(1/17/01 9:05:45 pm)
As I start working on my BA thesis, I'm trying to gather to myself "authoritative" - or at least as accurate as possible - copies of original tales. Since I'm trying to make this a comparative lit project, I don't want to stick with straight-up European work. I know Sir Richard Burton's translation was the first, but what do all of you recommend as the best recent translation of this seminal work? Cost is no object, since it'll be an interlibrary loan anyway. ;-)
(1/18/01 7:48:23 am)
The Arabian Nights has long been an interest of mine and I have done a bit of work on it over the last year. The very best translation to get is a recent one by Husain Haddawy based on one of the oldest and most complete versions, a text by Muhsin Mahadi (there are two branches of the collection, a Syrian version and an Egyptian version--the Mahadi collection is a 14thc. Syrian version.) This modern translation is called "The Arabian Nights", trans. Haddawy, published by Norton, 1990.--it's a fairly inexpensive paperback, ($15.95).
I recommend it not only for the excellent translation, but also the very informative introduction and history of the different branches and the nightmare history of its translations into English and French. A number of European translators in their desire to reach a full 1,00 tales opted to "invent" a few of the tales (most notably Aladdin and the Lamp and Ali Baba and the 40 Theives)--which they translated back into Arabic and then "discovered" and retranslated back into French and English. Burton while a brillant Orientalist receives some mixed reviews. Burton was obessesed with sexual issues (he has a 20 page footnote to his original limited edition translation about the relatively large size of African male gentalia, and an afterword on Pederasty)...but his wife was a member of the "Sexual purity" organization of Victorian England..and she acquired his estate after he died. Any editions of Burton after about 1890 were edited to the bone by Isabel.
You might find two additional articles helpful (do you have access to EBSCO? you can print them out from there)
"Sexual Politics of Authorship: Rereading the travels and translations of Richard and Isabel Burton" by Richard Phillips in the journal "Gender Place & Culture: A Journal of Feminist Geography, Sep 99, Vol. 6, issue 3, p.241.
"Otherness and Otherworldliness" by Jennifer Schacker-Mill in The Journal of American Folklore, Spring 2000, Vol. 113, issue 448, p.164. This is an article about Edward Lane, the other important British translator of the Arabian Nights.
But the Haddawy translation is really wonderful--a faithfulness to the language, to a cultural interpretaion of the tales. They are funny and biting. Great stuff.
Hope this helps...and drop a line to the board if you come across anything else interesting. As I've said, I'm still working on a long term project on the Nights and I am delighted to find anything new being done on it.
(1/18/01 2:41:53 pm)
|Second Midori's recommendation|
Not that Midori needs anyone to second her recommendation, but I am also impressed with Haddawy's translation. It is also a benefit that it is cheap so you can buy a copy and mark it up to your heart's content. I saw a paperback of it at my local Borders just a few days ago. I got mine used in mint condition and consider it one of my better book deals of late.
(1/18/01 8:21:48 pm)
|Re: Arabian Nights|
Ideal! Thank you both so much! I'll keep everyone posted on whatever I find. ^_^
(1/19/01 5:33:41 am)
|Sir Richard Burton|
Just for interest there is a copy of (part) of Burton's translation on the net, here:
and an excellent site on his life and works here:
Good luck with your research.
(1/22/01 3:13:06 pm)
|straight-up European stuff|
If you do want to consider the effect the Nights had on English Literature, Penguin has a edition which features the original Grub Street translation. Also, this is useful, if you haven't come across it already:
Muhsin Jassim Ali- "Scheherazade in England: A study of Nineteetn-Century English Criticism of *The Arabian Nights*"
and also this:
Peter.L. Caracciolo(ed) "*The Arabian Nights* in English Literature"
(1/22/01 3:48:03 pm)
Thanks for the additional references. I've been pulling together bibliographical materials so I really appreciate the two titles. (how is your own work going, speaking of victorians and their hysteria?)
(1/23/01 10:23:32 am)
Thanks for the tip on the Haddawy translation, I'm hunting it up even as we speak. I have a two-volume edition I picked up some years back that includes comparative footnotes by Burton and others, so you get a sampling of what 2 or 3 translators/interpreters had to say on a particular passage. Interesting comparative study, but still mostly "this is what the British thought."
Burton is a fascinating character to be sure, but he certainly was obsessed by sexual practices (and his wife certainly did destroy volumes and volumes of his papers after he died).