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The Arabian Nights in Contemporary World Cultures
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Book description

The stories in the Thousand and One Nights, or the Arabian Nights, are familiar to many of us: from the tales of Aladdin, Sinbad the Sailor, Ali Baba and his forty thieves, to the framing story of Scheherazade telling these stories to her homicidal husband, Shahrayar. This book offers a rich and wide-ranging analysis of the power of this collection of tales that penetrates so many cultures and appeals to such a variety of predilections and tastes. It also explores areas that were left untouched, like the decolonization of the Arabian Nights, and its archaeologies. Unique in its excavation into inroads of perception and reception, Muhsin J. al-Musawi's book unearths means of connection with common publics and learned societies. Al-Musawi shows, as never before, how the Arabian Nights has been translated, appropriated, and authenticated or abused over time, and how its reach is so expansive as to draw the attention of poets, painters, illustrators, translators, editors, musicians, political scientists like Leo Strauss, and novelists like Michel Butor, James Joyce and Marcel Proust amongst others. Making use of documentaries, films, paintings, novels and novellas, poetry, digital forums and political jargon, this book offers nuanced understanding of the perennial charm and power of this collection.


‘This is a work of incredible erudition. Al-Musawi tells the story of the Nights, orientalism, world literature, and structuralism simultaneously, revealing a network of readings, influences, and critical practices that allow us to see literature in a new light.’

Tarek El-Ariss - Dartmouth College

‘A scholarly study of magisterial magnitude in both theoretical and textual terms. Briefly stated, few can compose so wizardly and converse so enchantingly, indeed so Shahrazadingly, about Alf Layla wa-Layla as a cherished world literary treasure and a prized global cultural commodity as al-Musawi. One is impressed but never surprised.’

Nizar F. Hermes - The University of Virginia

‘Al-Musawi brings a lifetime of Arabian Nights’ scholarship to bear on his expansive new study of its generative role in the Western and Global literary and cultural imagination from the 18th century to the present. Ranging from Romanticism through Modernism to Post-Modernism, al-Musawi compellingly demonstrates how this protean Arabic story collection has shaped the novel, music, fine arts, and film.’

Suzanne Stetkevych - Georgetown University

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