The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night

(Richard F. Burton: Translated and Annotated)


Entertaining, sure, but highly repetitive.


Fairly surreal too – there’s no problem with being suddenly transported to any fantastic palace or harem: wizards and odysseys abound.


Bloodthirsty? Absolutely. Adultery? Fornication? Constantly. Sex and brutal killing are mandatory – this is popular entertainment after all, and has the same odd acceptance among apparently God-fearing upright audiences as the similarly prurient and violent core of today’s movies.


Some amusing structure in the almost infinite regress: within every tale there are a dozen more – a standard thing is, say, just as you’re about to be beheaded you say,

“Oh, I wouldn’t chop my head off now – that would be to make the mistake of the chiropodist and the princess.”

“Really, what was that about?” says the headsman pausing in mid-swing.

“Well, one day…”

Remembering that the whole thing is within the structure of Shahrazad staving off her immanent execution by leaving the King in a cliff-hanger night after night.


Anyway, I’d had enough after a fortnight or two…


January 2004