The Reading Challenge Group discussion

The Arabian Nights
This topic is about The Arabian Nights
58 views
Group Read Archive 2014-16 > Classic Group Read (February 2015) - The Arabian Nights: Tales From a Thousand and One Nights, by Anonymous

Comments Showing 1-29 of 29 (29 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Faye, The Dickens Junkie (new)

Faye | 1415 comments Mod
February's Classic Group Read will be The Arabian Nights: Tales from a Thousand and One Nights, by Anonymous! (If you want to join in but don't feel like you can read the whole shebang in one month, you could just read a volume of the 3-volume edition instead.)

Reading and discussion commence on February 1. Please keep spoilers behind spoiler tags.


message 2: by Renee, Mistress of the Mini-Challenge (new)

Renee M | 4709 comments Mod
I'm determined to work my way through all 16 volumes via Librivox. I've finished Volume I and am moving on to Volume II. They're fairly racy. Also, violent and misogynistic. But, I love the framework of stories within stories within stories.


message 3: by Laura (new) - added it

Laura | 138 comments I am not even touching this book in Feb. I own a volume but not tackling it until later. Good Luck all readers of this!


message 4: by Faye, The Dickens Junkie (new)

Faye | 1415 comments Mod
Renee wrote: "They're fairly racy. Also, violent and misogynistic."

This is what surprised me about them. The Victorians must have abridged these stories considerably if so many Victorian children grew up reading them!


message 5: by Renee, Mistress of the Mini-Challenge (new)

Renee M | 4709 comments Mod
Yes. I suspect they chose certain favorites to adapt and share, like Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves. But then, that's how I was first introduced to them as well.


message 6: by Renee, Mistress of the Mini-Challenge (last edited Jan 27, 2015 04:30PM) (new)

Renee M | 4709 comments Mod
Wow! Okay so these stories are HUGELY sanitized in many translations. I've been reading the Richard Burton translation, which is quite bawdy, but decided to take a look at a few others for comparison. I found that big chunks have been left out, which, in some cases changes the story. For example, in the story of Princess Abrizah (Volume 2), she is "secretly wedded" rather than drugged and raped.


message 7: by Camille (new)

Camille (camillesbookishadventures) | 812 comments I acquired the first three volumes for my reader. It's not translated by Burton, but I can't remember the name of the translator just now.
I expect it'll be similar differences as when comparing the real fairy tales and the Disney versions.


message 8: by Melissa (new) - added it

Melissa Coyle | 1557 comments Which translator do you suggest?


message 9: by Renee, Mistress of the Mini-Challenge (new)

Renee M | 4709 comments Mod
I'm really enjoying the Burton. The bawdiness is just surprising. The treatment of the women is insane but they were different times. (Yeah, I wanna go back and club a few people.)


message 10: by Dora (new) - added it

Dora I have some Spanish translation where all stories are kept in their original form. The introductionary note was hilarious: the stories have been highly praised but the editor somehow felt that he must add a warning 'this book is not for women and children' X)


message 11: by Camille (new)

Camille (camillesbookishadventures) | 812 comments I'm starting the first volume today. My translation is by John Payne. I never read introductions after having one been spoilt in one, so I don't know what he says in it, but I'm excited to see what the stories are like!


message 12: by Renee, Mistress of the Mini-Challenge (new)

Renee M | 4709 comments Mod
Learned something new about the translations, so I'm gonna share. The two which seem "closest" to the original stories (as in aren't sanctities to death) are by Richard Burton or John Payne.

What I've noticed about these two is...

Burton maintains the story-within-a-story-within-a-story format. Shaherade shows up throughout ending each day by "perceiving the dawn of day and ceasing to say her permitted say," because hers is the main story which provides the framework for the "telling" of the other tales. Then, periodically, characters from the stories told by Sherherazade will "tell" their own stories. So there's a layering of tales going on the whole time. Which is seriously cool! But also requires a certain level of concentration to keep them straight.

Payne has cut out the layering. He proffers the stories sequentially. Which is less confusing but loses the elegance of the format.

Right now I'm reading/listening to the Button translation of Volume 2, but I'm listening at bedtime and I keep falling asleep, which makes keeping the layered stories straight impossible. So I started using the Payne translation as a reference for the details I'm lose as I start to drift off.

Sorry for such a long post, but I think both transitions have merit.


message 13: by Camille (new)

Camille (camillesbookishadventures) | 812 comments I'm struggling to read this as the sexism, racism and other horrible things keep making me so angry...


message 14: by Renee, Mistress of the Mini-Challenge (new)

Renee M | 4709 comments Mod
Oh, yeah, it's horrifying! I've been chanting "different times, different culture" over and over in my head. But I still can only read a little at a time.


message 15: by Karolyn (new)

Karolyn | 112 comments I started listening to this on Librivox and its the Button translation. NOT what I remember from fairy tales as a kid!!


message 16: by Miss (new) - rated it 5 stars

Miss | 17 comments Interesting...I read these as a child & am pretty sure they were the Victorian re-writes. I have access to 2 audio versions & will compare. The ones I have are by Lang & Wiggins


message 17: by Karolyn (new)

Karolyn | 112 comments Have to share this... I'm listening to volume 1 on Librivox when I commute. For some reason when I use my iPhone, the app wil just start to play it randomly. I'm sitting in a meeting this morning at work, and check something on my phone. The book starts playing and there were some very bad words said before I got it turned off.

This lead to 10 minutes of discussion about the book, translations, and how politically correct our society has become. And I learned that about half my team loves reading classics. My embarrassment turned to a good thing and I've found some new reading buddies. Now I just need to get them on Goodreads.

And I'm only on night 12 of 1001.


message 18: by Miss (new) - rated it 5 stars

Miss | 17 comments That's awesome! What a happy accident.


message 19: by Renee, Mistress of the Mini-Challenge (new)

Renee M | 4709 comments Mod
Great story, Karolyn! You made me smile. I listen on my morning commute and am frequent trying to turn off the audio as I enter my building, hoping that I don't seem crazier than usual.


message 20: by Becca (new) - added it

Becca Tyler (scrappybec) | 294 comments I obviously have the wrong translation--it's not at all bawdy! It's boring! I happened to get a version that's just sequential stories. I'm trying to decide whether to get a different volume or just struggle through.


message 21: by Renee, Mistress of the Mini-Challenge (new)

Renee M | 4709 comments Mod
Not sure if it helps or makes the decision harder, but every single character is having sex or talking about sex. Genies and afrits, too. Even the eunuchs. Every. Single. Character.

And then they kill something.


message 22: by Laura (new) - added it

Laura | 138 comments Renee, sounds like y'all are reading 50 Shades of Grey


message 23: by Renee, Mistress of the Mini-Challenge (new)

Renee M | 4709 comments Mod
Less romance, more death. :P


message 24: by Miss (new) - rated it 5 stars

Miss | 17 comments Lol! No sex in my version either - damn it!
I'm listening to the Andrew Lang edition right now. Pretty sure it's intended for kids.
My blood was boiling immediately as it began with the explanation of the Sultan's arranging a new girl bride to be murdered each morning.
What the?! I certainly didn't read that bit as a child.


message 25: by Melissa (new) - added it

Melissa Coyle | 1557 comments I'll make sure I find the version with the sex! :D


message 26: by Faye, The Dickens Junkie (new)

Faye | 1415 comments Mod
I've been reading Seven Pillars of Wisdom: A Triumph by T.E. Lawrence (aka Lawrence of Arabia), and in it he mentioned his surprise that the Arab men he met weren't fond of Arabian Nights at all. They didn't consider it great literature - to them it was cheap trash for women to read.

That got me thinking - a lot of Arabian women lived in harems where they basically waited around until their husband wanted them. I can see how this book would have appealed to them. A woman who is called up to sleep with the ruler, knowing very well that she'll be dead by the morning, takes the initiative and tells him dirty stories all night long so that he'll want her back the next night. And the next night, and the next night, and the next... They probably giggled all through the telling of it, cheered Scheherazade on, and rolled their eyes at the ridiculousness of some of the stories she told - stories that were deliberately designed to appeal to a man who thought so little of women, even though he was being had by one.

Thinking of it from this angle has significantly raised my opinion of this book, heh. Rather than being horrifyingly misogynistic, it was actually secretly empowering!


message 27: by Renee, Mistress of the Mini-Challenge (new)

Renee M | 4709 comments Mod
Oh! That's a great take on it! I'm gonna try thinking that and see if the collection improves for me. :)


message 28: by Bella (new)

Bella | 33 comments I'm reading the three volume, Penguin Classics edition, translated by Malcolm Lyons. (All together about 2700 pages.) It's a modern translation, but it's still a slog. Some days I have to force myself to read it. I need to bargain with myself- I can't read anything else until I've read 20 pages of The Arabian Nights. But I feel like if I quit, I'll never read it/them, because I can't imagine re-reading 400+ pages of this again.


message 29: by Becca (new) - added it

Becca Tyler (scrappybec) | 294 comments I think I've done all I can with this book. I unwittingly got the version with no Sheherzade to tie the stories together. Maybe later I'll get a better translation.


back to top