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Sunday, December 28, 2008

1,001 flights of fancy

These magnificent volumes are the most ambitious and thorough translation
into English of the Arabian Nights since the age of Queen Victoria and the British empire.

  1. The Arabian Nights: Tales Of 1,001 Nights
  2. Translated by Malcolm C Lyons with Ursula Lyons
  3. Penguin Classics

The translations from Arabic by Malcolm Lyons, a former professor of Arabic at Cambridge, are clear and idiomatic and neither prudish nor sleazy. His wife, Ursula Lyons, as well as helping with the Arabic, translates from 18th-century French three of the most famous stories, "Aladdin", "Ali Baba and the 40 thieves killed by a slave girl" and a Sindbad voyage, for which no old Arabic text survives. Robert Irwin, a great devotee of the Nights, has supplied an introduction to each volume on the character of the stories, their transmission over the generations, and their influence on modern European and eastern literature. It would make as fine a Christmas present as any Christian could want.


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