Mike Warble
Mike Warble asked:

Does it bother anyone that most of these American reviews (written below) have trouble reading something with more than one story or plot? Are Americans familiar with Arabian Nights? Will it take 20 years for people to understand how much effort and literary mastery it takes to write a book of this caliber?

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Mary Your question is either a sweeping generalization or poorly constructed or you're a troll. Not all the reviews written by those living in the States reflect a difficulty reading and understanding the book. However, the three or four reviews noting difficulty transitioning among the various story lines and time periods were, indeed, written by those in the States. Most "Americans" can boast reading comprehension levels above the sixth grade, which could easily explain why the book was published in the U.S.
E2c I do think lack of familiarity with The Arabian Nights = problems for most American readers, especially if this book is their intro to Arab (specifically,
Lebanese) culture as well as classic literature from the Arabic-speaking world. I'm Anglo, but have been around Arab neighbors and read *just* enough about Arab history and culture to be able to pick up on a lot of references, but I'm sure a whole lot more things in this book went right past me.

Fwiw, i have never read The Arabian Nights. Good English translations - well, there aren't really any, especially something accessible to the average, non-academic reader. I would love to read the kind of translation i just mentioned, but I'm not sure one will be available any time soon. Like most folks from outside the Arabic-speaking world, i know retellings of the stories about Ali Baba, Aladdin and a few others. In English, they're presented as childrens' stories, which is part of the problem. The Arabian Nights is very bawdy (kind of like Chaucer's Canterbury Tales and Boccaccio's Decameron), and *that* is one of the main reasons we don't have good English versions. It's also a huge work, and that's another drawback for translators and publishers.

To sum up, most of us are going into unknown territory with this book. Please cut us some slack, as we are trying! There are only a handful of novels by Arab writers available in English, which makes it even harder for readers to get a good sense of the culture these novels come from.
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