Book review: One Thousand and One Nights, By Hanan Al-Shaykh
Boyd Tonkin is Senior Writer and a columnist at The Independent. An award-winning journalist, he was formerly Literary Editor at The Independent, and before that Social Policy Editor and then Books Editor at the New Statesman magazine. He has broadcast extensively for BBC arts and current affairs programmes and has judged the Booker Prize, the Whitbread biography award, the Commonwealth Writers Prize and the David Cohen Prize. In 2001, he re-founded the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize for literature in translation, and serves on its judging panel every year.
Friday 01 November 2013
Taboo for their sexual frankness, the stories of the Alf layla wa layla beckoned to the young Hanan Al-Shaykh like forbidden fruit.
Here, as part of the project that also led to her stage version, the Lebanese-born writer braids 19 of the Nights into a magical tissue of tales.
Wily, randy ladies, cunning artisans, grumpy djinns, hoodwinked sultans and smart slaves throng tellings that match the originals' candour and zest with Al-Shaykh's own feisty flavours.
The Nights "opened the door of a carriage that took me back into the heart of my Arab heritage". Climb in and relish a wild, witty ride.
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