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For those 2 people who don’t know, The Arabian Nights is sort of a collection of short stories told in Arabia (which seems to include India and parts of China) waaaaaay back in the day. The framework of the story is about a sultan who caught his wife cheating on him. After he has her killed, he decides to take out his revenge on the entire sex, so he marries a different wife every day and has her killed the next morning. Scheherazade is the Grand Vizier’s beautiful, intelligent daughter. She realizes that this can’t go on, so she comes up with a plan. She asks to be the next wife of the sultan, and she starts telling him a story on their wedding night. But buried within that story is another story. The sultan is so intrigued by the story that he decides to let her live so he can find out how the story ends. She keeps stringing him along like this, theoretically for 1000 nights, until he relents and gives her a full pardon and takes her for his real wife. But that’s only a very small part of the book. The biggest part of the book is the stories Scheherazade tells the sultan. Included are Aladdin, Ali Baba, Sinbad, and others that we’ve probably all heard in one form or another.
I just picked this up because I wanted to see what it was all about. This version was very readable. It was interesting to see a slice of Arabian life. I would catch myself thinking, “They treat women so badly over there” and then I would remember that when these stories were first told, women were treated badly pretty much everywhere. But then there would be some stories where the women had surprising freedom and I would catch myself wondering where things started going bad. I can’t say that I know enough about the culture to comment on what’s changed and what hasn’t, but these stories do give you a little idea of what life is/was like in the Middle East and where they’re coming from. And in these times, a little understanding can only be a good thing.
Reviewed April 21, 2008
Friday Flashback Reviews are a weekly feature here on The Introverted Reader. These are old reviews I wrote on GoodReads. Thanks to Angieville and her Retro Friday Reviews for the inspiration and encouragement!
I have an affiliate relationship with Malaprop’s, my local independent bookstore located in beautiful downtown Asheville, NC; and Better World Books. I will receive a small commission at no cost to you if you purchase books through links on my site.