Boxall's 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die discussion

The Arabian Nights: Tales from a Thousand and One Nights
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message 1: by Cynthia (new) - added it

Cynthia | 2 comments I found the books on project gutenberg up to 4 or 5 volumes and I found them on Librivox as well but they are huge and my question is should I read these volumes or a reduced version? In Boxall's book it isn't specified.


Nicola | 765 comments Cynthia wrote: "I found the books on project gutenberg up to 4 or 5 volumes and I found them on Librivox as well but they are huge and my question is should I read these volumes or a reduced version? In Boxall's b..."

I think it's up to you. I went for slightly less than the whole original volumes but more than an abridged version which had been cut down so much it was only a few hundred pages long.

I grew up reading these tales - starting out with the young readers editions and then slowly moving up to the original stories. I feel like I've gotten the real essense of the books without needing to read every single word. They can get repetitive.


Melanti | 50 comments If it makes you feel better, the whole thing most likely wasn't 4 or 5 (or more) volumes originally. A lot of additional stories/folktales were tacked on over the centuries - some by the translators themselves, others by earlier compilers.

One scholar tried to figure out what was originally part of the collection and what wasn't by comparing early versions of the manuscripts. Tales that were in most or all of the manuscripts, he assumed were original and ones that only showed up in some editions he assumed were tacked on later.

Haddawy did a good translation of this recreated "original" manuscript:
The Arabian Nights: Alf Laylah Wa-Laylah

Since the really famous tales aren't some of the original ones, he published a second volume with tales like "Aladdin", "Sinbad", "Ali Baba and the Fourty Thieves", etc, that most people think of when they think of Arabian Nights.
The Arabian Nights II: Sindbad and Other Popular Stories



You might want to pay attention to translation, since the translation can vary so wildly. Some of the Victorian translators toned down the racy bits and played up the magical bits to make it seem more fairy-tale-ish. Others wanted to play up the "exotic" portions. I think Burton is considered to be good, if you want to go with an out-of-copyright version. But for other translators, you probably want to research it a bit. It's so bawdy that it'd be a shame to accidentally get a censored version.


message 4: by Sarah (new) - added it

Sarah (sarahbethie) | 437 comments Melanti wrote: “I think Burton is considered to be good..."

Is this the version you’d recommend most or are there others?


message 5: by Ian (new)

Ian Slater (yohanan) | 3 comments Sarah wrote: "Melanti wrote: “I think Burton is considered to be good..."

Is this the version you’d recommend most or are there others?"


A very full set of translations is available on-line at http://www.wollamshram.ca/1001/index.htm

This includes the Burton translation (apparently complete, including the voluminous notes), and several rivals, notably John Payne, as well as popular editions (including some apparently aimed at children). They have to be read in html, which can be a drag, but the site provides a good way to "test drive" translations before you settle on what you want.

If you decide in favor of completeness, Payne's nine-volume translation has been overshadowed by Burton, but you may find it easier going: Burton tended to re-invent English as he went along.

The Edward Lane translation also has its supporters.


Melanti | 50 comments The one I read and would recommend would be the Haddawy ones I linked to, but that's only about 1,000 pages between the two volumes. Someday I might comeback and read more, since I do like folktales, but 2 volumes is enough for now.

For an out of copyright one, Burton's probably your best bet, from everything I've gathered. He's probably your only bet if you want the "full" 10+ volumes, uncensored.

Or if you wanted a modern translation that's less flowery than Burton but has more tales than Hadawy, I've heard Lyons is good. I think that's 3 or 4 long volumes. The Arabian Nights: Tales of 1001 Nights, Volume 1


If you're interested, I compared a few translations in my review, including Haddawy, Burton and Lyons. https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...


Melanti | 50 comments Ian wrote: "The Edward Lane translation also has its supporters. ..."

I understand the Lane version is heavily censored, and was written to be more of a travel guide/sociology work rather than trying to accurately translate the original text.

I just can't imagine how you can make a kid-friendly version of this particular book. There's too many lewd scenes/stories to be able to clean it up, IMO.


message 8: by Ian (new)

Ian Slater (yohanan) | 3 comments Melanti wrote: "Ian wrote: "The Edward Lane translation also has its supporters. ..."

I understand the Lane version is heavily censored, and was written to be more of a travel guide/sociology work rather than try..."


There is a Wikipedia article on Lane (Edward William Lane), which quotes a devastating comment on his translation of the "Nights."

It also quotes an admiring one: as I observed, it does have some supporters.

His over-all reputation apparently rests on his sociological studies of nineteenth-century Egypt (which apparently *did* overflow into the "Nights"), and his dictionary of Arabic (incomplete at his death), not the popular translation.

I'm not fond of his version myself, but haven't read enough to say more than that, yes, it is heavily censored. I don't know whether Lane translated it that way (which I suspect), or the publisher felt impelled to intervene, but it is typically Victorian. (An uncensored rendering offered to the general public probably would have been suppressed rather quickly!)


message 9: by Sarah (new) - added it

Sarah (sarahbethie) | 437 comments Thank you both for your feedback! 😊


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