Arabic literature: The One Thousand and One Nights (The Arabian Nights)

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The One Thousand and One Nights, also more commonly known as the Arabian Nights is the most well-known of all Arabic literature. The Arabian Nights is a collection of Middle Eastern and South Asian stories and folk tales that were compiled during the Islamic Golden Age. However, the Arabian Nights is not only a collection of stories and folk tales now, it’s become more than that. When it was first translated in the 18th century by Antoine Galland he decided to add more stories and folk tales that weren’t present in the original manuscript like “Aladdin’s Lamp” and “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves” as well as other lesser known stories.

Antoine Galland played a large role in the success of the Arabian Nights in the west to the point where Robert Irwin (A British historian, novelist, and writer on Arabic literature born in 1946) said that

“Galland played so large a part in discovering the tales, in popularizing them in Europe and in shaping what would come to be regarded as the canonical collection that, at some risk of hyperbole and paradox, he has been called the real author of the Nights”.

After it was first translated into French in 1704 by Antoine Galland, it didn’t take long before it was translated into English in 1706. By the end of the 18th century, Galland’s version was translated into German, Italian, Dutch, Danish, Russian, Flemish and Yiddish.

The Arabian Nights has greatly influenced the West. A lot of characters in the Arabian Nights became cultural icons in the West, such as Aladdin, Ali Baba and Sindbad. Many of the elements in the Arabian Nights became common and stereotypical in modern Western literature such as genies, bahamuts, magic carpets, magic lamps, magic rings, etc. The Arabian Nights was a favorite of many British famous authors such as William Wordsworth, Alfred Tennyson and Charles dickens some of their works were influenced and inspired by the tales of Arabian Nights.

The Arabian Nights is truly a masterpiece among masterpiece it had a great influence on the work of many great novelists and authors of many classics that we love.


Written by: Osama Waheib

March 12, 2016

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