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Les Mille et Une Nuits


Alep has sadly been on the headlines for the last few months. To talk about this Syrian city in a less sombre manner we may just remember the role it played in making the corpus of the Thousand and one Nights known to the world. Indeed, Christian Maronites from Alep were the ones to give Antoine Galland the translator-to-be, at the beginning of the XVIIIth century, the matter of what would give birth to a great classic of world literature. Ever since its first publication in 1704, its success has never waned, as can be read in this ballade through some of its numerous visual incarnations, going from the Turkish Karagoz theatre of shadows to Bakst’s costumes for the Ballets russes of Diaghilev, including a movie by Georges Méliès –that can be currently seen at the Institut du monde arabe in Paris. While the genesis of these stories goes back to the Abbasid Caliph of Bagdad, in the IXth century, they were echoed to the world by the modern Western civilization. They fascinated Andersen as well as Borges, were carried by Dutch merchants all the way to Nagasaki, and glued adventurer Burton –he who discovered the sources of the Nile - to his chair to carry out his unforgettable translation. These stories also revealed another fascinating cosmopolitan character, Joseph-Charles Mardrus (1868-1949). He was born in Cairo in an Armenian family, studied with the Jesuits in Beirut before dedicating himself to medicine in Paris. He is best known for a non-censured version of the stories …

Les Mille et Une Nuits, Hazan, 2012, 400 p., €39.

Les Mille et Une Nuits - Collective

Review published in the newsletter #284 - from 20 December 2012 to 9 January 2013

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