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:

"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:


"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"