Friday, 2 March 2012

Kim's Review: One Thousand and One Nights

As a child, on a visit to a friends house Hanan Al Shaykh saw a beautiful collection of leather bound books in a book case which turned out to be the complete works of Alf Layla Wu Layla, (One Thousand and One Nights) She was itching to feel the books and read them, but her friend said that her father kept the books under lock and key as it was belived that any woman who read the complete collection would fall down dead. It was only much later on in life that Hanan realised that the original Alf Layla Wu Layla, dealt with sexuality and other adult themes that were deemed inpappropriate for women to read and the childrens fairytale versions available in the market weren't really part of the original Arabic epic. Aladin, Sindbad, Ali Baba were all stories added by Antoine Galland and other European translators.

However, her love for the opus endured and when Tim Supple asked her to translate a couple of the stories for him to produce on stage, she was quite willing to do it. This book is a corollary of some of the work that she did for the screenplay.

This book is not a complete translation of the original, but only covers some of the stories that were adapted for stage. The tale of course begins with King Shahrayar's cruel order for a virgin bride each night, who is put to death the following morning. The viziers daughter Scherazade marries him and prolongs her life by telling him a new tale each night, always leaving it at a cliffhanger stage, thus postponing her death one day at a time.

Her tales make King Sharayar see that it isn't just women who are fickle and untrustworthy, but men too and women aren't always to blame for their perfidy. So the stories don't just keep him engrossed, but also provide valuable insights and guidelines for living.

The stories are all interesting, but given the nested third and fourth degree narratives, its easy to lose track of who is telling whom which story and to what intent.

This is definitely not a "childrens" edition although the language flows very smoothly and easily.

Rating: 3.5 / 5

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