The most famous of all story collections, The Arabian Nights, also known as The Book of the Thousand and One Nights, is beloved around the world. Composed of Persian, Arabic, Greek, Indian, and other sources that accumulated over hundreds of years, these fabulous stories-within-stories have long fired readers’ imaginations with an enchanted world of flying carpets, magic lamps, genies, demons, magicians and sorceresses, carnivorous giants, and bloodthirsty bandits.
Translation has played a key role in the formation of The Arabian Nights as we know it, making it far more prominent in the West than it has ever been in the Arab world. Westerners’ first discovery of some of the tales in the early eighteenth century sparked a feverish thirst for more, which led to compilations that freely adapted, reconfigured, and even added to the originals. The resulting love affair with the art, architecture, literature, cuisine, and culture of the East significantly remapped the European literary landscape.
Editor Wen-chin Ouyang has compiled a carefully chosen selection from influential English translations, showcasing the strengths of different translators, including Richard Burton, Edward Lane, Jonathan Scott, and John Payne. Here are Shahrazad, Sinbad the Sailor, Aladdin, Ali Baba, and many more, in the most readable and enjoyable versions available.