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The Arabian Nights

A new twist on the old magic in the tales of the Arabian Nights.

Scheherazade by Léon Samoilovitch Bakst 1896.

Scheherazade by Léon Samoilovitch Bakst 1896.

The Tales of a Thousand and One Nights – the Arabian Nights – start with a terrible premise.  The great sultan has decided to marry a new virgin every night, and cut off her head in the morning.  Candidates are running out.

Young Scheherazade volunteers for the job.  And tells the sultan a story so compelling, every night, that when she leaves him hanging in the morning he can’t bear to kill her.  Until finally, he falls in love.  After a thousand and one stories of magic and genies, enchantment, pleasure and sin.

This hour, On Point:  a new take, twist, on the old magic in the tales of the Arabian Nights.

-Tom Ashbrook

Guests

Marina Warner, author of the new book Stranger Magic: Charmed States and The Arabian Nights.  You can read and excerpt of the book here.

From Tom’s Reading List

The Daily Beast “One of the world’s greatest story collections, ‘Arabian Nights,’ gets a fresh appreciation from fairy-tales scholar Marina Warner. Brad Gooch on how the ghost of Edward Said’s ‘Orientalism’ haunts the work.”

The New York Times “At 65, the British scholar Marina Warner is a veteran magus, and an adept mythographer of the vast global traditions of magic, metaphor and myth. Also an accomplished novelist, she augments her learning with her narrative skills. As a fan of her prolific enterprise for the last ­quarter-century, I regret that I have never met her, so delightful is her verve.”

The Independent “The Nights became, for successive European generations from the Enlightenment on, a prism through which writers and artists could form and then articulate their own fantasies and prejudices about the Orient. Edward Lane’s 1840 translation expurgated sex and violence from the tales, while in 1882 the explorer Richard Burton, infuriated by what he saw as Lane’s prudery, put the sex back in, plus some extra obsessions of his own in the footnotes.”

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