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:

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:

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.

  • Andrei Codrescu, author of Whatever Gets You through the Night: A Story of Sheherezade and the Arabian Entertainments
  • Reza Aslan, founder of, 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 (, 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 -, where she plays a dancer/genie.

More on 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

"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:

You can read the beginning of the frame story at the publisher's website here:

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: