair Artists"