Tuesday, August 27, 2013

One Thousand and One Nights by Hanan al-Shaykh

Shahrazad was a product of the imagination.  One Thousand and One nights are a collection of stories, originally written in Arabic in 1450.  Shahrazad, is the beautiful young wife of the murderous King Shahrayar.  The King takes a new wife each night and murders her in the morning.  Shahrazad will not allow herself to be victimized.  To save herself she spins a web of tales that remain unfinished each morning.  The King must spare her life for another day to learn how the tale ends.  In this way she saves herself.

Acclaimed Lebanese writer Hanan al-Shaykh has selected nineteen of these stories and retold them in modern English in a new book, One Thousand and One Nights.  The stories that Hanan al-Shaykh includes are those of strong women.  Conartisty, justice, and love are common themes.  In the forward, Mary Gaitskill notes that many of the stories are dark and full of cruelty, but the animating spirit is light because of the resourceful and witty female characters.

For over 500 years, the character of Shahrazad has found its way in music, literature, poetry, and many other art forms.  It’s great to have a new version available for patrons who wish to read this great work of literature.

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