Friday, December 14, 2012

1001 Nights in Paris

The Institut du monde arabe in Paris is holding a Nights-themed exhibit through April of 2013.

From AFP:

"AFP - Full of flying carpets, genies, love and battle, a Paris show opening Tuesday lifts the curtain on "One Thousand and One Nights", exploring the roots of the folk tales and their powerful influence in the West.

Through some 350 manuscripts, artworks, artefacts and film clips, the show at the Arab World Institute traces the tales' journey from their origin in Indian and Persian folkore, to their translation into Arabic in the eighth century.

And it highlights how the French Orientalist Antoine Galland brought the "Nights" to Western audiences in 1704, translating a manuscript of 35 original tales, and weaving in 35 others gleaned from his studies of the region."


"A Pablo Picasso sketch and an abstract painting by Rene Magritte feature among the many representations of the beguiling beauty at the heart of "The Arabian nights", as the tales are sometimes known in the English-speaking world.

"Scheherazade remains for many a symbol of the emancipating power of speech, of knowledge's triumph over tyranny and a woman's courage in the face of injustice," write the curators.
The show also notes, however, that some modern feminists blame the figure of Scheherazade for perpetuating a narrow vision of women in the Arab world.

Wood-and-bone doors from 15th century Egypt or Syria, or a tiny glazed ceramic oil lamp from ninth-century Egypt -- intend to recreate the setting of the tales, between the great cities of Baghdad, Damascus or Cairo.

And visitors can settle into a listening booth to hear one of 15 tales, or catch a clip from one of 12 movies inspired by the "Nights", from the 1924 "The Thief of Baghdad" with Douglas Fairbanks to Pier Paolo Pasolini's 1974 version."

Their website (in French) -

Check out their youtube site as well for commercials about the events -

Monday, December 10, 2012

The 1001 Nights Rolls Royce

From 1001 Nights

Just in time for the holiday season Rolls Royce has released a Nights-themed special edition of their Bespoke Ghost Collection.  Available in the Middle East, the cars are expected to cost somewhere around $250k USD.  The pictured one above is the first of three versions, or "chapters" - it was recently released at a car show in Sharjah, UAE.

If this doesn't highlight exactly the virility, versatility and problematic history of the Nights I don't know what does.

Yours truly can't think of a more appropriate gift for my years of blogging service.

Some clips from the media:

"The lower body panels are painted in a deep matte brown, and the sloping hood and pillars (everything above the character line and on the front end’s protruding grille surround) are painted a matte caramel. The scheme is striking if nothing else, even though reminds us more of Rolo candies than than West/South Asian folklore. Perhaps we’re not cultured enough to appreciate the symbolism."

The rear seats, as usual, have DVD screens in the front seatbacks…all the better to watch Disney’s commercialized adaptation of Aladdin, one of the many One Thousand and One Nights stories. If that seems a bit gauche for you, we’d recommend turning up the Ghost’s sound system improved for 2013 with headliner-mounted tweeters) and popping in a CD of Scheherazade, Rimsky-Korsakov’s famous musical adaptation of the same collection of stories."

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"One Thousand and One Nights, the epic tales told by Scheherazade to Shahryar, are among the region’s most famous works of literature. Just like the books, Rolls Royce Ghost 1001 Nights collection will be launched in three chapters, with the first one to be launched at at the Sharjah International Automobile Show on 28 November 2012."


"It’s getting difficult to keep track of all the Rolls-Royce special-edition models, but we have one more to add to the list: the Rolls-Royce One Thousand and One Nights Bespoke Ghost Collection. Created to increase interest in the cars for markets in the Middle East, the special Rolls-Royce Ghosts have two-tone paint that’s said to be inspired by the stories of “The Arabian Nights.”"

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Jorge Luis Borges - El Libro de las mil y una noches

Longtime Nights admirer and writer who can hold his own just fine Jorge Luis Borges speaks about El Libro de las mil y una noches. This 40+ minute recording is part of a series of lectures he gave on literature in 1977 (en Spanish):

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Journal of The 1001 Nights in the Media

 picture: Muhsin Mahdi's edition of the G-manuscript 1001 Nights

Mentions of the Journal:

Since I’ve started this website I have been humbled by the responses from people around the world, and by the number of people supporting it.

Here is a compilation of mentions of the blog in the media and elsewhere.

Thank you to everyone who has been a part of its continuing growth.


            “The fact that websites are doing more than providing a wealth of folktale and fairy-tale primary texts to those who can access the Internet is further brought home by the multiplying of online publications, like the English-language Cabinet de Fees and Fairy Tale Review (both of which have issues also available in print); discussion forums such as SurLaLune’s, which in the October 2000-June 2011 period had 3,761 average visits per day and 23,391 total posts on over six hundred different topics; blogs, including Breezes from Wonderland by Harvard-based fairy-tale scholar Maria Tatar and the one Michael Lundell has maintained since 2007, The Journal of [the] 1001 Nights; and Facebook groups like Fairy Tale Films Research” (10).

Bacchilega, Christina. Fairy Tales Transformed?:  Twenty-First-Century Adaptations and the Politics of Wonder. Detroit:  Wayne State UP, 2013.


Cited as reference in “Noble Betrayers of their Faith, Families and Folk: Some Non-Muslim Women in Mediaeval Arabic Popular Literature,” by Niall Christie, Folklore Volume 123, Issue 1, 2012, 84-98.


Paul Nurse – Eastern Dreams:  How The Arabian Nights Came to the World (Toronto: Viking Canada), 2010.

“Michael Lundell’s blog at http:// is at once informative and wide-ranging” (234).


Center for the Humanites – University of Wisconsin, Madison – the arabian nights in wisconsin (2010)

“Resource for scholarship on The Arabian Nights. Maintained by Michael Lundell, a PhD candidate in English Literature, this is probably the most comprehensive source of information on the text available online.”


Chicago Shakespeare Theater

“Michael Lundell, a PhD student in Literature working on the 1001 Nights has compiled numerous articles, reviews and links for the Nights, including a tremendous collection of video clips.”


1001 Dramaturgy Blog – Company One’s Production of Jason Grote’s 1001

I’m getting a lot of these illustration things from this wonderful blog dedicated to information re: Quitab Alif Lailah ua Lailah. I’m in the middle of perusing it right now, but feel free to check it out, it’s quite actively up-to-date. It’s run by Michael Lundell, a PhD candidate at UCSD focusing on the Nights. Thanks Michael!!


Part of The University of California, San Diego Library's "SAGE" project – An online directory of trusted sources of academic information.

Middle East Studies

Comparative Literature

(under blogs category)


Listed as reference on numerous related course websites, syllabi and other academic events including:

Comparative Literature CAS XL 225 – 1001 Nights in the World Literary Imagination, Boston University, Professor Margaret Litvin -

English 623:  The Arabian Nights in Literature and Culture, CSU Northridge, Professor Hatfield -

English 2332:  World Literature, Collin County Community College District -

The Arabian Nights in Wisconsin – 2010-2011 reading initiative and part of the Center for the Humanities at the University of Wisconsin – Madison.


And a sighting/citing on (which explains why this particular post has been the most popular of the blog for the past six months):

"Narquitectura: Inside the Fortified Palaces of Mexico’s Drug Lords"

  • By Robert Beckhuse


An earlier incarnation of the blog, and myself, are referenced here as well:

Perreault, Greg.  "Kingdom Hearts:  Immersion, Interactivity, Intertextuality...and Goofy?" Gregory Perreault:  A Research Portfolio of New Media, Journalism and Religion


  cited in - 

Dale, Madalina. “The Hybridity of Narrative Form and Language in 'Haroun and the sea of stories'”


I have also been interviewed by Colombian National Radio, the Annenberg Foundation - a PBS related company which produced the show Invitation to World Literature:  The Thousand and One Nights (, have been given review copies of Nights-related books from major publishers and have helped numerous students and professors around the world with Nights-related queries, projects and research.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Ron Goodwin - Music for an Arabian Night

Ronald Alfred Goodwin (wiki - (17 February 1925 – 8 January 2003) was a British composer and conductor known for his film music. He scored over 70 films in a career lasting over fifty years. His most famous works included Where Eagles Dare, Battle of Britain, 633 Squadron and Operation Crossbow.

Someone posted the album on youtube:


Friday, October 26, 2012

Wordsworth and the Nights

From The Prelude, by William Wordsworth ( published in 1850 but worked on during the poet's entire life, and a must read for everyone, wiki:

I had a precious treasure at that time,
A little yellow canvass-covered book,
A slender abstract of the Arabian Tales;
And when I learned, as now I first did learn
From my companions in this new abode,
That this dear prize of mine was but a block
Hewn from a mighty quarry — in a word,
That there were four large volumes, laden all
With kindred matter — ’twas in truth to me
A promise scarcely earthly. Instantly
I made a league, a covenant with a friend
Of my own age, that we should lay aside
The monies we possessed, and hoard up more,
Till our joint Savings had amassed enough
To make this book our own. Through several months
Religiously did we preserve that vow,
And spite of all temptation hoarded up,
And hoarded up; but firmness failed at length,
Nor were we ever masters of our wish.

And afterwards, when, to my father’s house
Returning at the holidays, I found
That golden store of books which I had left
Open to my enjoyment once again,
What heart was mine! Full often through the course
Of those glad respites in the summertime
When armed with rod and line we went abroad
For a whole day together, I have lain
Down by thy side, O Derwent, murmuring stream,
On the hot stones and in the glaring sun,
And there have read, devouring as I read,
Defrauding the day’s glory — desperate –
Till with a sudden bound of smart reproach
Such as an idler deals with in his shame,
I to my sport betook myself again.

From The Prelude, Book V, li. 482-515

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

2013 Ford Escape

No it's not spam!  The latest commercial from Ford draws on the Nights for its engineering inspirations.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Alif Laila - TV Series

Alif Laila was an Urdu language Indian television series that ran for two seasons in the 1990s.

wiki -

You can watch the whole series, funky special effects and dope costumes and all, on youtube, here is episode one:

Sunday, October 7, 2012

1001 Nights in the World Literary Imagination - Boston University

Margaret Litvin at Boston University is currently teaching a Nights-based course.

The class has a blog/website with a ton of student responses and papers that are interesting and well considered.

You can find it here:

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Jafar meets Family Guy

The satirical animated series Family Guy has aimed its focus on Disney, with this brief segment, thank you to Michael for passing it along!  Here is the Family Guy wiki page's info on Jafar's appearances -

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Moby Dick - Herman Melville

Chapter 97
The Lamp
      Had you descended from the Pequod's try-works to the Pequod's forecastle, where the off duty watch were sleeping, for one single moment you would have almost thought you were standing in some illuminated shrine of canonized kings and counsellors.  There they lay in their triangular oaken vaults, each mariner a chiselled muteness; a score of lamps flashing upon his hooded eyes.

In merchantmen, oil for the sailor is more scarce than the milk of queens.  To dress in the dark, and eat in the dark, and stumble in darkness to his pallet, this is his usual lot.  But the whaleman, as he seeks the food of light, so he lives in light.  He makes his berth an Aladdin's lamp, and lays him down in it; so that in the pitchiest night the ship's black hull still houses an illumination.

See with what entire freedom the whaleman takes his handful of lamps - often but old bottles and vials, though - to the copper cooler at the try-works, and replenishes them there, as mugs of ale at a vat.  He burns, too, the purest of oil, in its unmanufactured, and, therefore, unvitiated state; a fluid unknown to solar, lunar, or astral contrivances ashore.  It is sweet as early grass butter in April.  He goes and hunts for his oil, so as to be sure of its freshness and geniuneness, even as the traveller on the prairie hunts up his own supper of game.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Michael Lundell's "Pasolini's Splendid Infidelities"

I humbly announce the publication of my article "Pasolini's Splendid Infidelities:  Un/Faithful Film Versions of The Thousand and One Nights" in the Journal Adaptation:  The Journal of Literature On Screen Studies.

Here is a link to the article:

And here is the abstract:

"This article argues that Pasolini’s 1974 film Il fiore delle mille e una notte seems to be the most faithful adaptation, in its emphasis on sexuality, of The 1001 Nights in its oldest form. This success is surprising and possibly inadvertent but it presents a potentially measurable connection between the written and filmic Nights. By comparing Il fiore’s ending with three other potential ‘Nights films’ the article suggests a more flexible approach to adaptation studies, posits the existence of a fundamental identity of the Nights, and places Pasolini’s emphasis on sexuality into the context of the oldest manuscript of the Nights."

Thanks so much to everyone who was a part of this creation, in particular my chair and mentor Alain J.-J. Cohen at UCSD.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Sinbad (SKY 1 - 2012) Coming to the USA

Many thanks to Paul for keeping me up to date with Sinbad, the SKY 1 (though AdWeek says it's also BBC Worldwide owned - who can keep track) series which he has been watching up in Canada but which I, across the border down south, have been sorely missing out on.

Until now!

The Sci Fi channel, now known as Syfy, (as an aside - my undergraduate house had the tv on for about 24 hrs with the countdown to the launch of this channel, I think Star Wars (the real one, episode IV) was the first thing they showed, and their countdown was tantalizing to us (hey it was the 90s we didn't have much to do) and thanks to wikipedia that day was September 24, 1992!), is set to launch the series in the USA.

Unfortunately it won't air until next April (2013) though, I suppose they have to have meetings about things for a year first? Or Americanize it?

 It stars Naveen Andrews of Lost fame.

Here's the news from AdWeek

"Finally, a show with the word "Sinbad" in the title that won't make you think of Jingle All the Way. BBC Worldwide America's Arabian Nights riff Sinbad is coming to NBCUniversal's cable network Syfy in April of next year. The 12-segment series stars Elliot Knight as the eponymous sailor and follows him on his voyages as he evades bad guy Lord Akbari (Naveen Andrews, of Lost) along with the rest of the crew aboard the Providence."

Here is the trailer:

 Here is wikipedia on the show:

Monday, September 3, 2012

Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic

Magi:  The Labyrinth of Magic ( has been a long running manga series by Shinobu Ohtaka being released as an anime series beginning next month.  It has a Nights theme and bases itself on several Nights-esque tales (via the unique frame of manga).

And here is the commercial for the series:

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Paul Nurse reviews Marina Warner

The Globe and Mail has recently published a new review of Marina Warner's Nights book Stranger Magic.  The review is written by Paul Nurse, author of Eastern Dreams:  How the Arabian Nights Came to the World, a fine history of the Nights.

Here is the link to the review, excerpts are pasted below:

"Review: Non-fiction

Why has The Arabian Nights proved so enduring?

Monday, August 13, 2012

el ladron de bagdad - argentina

This is a picture from an ebay auction at the moment, it's an Argentine movie poster for The Thief of Bagdad (1940), it's currently listed as "buy it now" for $1800+.

Not sure why it's so expensive, but it looks great:

Friday, August 10, 2012

review of Marina Warner's Stranger Magic

Thanks so much to everyone who has passed this link along. It's a review of Marina Warner's Nights book Stranger Magic.

The review is by Wendy Doniger ( and is one of the best book reviews I've read in a long time. You can read it here at the TLS - and excerpted below:

The magic of the Arabian Nights Wendy Doniger Published: 27 June 2012

"The original, authentic, real Ur-text of the Arabian Nights (aka Alf Layla wa-Layla, or the Tales of a Thousand and One Nights, or just the Nights) is a mythical beast. There are far more than a thousand and one nights, for the thirty-four-and-a-half stories in the fourteenth or fifteenth century “core” body of the Nights were soon supplemented by other tales in Arabic and Persian, from the culture of medieval Baghdad and Cairo, and then in Hindi and Urdu and Turkish, tales carried by pilgrims and crusaders, merchants and raiders, back and forth by land and sea. And then came the narratives added by European translators, as well as the adaptations (in paintings and films) and retellings by modern novelists and poets. There is no agreed-upon table of contents. As Marina Warner points out, at the start of this enchanting book, “the stories themselves are shape-shifters”, and the Arabian Nights, like “one of the genies who stream out of a jar in a pillar of smoke”, took on new forms under new masters. The corpus lacks not only parents but a birthplace; Persia, Iraq, India, Syria and Egypt all claim to have spawned it.

So the Thousand and One Arabian Nights are not only not a thousand and one but not (just) Arabian. The chronological and cultural strata of the Nights are like the layers of a nested Russian doll: you pull off the twentieth century (Salman Rushdie in Haroun and the Sea of Stories, Walt Disney, Errol Flynn) and then the nineteenth and eighteenth century (Marie-Catherine d’Aulnoy, Jean Antoine Galland, Richard Francis Burton, Edward W. Lane); and finally you get to the Arabic sources, and you think you’ve hit pay dirt. But then you sense, behind the Arabic, Homer and the Mahabharata, and the Bible, and you see that there is no there there. It’s not an artichoke – peel away the leaves of the later, accreted, interpolated layers until you find the original centre – but an onion: peel away the leaves and at the centre you find – nothing.

Or, perhaps, everything; lacking a birthplace, the Nights also lack a grave: “The book cannot ever be read to its conclusion”, says Warner: “it is still being written”. Scholars who could not cure themselves of the nineteenth-century obsession of searching for the source (of the Nights, of the Nile, of the human race . . .) were soon disappointed to discover that many of the most popular tales – including “Sinbad”, “Aladdin and his lamp”, and “Ali Baba and the forty thieves” – were arrivistes, with no legitimate Arab parents. Jorge Luis Borges, in his essay on “The Translators of the Thousand and One Nights”, credits Hanna Diab, the Christian Arab colleague of Galland, with the invention of several of these “orphan tales”. Aditya Behl (in Love’s Subtle Magic, 2012) traces Sinbad back to Sanskrit tales of Sanudasa the merchant. Like the beast fables and mirrors for princes that travelled from India to Europe, so too these sailors’ yarns about the marvels of the Indies circulated in the Islamic and pre-Islamic world of the Indian Ocean. (There is also a thirteenth-century Hebrew text of the Sinbad story). But for many people, the Arabian Nights without “Sinbad” or “Aladdin” is like Hamlet without Hamlet, and purists who produced “authentic” editions without these tales met with such backlash from the reading public that they quickly published supplementary volumes including the beloved bastards.

Warner’s subtle unravelling of the rich history of this tradition, from the earliest Arabic traces to present-day interpretations, demonstrates that each of the many versions has a claim to its own authenticity." Yet, within the Arabic tradition, the tales of the Nights were discounted as popular trash, pulp fiction; despite numerous allusions to the Prophet, and quotations and echoes of the Qur’an, they were “too much fun, often transgressive or amoral fun, to be orthodox or respectable . . .”. Galland cleaned out the homosexual episodes, but Burton (whom Warner calls “the Frank Harris of the desert and the bazaar”) footnoted them and generally made the tales more salacious, stealing most of them from Richard Payne and adding many of his own, thumbing his nose at the prevailing prudery of Victorian Britain, “with glee and a fair deal of invention, projection, and transference”.

 One reviewer epitomized the European translators as “Galland for the nursery, Lane for the library, Payne for the study, and Burton for the sewers.” Stranger Magic: Charmed states and the “Arabian Nights” explodes two myths about the Nights: that only the Arabic stories are the “real ones” and that you need to know Arabic to understand the Arabian Nights. The two ideas are mutually reinforcing: if there were a single ancient Arabic text, one might well want to read it in the original language; but since there is no such text, the stories in all languages and translations are fair game for all of us to respond to (a creative process in which, as Borges put it, “the translator is being translated”).

The full spectrum of stories certainly yields spectacular insights in the hands of Warner, Professor of Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies at the University of Essex, who knows more than anyone alive about the uses of myth and folklore in literature, fine arts, and film. She has written eye-opening books about fairy tales about women (From the Beast to the Blonde: On fairy tales and their tellers, 1996) and men (No Go the Bogeyman: On scaring, lulling, and making mock, 2000) and spirits (Phantasmagoria, 2006) and much else.

She is fluent in a number of European and classical languages. But she does not know Arabic. Though she grew up in Cairo and spoke Arabic as a child, “unfortunately nobody encouraged me to keep it up, and besides, I never could read it”. I must confess that, as a card-carrying Sanskrit snob myself, I first regarded Warner’s lack of Arabic as a potential barrier to her understanding of the stories; after all, as she herself remarks, of William Beckford (1760–1844), “Beckford paid attention to these inconsistencies and weaknesses in the fabric of the narrative, possibly because he was working from an Arabic manuscript, and the discipline of translation sharpens one’s wits”. Of course, Warner makes good use of the work of scholars of Arabic, pointing out, for instance, contrasts between the Arabic texts in which a huge female jinn (or genie) takes a trophy ring from 570 men, and the translations, in which she gets only ninety-eight. Moreover, the linguistic subtleties that can be achieved only by “working from an Arabic manuscript” are not essential to the hunt for the larger game that Warner is after, which is a literary archaeology and analysis of what the Nights have meant to people in diverse cultures and epochs, not merely as amusing Oriental artefacts but as profound sources of human understanding."


"Warner chooses just fifteen stories to retell briefly, from both the oldest and later layers (though she does not include “Sinbad” or “Aladdin and his lamp”: there is an Aladdin, but instead of a lamp he has a flying bed). Each story inspires an essay on several themes central to that story: jinns, carpets, witches, magicians, dervishes, dream knowledge, Orientalism, King Solomon, talismans, Voltaire and his crowd, Goethe, flying, toys, money, shadows, films, machines, couches, and much, much more. The essays form a coherent chain. This is not, however, a book to read straight through but one to wander in, forward and back, night after night. Most of the stories involve magic.

Warner’s argument about the importance of magical thinking in modernity is not particularly surprising, but she documents it in highly original ways. Her analysis of the exoticization of magic through the use of Oriental material, since the eighteenth century, enhances her discussion of the way that early films of stories from the Nights superimpose Arabic magic on the magic of filmmaking, so that the magic flying horse becomes an objective correlative of the projector, with the peg between the ears of the magic steed, and the brake on the tail, echoing the mechanism that controls the passage of the film through the projector. There is also the magic of speech acts, not just, “With this ring I thee wed” but “Hoc est corpus meum”, which inspired the phrase “hocus pocus” in mockery of the “trick of transubstantiation”.

 Warner discusses the magic of things (such as rings and carpets) as fetishes, and cites Lorraine Daston’s insight (in Things That Talk, 2004) into idols (from the Greek eidolon), illusions that are misleading and fraudulent. Daston contrasts idols with evidence, but notes that the two often blend together; forensic exhibits may be fabricated or, on the other hand, become powerful fetishes and take on the idol’s ability to haunt. Warner compares these “objects with uncanny life” to Winnicott’s transitional objects and to the quasi-magical functioning of her BlackBerry, Satnav, and iPod.

And then there is the magic of Freud. Warner suggests that when Freud called his couch an ottoman and covered it with a Persian carpet, he may have been, “consciously or unconsciously”, creating an Oriental setting for the first psychoanalytical talking cures, “a form of storytelling, with the roles reversed (it is the narrator who needs to be healed, not the listener-Sultan)”. Freud, who kept a statue of the Hindu god Vishnu on his desk, was very much an Orientalist.

 Orientalism looms large in Stranger Magic. “The Orient in the Arabian Nights has its own Orient”, says Warner, also quoting Amit Chaudhuri: “The Orient, in modernity, is not only a European invention but also an Oriental one”. Fairy tales had always had what Warner calls “a structural impulse” to imagine that dangerous magic came from far away, but the “gradual orientalisation of magicians” exacerbated the tendency to have the dirty work done by strangers, “so that the home team keeps its hands clean and its smile all innocence”.

Warner writes in the shadow of Edward Said’s Orientalism (1978), but she is also sympathetic to Said’s later, more balanced, more generous self (in Culture and Imperialism, 1993), and she acknowledges some of the positive uses of Orientalism. Through the dynamics of “reverse colonization”, eighteenth-century Europeans used images of Orientalist despotism and sexual and religious depravity to parody their own culture; Voltaire’s satirical Oriental contes were “an obvious instance of the West putting on Eastern dress in order to examine itself more clearly”. Western feminists could write of “emancipation in the Oriental mode”, calling up the image of Eastern men, castigated for tyranny and sexual abuses; while the effeminate East reflected Western women’s condition back to them.

Performances of plays about Aladdin, in Britain, were used to address, covertly, arguments about the slave trade in America. The film The Thief of Bagdad (1924, directed by Raoul Walsh, and starring Douglas Fairbanks) is, as Warner points out, “flagrantly Orientalist”. It ends with the Thief “acclaimed by the adoring grateful multitude as he enters the city at the head of an army bent on rescuing Baghdad from the tyrant emperor”. For us, the city is no longer Hollywood’s “Bagdad”, but CNN’s Baghdad. As I read Stranger Magic, the city of Bagdad/Baghdad shimmered before my eyes in a double image: the magical place of flying carpets and the scene of a devastating war. I was stunned by the relevance of phrases from the old stories, such as, “He falls into such a rage he declares war on Iraq: he will lay the country to waste”."

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Pedro Alonso Pablos' Animated Series

Pedro Alonso Pablos from Spain shares his intro video to his upcoming animated series on the Nights:

You can follow him at his website:

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Robert Irwin - Visions of the Jinn: Illustrators of the Arabian Nights

From 1001 Nights

Gerard Genette’s term “paratext” is an interesting one when thinking about all of the elements that constitute a book/text/object.

A paratext is any associated part of that text that is not directly its narrative but instead works to present the text in a certain way.

Paratexts include titles, covers, font, introductions, attached essays, pictures and illustrations, even interviews by the author or publisher about the book – a kind of marketing of the text, for some reason, by its paratext.

A text like the Nights certainly seems like a book embedded in several paratextual layers.  Richard Burton’s paratextual addtions, for example, especially his incredibly numerous footnotes and essays, presented the Nights as a "true" picture of the people of the “Middle East,” even though they largely were not a true picture of anywhere.

An important paratextual amendment to many versions of the Nights are its pictures - accompanying illustrations - and Robert Irwin’s book Visions of the Jinn sheds some light on the illustrators responsible for visually representing what the Nights seemed to be about.

Like the translators of the Nights, everywhere and anywhere, these illustrators had vastly different conceptions of their object of study.  And like any writing or historical document these pictures also seemed to say something about the time period and place they were borne out of.

Robert Irwin is the author of several contemporary works on or about the Nights including the well known Nights-history book The Arabian Nights: A Companion.  His latest book, Visions of the Jinn:  Illustrators of the Arabian Nights (2010)  provides both a great overview academically of the subject and also a great introduction to a general audience to the splendor of the visual Nights.

From 1001 Nights

Irwin gives an overview of many of the illustrators of the many different variants of the Nights over the years.  Some interesting stand-outs include:

William Harvey (1796-1866) who made over 500 illustrations for Edward William Lane’s English translation, and, according to Irwin, it was “Harvey’s illustrations, rather than Lane’s text, that attracted the most attention and praise” (65). 

Also, according to Irwin, Harvey’s illustrations were the first serious attempt at rendering a truthful anthropological/architectural visions of the Middle East in the Nights, something which certainly changed the character of the Nights forever in its 19th century European variants.

Much attention is given, as well, to Edmund Dulac, early 20th century illustrator who incorporated a great deal of color and expressionism in his renderings, and a ton of information about the many different illustrators it can feel a bit overwhelming.  In addition there isn’t much information about the various countries represented and how much of an international work the Nights is.

From 1001 Nights

In the book movements from print to engraving to color are all covered.  Different artistic styles based either in classical visual arts or popular culture depictions such as comic books are also given some attention.  There are scores of artists, many relatively still unknown, and the book as a whole can feel a little scattered due to the amount of content and the breadth of its topic.  Given that it appears to be one of the first studies to address the illustrators of the Nights, however, this is to some extent forgivable.  Each artist of the Nights could easily have their own book, just as each version of the Nights has its own incredible biography as well.

It is also forgivable given what is the book’s incredible strength – its visual reproductions of the illustrations of the Nights, from full-page pictures to reproductions of actual Nights’ volumes, the plates are visually stunning and done at a level of reproductive clarity that I have not really seen in a book of visual arts, particularly regarding reproductions of books.

I’ve seen other reviews of this book that feature digital pictures but I don’t think the pictures these reviews have are from Irwin’s book itself, if they were they would have looked much better.

From 1001 Nights

The book is a part of a series based around the collection at the Arcadian Library, a private library in the UK holding one of the world’s best collections of the Nights.

I think this book is a must-have for any serious library at any research institution, any researcher or fan of the Nights, and it would make a good gift as well for anyone interested in art or literature.  It is a large coffee-table sized book with 240 pages.

Its price, at over $200 new, however, will undoubtedly limit its reach, however most comparable visual arts books are priced typically over $100 if not more, so it’s not completely out of the ballpark.

It's currently on sale on Oxford University Press' website (in the US) for $180, which is $40 less than listing -

Friday, July 13, 2012

1001 Verses - Mardrus/Mathers Poems

Check out this website featuring online audio versions of the poetry from the Mardrus/Mathers version of the Nights

Each poem is linked separately and read aloud in great quality audio.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Ousfaughn Gallery - San Diego


I had the great pleasure of having several cups of Arabian coffee with my new acquaintance Yousef last week.  Yousef has opened an art gallery here in San Diego on Ray Street, North Park's art district, and it has a distinctly Nights based theme.

Yousef has a great collection of Nights related books for sale, but has also exhibited many of his art pieces, which are flavored with the Nights and with Arabian history as well, Yousef is in part from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

So, right here in San Diego we have our own Saudi Arabian/1001 Nights art gallery, Ahlan wa Sahlan!

I encourage everyone to visit, either by appointment or during the monthly "Ray at Night" event held on Ray Street (for more info on this:

Yousef is also at work making Arabian Lounges - Arabic style couches for relaxing forever on chatting and hanging out, something everyone in the world needs more of.

His gallery also hosts a poetry reading.

You can check out some of his artwork online, and also find info on his gallery, at his website:

Like his gallery at facebook:

Good luck Yousef, looking forward to many more coffees and talks.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Monday, May 28, 2012

"One Thousand and One Nights in a Bar-Room"

"One Thousand and One Nights in a Bar-Room:  Or The Irish Odysseus" is an article/review by Matthew Josephson on/of the book Ulysses by James Joyce.

It begins on page 146 of the journal Broom (from September 1922) which you can read for free here:

It is interesting to me for its title only, the review speaks at great length as to how Joyce's Ulysses is nothing more than 700+ pages of drunk people in a bar talking.

It has nothing to do with the Nights apart from its title, however, just another interesting mention.

Broom was a journal of the arts in the US, published in the early 20th century -

Josephson was a writer from New York. 

Aladdin from Broadway by Frederic Stewart Isham

Aladdin from Broadway is the name of a 1913 book by Frederic Stewart Isham.  A film by the same name was made in 1917.

Here is a link to the book in its entirety in many forms on -

I don't know anything about the book or film or author, the story begins in Damascus though!  I'll look into it at more length later, for now it's here.

Monday, May 14, 2012

The First 48: Murder in the Middle East

Here is a video made by some high school students in Milwaukee, WI, as a part of the University of Wisconsin's 2010-2011 initiative The Arabian Nights in Wisconsin.

It is based on the A&E show The First 48, a real-life police detective series that follows US homicide detectives and their investigations into murders, with the pressure of getting a lead within 48 hours, the window of time statistics show is needed in order to make progress on a case.

Here are Shahriyar and Shah Zaman under interrogation by the detectives:

You can see some more projects based on the Wisconsin initiative archived on their website:

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Marvels & Tales Vol 26

The latest issue of the academic Journal Marvels & Tales has several interesting Nights-related things including the article "Nabokov's Ada and The 1001 Nights" by Seyed Gholamreza Shafiee-Sabet and Farideh Pourgiv, and reviews of Malcolm Lyon's 2008 English translation of the Nights and Paul Nurse's literary history of the Nights, Eastern Dreams: How the Arabian Nights Came to the World.

You can find the journal here at their website via Wayne State University Press: 

If you have access via a university, or at a nearby university library, you can read the journal for free.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

A History of Pantomime (1901) - RJ Broadbent

Pantomimes, stage musicals popular in the UK featuring satires of politics and pop culture things, have long been associated with the Nights, there are versions of Aladdin, Ali Baba and Sindbad to name the most well-known ones.

Below is a short snippet from:

Title: A History of Pantomime (1901)

Author: R. J. Broadbent

It outlines some background (some more solidly "true" than others) to the Nights related pantos.

You can access the entire book for free on, in many formats.


"Of the Pantomime subjects, whose origin we are going to enquire into,
let us first commence with "Aladdin."

According to the many versions of this popular story in Europe and Asia,
it would seem that its origin originally was of Buddhist extraction. In
our common English version of "Aladdin," in "The Arabian Nights," which
was taken from Galland's French version, it is doubtless an Eastern
picture. It does not occur, however, in any known Arabian text (says
Mr. Clouston, in "Popular Tales," and to whose work I am indebted for
much of the information for this chapter) of "The Thousand and One
Nights" (_Elf Laila wa Laila_), although the chief incidents are found
in many Asiatic fictions, and it had become orally current in Greece and
Italy before it was published by Galland. A popular Italian version,
which presents a close analogy to the familiar story of "Aladdin"
(properly "_Ala-u-d-Din_," signifying "Exaltation of the Faith") is
given by Miss M.H. Busk, in her "Folklore of Rome," under the title of
"How Cajusse was married."

A good natured looking old man one day knocks at the door of a poor
tailor out of work; his son, opening the door, is told by the old man
that he is his uncle, and he gives him half a piastre to buy a good
dinner. When the tailor comes home--he was absent at the time--he is
surprised to hear the old man claim him as a brother, but finding him so
rich he does not dispute the matter. After the old man had lived some
time with the tailor and his family, literally defraying all the
household expenses, he finds it necessary to depart, and with the
tailor's consent takes the boy Cajusse with him, in order that he may
learn some useful business. But no sooner do they get outside the town
than he tells Cajusse that it is all a dodge. "I'm not your uncle," he
says, "I want a strong, daring boy to do something I am too old to do.
I'm a wizard--don't attempt to escape for you can't." Cajusse, not a bit
frightened, asks him what it is he wants him to do; and the wizard
raises a flat stone from the ground, and orders him to go down, and
after he gets to the bottom of the cave to proceed until he comes to a
beautiful garden, where he will see a fierce dog keeping watch. "Here's
bread for him. Don't look back when you hear sounds behind you. On a
shelf you will see an old lantern; take it down, and bring it to me." So
saying the wizard gave Cajusse a ring, in case anything awkward should
happen to him after he had got the lantern, when he had only to rub the
ring, and wish for deliverance. Cajusse finds precious stones hanging
like frost from the trees in the garden underground, and he fills his
pocket with them. Returning to the entrance of the cave, he refuses to
give up the lantern till he has been drawn out; so the wizard thinking
merely to frighten him replaces the stone. Cajusse finding himself thus
entrapped rubs the ring, when instantly the Slave of the Ring appears,
and the youth at once orders the table to be laid for dinner. He then
calls for his mother and father, and they all have an unusually good
meal. Some time afterwards, Cajusse had returned home, the town was
illuminated, one day in honour of the marriage of the Sultan's daughter
to the Vizier's son. He sends his mother to the palace with a basket of
jewels, and, to demand the Sultan's daughter in marriage. The Sultan is
astounded at the purity of the gems, and says he will give his answer in
a month. At the end of the same week the Grand Vizier's son is married
to the Princess. Cajusse rubs his lantern and says "Go to-night and take
the daughter of the Sultan and lay her on a poor pallet in our
outhouse." This is done, and Cajusse begins to talk to her, but she is
far too frightened to answer. The Sultan learns of his daughter's
whereabouts, and does not know what to make of the strange business. The
son of the Vizier complains to his father that his wife disappears every
night, and comes back just before dawn. Cajusse now sends his mother to
the Sultan with three more baskets full of jewels, and the Sultan tells
her he may come and see him at the palace. Having received this message,
Cajusse rubs the lantern, gets a dress of gold and silver, a richly
caparisoned horse, four pages with rich dresses to ride behind them, and
one to go before, distributing money to the people. Cajusse is next
married to the Princess, and they live together in a most magnificent
palace with great happiness. By-and-bye the old wizard hears of this,
and resolves to obtain the lantern by hook or by crook. Disguising
himself as a pedlar he comes to the palace calling out the familiar "New
lamps for old." By this means he obtains the precious lamp, and
immediately transports the palace and the princess to an island in the
high seas. Cajusse, by the aid of the magic ring, quickly follows, to
find his princess a prisoner in the power of the wizard. He then gives
her this advice: "Make a feast to-night; say you'll marry the old wizard
if he'll tell you what thing would be fatal to him, and you will guard
him against it." The princess gets from the magician the fatal secret.
"One must go into a far distant forest," he says "Where there is a beast
called the hydra, and cut off his seven heads. If the middle head is
split open a leveret will jump out and run off. If the leveret is split
open, a bird will fly out. If the bird is caught and opened, in its body
is a precious stone, and should that be placed under my pillow I shall
die." Cajusse accomplishes all these things, and gives the life-stone to
the princess, together with a bottle of opium. The princess drugs the
wizard's wine, and when he had laid his head on his pillow (under which
was the stone) he gave three terrible yells, turned himself round three
times, and was dead. After thus ridding themselves of their enemy,
Cajusse and his bride lived happy ever afterwards.

Aladdin's adventure with the magician in the enchanted cave has also its
counterpart in Germany (see Grimms' German Collection).

Another "Aladdin" version is the tale of Maruf, the last in the Bulak
and Calcutta printed Arabic texts of the "Book of Maruf" in "The
Thousand and One Nights." The story is to the effect that Maruf had
given out that he was a rich man, under which false pretence he marries
the Sultan's daughter. The tale he spread about was that he was
expecting the arrival of a rich caravan, which contained all his
princely wealth. After they were married, Maruf confesses to his wife
the imposture he has practised on them. She urges him to fly, or his
head would be forfeited, and procures him a disguise to flee the
country. He does so, and, whilst journeying through a village, he sees a
man ploughing in a field, whom he asks for food. Whilst the latter is
away, Maruf continues the ploughing, where the man had left off, and
the ploughshare strikes against something hard in the ground, which
turns out to be an iron ring in a marble slab. He pulls at the ring, and
Maruf discovers a small room covered with gold, emeralds, rubies, and
other precious stones. He also discovers a coffer of crystal, having a
little box, containing a diamond in its entirety. Desirous of knowing
what the box further contains, he finds a plain gold ring, with strange
talismanic characters engraved thereon. Placing the ring on his finger,
he is suddenly confronted by the Genii of the Ring, who demands to know
what are his commands. Maruf desires the Genii to transport all the
treasure to the earth, when mules and servants appear, and carry it to
the city which Maruf had left, much to the chagrin of the Vizier, who
did not like Maruf. Maruf, during a great feast prepared for the
occasion, tells the Sultan how he became possessed of the treasure, when
the Sultan begs the loan of the ring, which Maruf hands to the Vizier to
give him, and which no sooner does he get, than he commands the Genii to
convey Maruf to some desert island, and leave him to die. The Vizier
also serves the Sultan the same way, and then he turns his attention to
"Mrs. Maruf," whom he threatens with death if she refuses to marry him.
At a banquet she makes the Vizier drunk, obtains possession of the ring,
secures the return of Maruf and the Sultan, and the decapitation of the


"Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves," in concluding this chapter, I may say,
with "The Fair One with Golden Locks," forms to the superstitious the
only two unlucky Pantomime subjects.

"Sindbad, the Sailor," taken from the "Arabian Nights," has its origin
in Persian and Arabian tales.

Of all our Pantomime subjects, "Robinson Crusoe," seems to be the only
one we can properly lay claim to as being "of our own make," so to
speak, and written by Daniel De Foe, and, in the main, from the
imagination. De Foe, it has been stated, derived his idea for this
story from the adventures of one, Alexander Selkirk, a Scotchman, who
had been a castaway on the Island of Juan Fernandez. The first portion
of "Robinson Crusoe" appeared in "The Family Instructor," in 1719, of
which De Foe was the founder. It, at once, sprang into popularity, and
has left its author undying fame. De Foe was born about 1660 in the
parish of St. Giles, Cripplegate, died 26th April, 1731, and was buried
in Bunhill Fields."