The Annotated Arabian Nights

Paulo Lemos Horta, Yasmine Seale

Research output: Book/ReportBook


A cornerstone of world literature and a monument to the power of storytelling, the Arabian Nights has inspired countless authors, from Charles Dickens and Edgar Allan Poe to Naguib Mahfouz, Clarice Lispector, and Angela Carter. Now, in this lavishly designed and illustrated edition of The Annotated Arabian Nights, the acclaimed literary historian Paulo Lemos Horta and the brilliant poet and translator Yasmine Seale present a splendid new selection of tales from the Nights, featuring treasured original stories as well as later additions including “Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp” and “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves,” and definitively bringing the Nights out of Victorian antiquarianism and into the twenty-first century.

For centuries, readers have been haunted by the homicidal King Shahriyar, thrilled by gripping tales of Sinbad’s seafaring adventures, and held utterly, exquisitely captive by Shahrazad’s stories of passionate romances and otherworldly escapades. Yet for too long, the English-speaking world has relied on dated translations by Richard Burton, Edward Lane, and other nineteenth-century adventurers. Seale’s distinctly contemporary and lyrical translations break decisively with this masculine dynasty, finally stripping away the deliberate exoticism of Orientalist renderings while reclaiming the vitality and delight of the stories, as she works with equal skill in both Arabic and French.

Included within are famous tales, from “The Story of Sinbad the Sailor” to “The Story of the Fisherman and the Jinni,” as well as lesser-known stories such as “The Story of Dalila the Crafty,” in which the cunning heroine takes readers into the everyday life of merchants and shopkeepers in a crowded metropolis, and “The Story of the Merchant and the Jinni,” an example of a ransom frame tale in which stories are exchanged to save a life. Grounded in the latest scholarship, The Annotated Arabian Nights also incorporates the Hanna Diyab stories, for centuries seen as French forgeries but now acknowledged, largely as a result of Horta’s pathbreaking research, as being firmly rooted in the Arabic narrative tradition. Horta not only takes us into the astonishing twists and turns of the stories’ evolution. He also offers comprehensive notes on just about everything readers need to know to appreciate the tales in context, and guides us through the origins of ghouls, jinn, and other supernatural elements that have always drawn in and delighted readers.

Beautifully illustrated throughout with art from Europe and the Arab and Persian world, the latter often ignored in English-language editions, The Annotated Arabian Nights expands the visual dimensions of the stories, revealing how the Nights have always been―and still are―in dialogue with fine artists. With a poignant autobiographical foreword from best-selling novelist Omar El Akkad and an illuminating afterword on the Middle Eastern roots of Hanna Diyab’s tales from noted scholar Robert Irwin, Horta and Seale have created a stunning edition of the Arabian Nights that will enchant and inform both devoted and novice readers alike.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Place of PublicationNew York
PublisherW. W. Norton & Company
Number of pages700
ISBN (Electronic)B08X92NRKV
ISBN (Print)978-1631493638
StatePublished - Nov 16 2021


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