The Arabian Nights (New Deluxe Edition), страница 1
BASED ON THE TEXT OF THE
FOURTEENTH-CENTURY SYRIAN MANUSCRIPT
EDITED BY MUHSIN MAHDI
For Mike, and for Myriam,
Peter, Christopher, and Mark.
The World of The Arabian Nights
Dissemination and Manuscripts
The Printed Editions
The Mahdi Edition
The Present Translation
The Guiding Principles
A Note on the Transliteration
Map: The World of the Nights
THE ARABIAN NIGHTS
Prologue: The Story of King Shahrayar and Shahrazad, His Vizier’s Daughter
The Tale of the Ox and the Donkey
The Tale of the Merchant and His Wife
The Story of the Merchant and the Demon
The First Old Man’s Tale
The Second Old Man’s Tale
The Story of the Fisherman and the Demon
The Tale of King Yunan and the Sage Duban
The Tale of the Husband and the Parrot
The Tale of the King’s Son and the She-Ghoul
The Tale of the Enchanted King
The Story of the Porter and the Three Ladies
The First Dervish’s Tale
The Second Dervish’s Tale
The Tale of the Envious and the Envied
The Third Dervish’s Tale
The Tale of the First Lady, the Mistress of the House
The Tale of the Second Lady, the Flogged One
The Story of the Three Apples
The Story of the Two Viziers, Nur al-Din Ali al-Misri and Badr al-Din Hasan al-Basri
The Story of the Hunchback
The Christian Broker’s Tale: The Young Man with the Severed Hand and the Girl
The Steward’s Tale: The Young Man from Baghdad and Lady Zubaida’s Maid
The Jewish Physician’s Tale: The Young Man from Mosul and the Murdered Girl
The Tailor’s Tale: The Lame Young Man from Baghdad and the Barber
The Barber’s Tale
The Tale of the First Brother, the Hunchbacked Tailor
The Tale of the Second Brother, Baqbaqa the Paraplegic
The Tale of the Third Brother, Faqfaq the Blind
The Tale of the Fourth Brother, the One-Eyed Butcher
The Tale of the Fifth Brother, the Cropped of Ears
The Tale of the Sixth Brother, the Cropped of Lips
The Story of Nur al-Din Ali ibn-Bakkar and the Slave-Girl Shams al-Nahar
The Story of the Slave-Girl Anis al-Jalis and Nur al-Din Ali ibn-Khaqan
The Story of Jullanar of the Sea
Also Translated by Husain Haddawy
Bless thee, Bottom! Bless thee! Thou art translated.
—A Midsummer Night’s Dream
The World of The Arabian Nights
IT HAS BEEN some years now since as a little boy in Baghdad I used to listen to tales from The Thousand and One Nights. It sometimes seems like yesterday, sometimes like ages ago, for the Baghdad I knew then seems now closer to the time of the Nights than to our own times. It was on long winter nights, when my grandmother was visited by one lady or another, Um Fatma or Um Ali, always dressed in black, still mourning for a husband or a son, long lost. We would huddle around the brazier, as the embers glowed in the dim light of the oil lamp, which cast a soft shadow over her sad, wrinkled face, as if to smooth out the sorrows of the years. I waited patiently, while she and my grandmother exchanged news, indulged in gossip, and whispered one or two asides. Then there would be a pause, and the lady would smile at me, and I would seize the proffered opportunity and ask for a story—a long story. I used to like romances and fairy tales best, because they took me to a land of magic and because they were long.
The lady would begin the story, and I would listen, first apprehensively, knowing from experience that she would improvise, depending on how early or late the hour. If it was early enough, she would spin the yarn leisurely, amplifying here and interpolating there episodes I recognized from other stories. And even though this sometimes troubled my childish notions of honesty and my sense of security in reliving familiar events, I never objected, because it prolonged the action and the pleasure. If the hour was late, she would, in spite of my entreaties, tell either a brief story or one of normal length, summarizing here and omitting there. If I knew the story, I would protest, reminding her of what she had left out, and she, smilingly, would promise to tell me the story in its entirety the next time. I would then entreat her to narrate at least such and such an episode. Sometimes my grandmother, out of love for me and her own delight in the story, would add her voice to mine, and the lady, pleased to be appreciated and happy to oblige, would consent to go on, narrating in a gentle, steady voice, except when she impersonated a man or woman in a moment of passion or a demon in a fit of anger, at times getting up to act out the part. Her pauses were just as delicious as her words, as we waited, anticipating a pleasure certain to come. At last, with the voice still steady but the pauses shorter and less frequent, she would reunite the lovers or reconcile the hero to fate, bringing the story, alas, to an end and leaving me with a feeling of nostalgia, a sense at once of fulfillment and of loss. Then I would go to sleep, still living with magic birds and with demons who pursued innocent lovers and haunted my dreams, and often dreaming, as I grew older, of a face in Samarkand that glowed with love and blessed my waking hours.
So has the drab fabric of life been transformed into the gossamer of romance, as these stories have been spun for centuries in family gatherings, public assemblies, and coffeehouses, in Baghdad, Damascus, or Cairo. (Indeed, on a recent trip to Marrakech, I came across storytellers in a public square, mesmerizing their audiences.) Everybody has loved them, for they enchanted the young and the old, alike, with their magic.
In the Nights themselves, tales divert, cure, redeem, and save lives. Shahrazad cures Shahrayar of his hatred of women, teaches him to love, and by doing so saves her own life and wins a good man; the Caliph Harun al-Rashid finds more fulfillment in satisfying his sense of wonder by listening to a story than in his sense of justice or his thirst for vengeance; and the king of China spares four lives when he finally hears a story that is stranger than a strange episode from his own life. Even angry demons are humanized and pacified by a good story. And everyone is always ready to oblige, for everyone has a strange story to tell.
The work consists of four categories of folk tales—fables, fairy tales, romances, and comic as well as historical anecdotes, the last two often merging into one category. They are divided into nights, in sections of various lengths, a division that, although it follows no particular plan, serves a dual purpose: it keeps Shahrayar and us in suspense and brings the action to a more familiar level of reality. The essential quality of these tales lies in their success in interweaving the unusual, the extraordinary, the marvelous, and the supernatural into the fabric of everyday life. Animals discourse and give lessons in moral philosophy; normal men and women consort or struggle with demons and, like them, change themselves or anyone else into any form they please; and humble
Such an effect, which is contingent on merging the supernatural and the natural and securing a willing suspension of disbelief, the storyteller of the Nights produces by the precise and concrete detail that he uses in a matter-of-fact way in description, narration, and conversation, bridging the gap between the natural and supernatural situations. It is this quality, by the way, that explains the appeal of these tales to the romantic imagination. For instance, the she-demon is a serpent as thick as the trunk of a palm tree, while the demon is as thin as a spear and as long as two; the transparent curtain hiding the gorgeous girl in the bed is red-speckled; and the seductive girl from Baghdad buys ten pounds of mutton, while the pious gardener buys two flagons of wine for the mysterious lovers. Thus the phantasmagoric is based on the concrete, the supernatural grounded in the natural.
Dissemination and Manuscripts
THE STORIES OF the Nights are of various ethnic origins, Indian, Persian, and Arabic. In the process of telling and retelling, they were modified to conform to the general life and customs of the Arab society that adapted them and to the particular conditions of that society at a particular time. They were also modified, as in my own experience, to suit the role of the storyteller or the demand of the occasion. But different as their ethnic origins may be, these stories reveal a basic homogeneity resulting from the process of dissemination and assimilation under Islamic hegemony, a homogeneity or distinctive synthesis that marks the cultural and artistic history of Islam.
No one knows exactly when a given story originated, but it is evident that some stories circulated orally for centuries before they began to be collected and written down. Arab historians of the tenth century, like al-Mas’udi and ibn al-Nadim speak of the existence of such collections in their time. One was an Arabic work called The Thousand Tales or The Thousand Nights, a translation from a Persian work entitled Hazar Afsana (A thousand legends). Both works are now lost, but although it is not certain whether any of these stories or which of them were retained in subsequent collections, it is certain that the Hazar Afsana supplied the popular title as well as the general scheme—the frame story of Shahrazad and Shahrayar and the division into nights—to at least one such collection, namely The Thousand and One Nights.
The stories of the Nights circulated in different manuscript copies until they were finally written down in a definite form, or what may be referred to as the original version, in the second half of the thirteenth century, within the Mamluk domain, either in Syria or in Egypt. That version, now lost, was copied a generation or two later in what became the archetype for subsequent copies. It too is now lost, but its existence is clearly attested to by the remarkable similarities in substance, form, and style among the various early copies, a fact that points to a common origin. Specifically, all the copies share the same nucleus of stories, which must have formed the original and which appear in the present translation. The only exception is the “Story of Qamar al-Zaman,” of which only the first few pages are extant in any Syrian manuscript, and for this reason I have not included it in the present translation.
From the archetype there evolved two separate branches of manuscripts, the Syrian and the Egyptian. Of the Syrian branch four manuscripts are known to exist. The first is the copy in the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris, in three volumes (nos. 3609-3611). It is of all existing manuscripts the oldest and the closest to the original, having been written sometime during the fourteenth century. The other three Syrian manuscripts were copied much later, in the sixteenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries, respectively. They are, however, very close to the fourteenth-century manuscript and similarly contain only the nucleus and the very first part of “Qamar al-Zaman.”
If the Syrian branch shows a fortunately stunted growth that helped preserve the original, the Egyptian branch, on the contrary, shows a proliferation that produced an abundance of poisonous fruits that proved almost fatal to the original. First, there exists a plethora of Egyptian copies all of which, except for one written in the seventeenth century, are late, dating between the second part of the eighteenth and the first part of the nineteenth century. Second, these copies delete or modify passages that exist in the Syrian manuscripts, add others, and indiscriminately borrow from each other. Third, the copyists, driven to complete one thousand and one nights, kept adding folk tales, fables, and anecdotes from Indian, Persian, and Turkish, as well as indigenous sources, both from the oral and from the written traditions. One such example is the story of Sindbad, which, though early in date, is a later addition. What emerged, of course, was a large, heterogeneous, indiscriminate collection of stories by different hands and from different sources, representing different layers of culture, literary conventions and styles tinged with the Ottoman cast of the time, a work very different from the fundamentally homogeneous original, which was the clear expression of the life, culture, and literary style of a single historical moment, namely, the Mamluk period. This is the more significant because the Ottoman period is marked by a sharp decline in Arabic culture in general and literature in particular.
The mania for collecting more stories and “completing” the work led some copyists to resort even to forgery. Such is the case of none other than “The Story of Aladdin and the Magic Lamp.” This story is not among the eleven basic stories of the original work, nor does it appear in any known Arabic manuscript or edition, save in two, both written in Paris, long after it had appeared in Galland’s translation. Galland himself, as his diaries indicate, first heard the story in 1709 from Hanna Diab, a Maromite Christian of Aleppo, who may have subsequently written it down and given it to Galland for his translation. The first time the story appeared in Arabic was in 1787, in a manuscript written by a Syrian Christian priest living in Paris, named Dionysius Shawish, alias Dom Denis Chavis, a manuscript designed to complete the missing portions of the fourteenth-century Syrian manuscript. The story appeared again in a manuscript written between 1805 and 1808, in Paris, by Mikhail Sabbagh, a Syrian collaborator of Silvestre de Sacy. Sabbagh claimed to have copied it in turn from a Baghdad manuscript written in 1703. Such good fortune, in retrieving not one but two versions of a lost wonderful tale, might be cause for rejoicing, as it indeed was among the scholars. However, a careful examination of the two versions, both in the light of the general style of the Nights and in the light of Galland’s translation, leads to a less joyful conclusion. Chavis fabricated the text by translating Galland back into Arabic, as is manifest from his French syntax and turns of phrase, and Sabbagh perpetuated the hoax by improving Chavis’s translation and claiming it to be a Baghdad version. And this forgery was the source used by Payne and Burton for their own translations of the story.
The Printed Editions
IF THE HISTORY of the manuscripts is a confusing tale, that of the printed editions of The Thousand and One Nights is a sad comedy of errors. The first edition was published by Fort William College in Calcutta, in two volumes comprising the first two hundred nights (vol. 1 in 1814; vol. 2 in 1818). The editor was one Shaikh Ahmad ibn-Mahmud Shirawani, an instructor of Arabic at the college. He pieced this edition together from a late Syrian manuscript and a work containing classical anecdotes, choosing the texts at random. He deleted, added, and modified numerous passages and tried to change, whenever he could, the colloquial to literary expres-sions. He edited as he pleased. Then c
It was on such a late Egyptian manuscript that the first Bulaq edition of 1835 was exclusively based. It is a manuscript whose copyist, by culling, collecting, and interpolating numerous tales of recent vintage and written in a late style, swelled the old text, and by subdividing the material, obtained one thousand and one nights, thus producing a “complete” version of the Nights, a version very different from the Mamluk original in substance, form, and style. The Bulaq editor, Abd al-Rahman al-Safti Al-Sharqawi, not content to edit and print an accurate text of the manuscript, took it upon himself to correct, emend, and improve the language, producing a work that was in his judgment superior in literary quality to the original. Then came the second Calcutta edition, published in four volumes by William Macnaghten, between 1839 and 1842. Edited by several hands, it was based on a late Egyptian manuscript copied in 1829, with interpolations and with “corrections” in the substance and the style, according to the first Calcutta and the Breslau editions. Thus “thoroughly edited” and “completed,” as its editors claimed, it has ever since vied with the Bulaq edition in the estimation of scholars and general readers, not to mention all the major translators. Thus “authentic” came to mean complete and, ironically, spurious. (For a full history of the manuscripts and printed editions, see Muhsin Mahdi’s Arabic introduction to his edition of the text of the Nights, Alf Layla wa Layla, Leiden, 1984, and his English introduction in the forthcoming third volume.)