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The Arabian Nights: Tales of 1,001 Nights: Volume 1 (Penguin Classics) Paperback – May 25, 2010

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Editorial Reviews


"A magnificent, unexpurgated edition of the greatest collection of folk tales in the world . . . The Arabian Nights is not a book to be read in a week. It is an ocean of stories to be dipped into over a lifetime. And this new Penguin edition is the one to have."
-The Sunday Times (London)

"The translation . . . ought to become the standard one for the present century."
-The Times Literary Supplement

"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."
-The Guardian

"This new translation of the world's greatest collection of folk stories restores their colour and verve."
-The Sunday Times (London)

About the Author

Malcolm Lyons, sometime Sir Thomas Adams's Professor of Arabic at the University of Cambridge and a life Fellow of Pembroke College, Cambridge, is a specialist in the field of classical Arabic literature. His published works include the biography Saladin, the Politics of the Holy War, The Arabian Epic, Identification and Identity in Classical Arabic Poetry and many articles on Arabic literature.

Ursula Lyons, formerly an Affiliated Lecturer at the Faculty of Oriental Studies at Cambridge University and, since 1976, an Emeritus Fellow of Lucy Cavendish College, Cambridge, specialises in modern Arabic literature.

Robert Irwin is the author of For Lust of Knowing: The Orientalists and Their Enemies, The Middle East in the Middle Ages, The Arabian Nights: A Companion and numerous other specialised studies of Middle Eastern politics, art and mysticism. His novels include The Limits of Vision, The Arabian Nightmare, The Mysteries of Algiers and Satan Wants Me.

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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin Classics
  • Paperback: 992 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; 1St Edition edition (May 25, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140449388
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140449389
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 1.7 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #337,164 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

66 of 66 people found the following review helpful By krebsman VINE VOICE on October 17, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If I had known what a sexy book this is, I probably would have read it in my early teens. It also would have been a great "head trip" in the late 1960s, with its mind-blowing structure of stories within stories within stories. There's a high violence quotient, too, as the book is rife with beheadings, castrations, maimings, and mutilations. Even though some of the sex scenes are fairly graphic, I would call them sensual rather than sensational. The framework for the stories is a ruler who so distrusts women that immediately after consummating his marriage he has his wives killed. His new bride, Shahrazad, prolongs her life by telling him a fascinating story after their lovemaking, but falling asleep before the story is finished, allowing her to live yet another day. And for a thousand and one nights the scene is repeated. Shahrazad's stories cover a vast array of subjects and styles. Some are moralistic stories about animals (similar to Aesop's Fables), some are comic sketches, and some are multigenerational sagas. There's high-flown poetry juxtaposed with lowbrow comedy. (Inopportune flatulence is a big laugh-getter.)

But what this 21st Century reader found interesting were the gender roles of the two sexes. In these stories the women are far more likely to be consumed with lust than men are and men are just as apt to swoon from emotion as any damsel. Several of the female characters disguise themselves as men in order to lead armies and win contests of swordsmanship. Everyone oohs and ahs over the beauty of both males and females. Several of the characters are homosexual (but they are invariably villainous). This is really provocative material.

This is only volume one and it's 960 pages that I read very quickly. The translation by Malcolm C. Lyons is a masterpiece. Both intellectually and sensually thrilling, ARABIAN NIGHTS is engrossing reading and I look forward to reading the other two volumes. Shahrazad lives. Five stars.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It's a shame that while the tales of The Arabian Nights are still well known, they seem to be seldom-read these days. I hope this new translation corrects that at least a little bit. It's the first translation of the "complete" 1001 Nights since Sir Richard Burton's translation was published during the late Victorian period, and it's a much more readable one (although Burton's isn't without its own fascination as a baroque Victorian relic). Like all translations of the Nights, it has its flaws, and I think that there are some things that Husain Haddawy's shorter 1990 translation of the "core" Arabian Nights stories did better (in particular, I think Haddawy did a better job of glossing over some of the boring parts), but for readers new to the Arabian Nights, this is a good place to start.
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27 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Dallas Fawson on May 6, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
When I ordered the Arabian Nights, I had this idea of how to read them: I wanted to read one night every night, so that it would take me 1001 nights, and I would know what King Shahriyar had to go through for three years.

Well, I simply wasn't patient enough. I read the story of the first night, and I had to know how it went on.

I ended up reading the first volume of this in about two weeks (roughly 70 pages a day) during finals at college. I literally could not put it down. The 1,001 Nights gave me a child-like feeling that I have not experienced since reading Mr. Popper's Penguins in second or third grade.

The 1,001 Nights are truly magical; they are filled with demons, magic, other worlds, people unintentionally marrying 'ifrits, etc. But what truly makes them magical is that, even when the stories have no elements of the supernatural, they still seem convincingly bizarre and fantastic because of the vastly different culture in which the stories takes place. This different culture is sometimes disturbing (when a mistress is unfaithful it always happens to be with a conniving black slave, and women are thought to be treacherous, libidinous creatures) but always makes for a more interesting read.

Also included in this volume is the famous story of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, which is not part of the original nights, but I'm still glad they put it in.

The book itself is heavy and beautiful, the maps and index of words are very helpful (who would know that 'A'isha was the third favorite wife of the prophet without it?) and the introduction gives an important historical backdrop, as well as addressing the irritating fact that the nights contain so many events that are unexplained.

Is it complete?
Read more ›
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Martin Zook on March 2, 2011
Format: Paperback
This is the Cadillac of magic carpet rides.

While I'm no authority on translations, I'm guessing that Jorges Luis Borges, who analyzed extant translations of his day, would have approved of this version. The language flows and is felicitous. The sensual - food, sex, surroundings, and character descriptions - come through here.

But the real pleasure comes in the ride. I'd not read the stories before, but the first impression is how much they influenced the works of Borges. The exotic qualities of many of his stories are derived from these stories.

For the uninitiated, these may be the most imaginative stories you will ever read. Supranatural creatures about. Spells are cast transforming characters into animals, and uncast to gain revenge. Chains of unintended consequences unfold with otherworldly consequences. The feasts, the drinking, the sex is a riot of sensuality. Love has never been richer. Conflict has never been more sweeping nor more mortal.

The stories are rhizomic, sprouting from one another endlessly, spreading in unanticipated directions. These stories have a far greater hold on my imagination than fairy tales developed in the West (not that there is anything wrong with them, but these stories are so much more compelling). I keep this on my bedside table to read when I just want to surrender my mind to purest and most enchanting entertainment. It's most difficult to put these stories down.
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