Eros and the Arabesque: An End to 1001 Nights?


The Syrian manuscripts attempted to preserve and reproduce the “original” which stopped at two hundred and seventy-one nights but the Egyptian branch of manuscripts, Haddawy tells us in the introduction, “shows a proliferation that produced an abundance of poisonous fruits that proved almost fatal to the original” (Nights xv). Haddawy calls such additions “poisonous fruit” because he feels they destroyed its Arabic homogeneity. Besides deleting, modifying, adding, and borrowing from each other, “the copyist, driven to complete one thousand and one nights, kept adding folk tales, fables and anecdotes from Indian, Persian and Turkish, as well as indigenous sources, both from the oral and from the written traditions” (Nights xv). The tale of Sinbad is one such addition (the adventure is old, but its inclusion in The Arabian Nights is not). “The Story of Aladdin and the Magic Lamp” is actually a forgery written by a Frenchman named Galland and then translated into Arabic by a Syrian living in Paris to make it seem authentic, as evidenced by the French syntax and certain turns of phrase (Nights xvi).

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Eros and the Arabesque: Death + Life = Stories, Stories and 1001 More Stories!

Death + Life = Stories, Stories and 1,001 More Stories!

Life and death intertwine in unusual ways in The Arabian Nights. The first tale is interrupted by morning: “but morning overtook Shahrazad and she lapsed into silence” (Nights 23). Morning is usually a sign of new beginnings, life and hope, but here it means death. Sir Richard Burton translated this line, “But Scheherazade perceived the morning–” Haddawy argues that Burton’s translation is not only inaccurate, but loses the poignancy of being pursued and overtaken by morning. Thus, “she lapsed into silence” is potent because silence is the end of the story and death. Will it be a permanent silence?


Hermann Emil Sprengel’s Scheherazade

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