One of the most emblematic and endearing books of our collective imagery, an endless source of awe that reveals our need for magic in our everyday existence.
The Arabian Nights: the mental realm of incessant astonishment /
Il n’y a peut-être pas de jours de notre enfance que nous ayons si pleinement vécus que ceux que nous avons cru laisser sans les vivre, ceux que nous avons passés avec un livre préféré.
Marcel Proust, Sur la lecture
In his emotive speech on One Thousand and One Nights, Borges mentions this book as one of the most powerful and indelible sources of our awareness of the Orient. For us Westerners (or, in the American case, the partial heirs of this Westernisation), the Orient remains, even today, a word surrounded by magic and enigmas, an ambiguous territory and to a great extent an imaginary one that from afar has nurtured our dreams on what is exotic and different means. The Orient is home to oasis and talismans, to monstrous creatures, geniuses locked in lamps, palaces that appear and disappear from one night to the next, islands with trees that produce jewels as if they were fruits and other fantasies that often share the same origin:The Arabian Nights: Tales from a Thousand and One Nights.
This collection is one of the most emblematic ones in popular literature. It had been passed on, from mouth to mouth, a long time before it was impressed on paper. Its stories first originated in India and Egypt, as well as in ancient Persia and Mesopotamia, regions whose names immediately awaken our deepest sense of imagination. Since they belong to a time before History itself, a previous stage that is somehow paradisiac and not solely because of its antiquity, the stories from the Arabian Nights, are intimately associated with the pleasure of our first readings. An important part of its charm, of its spell on the readers, is its ability to fully transport us to that exceptional area where magic is possible and even more than that: quotidian and necessary, an experience that in some way always happens, and when it happens for the first time, it is miraculous and extraordinary.
Perhaps because of this, the historical particularities of this book matter a little less in comparison to the effects it has over our collective cultural consciousness. The Arabian Nights could easily be interpreted as a safe-conduct, emitted by a secret society of strangers who have bonded together over their reading, the ticket to a fantastical land that is discovered behind a common door, one that we cross every day until we finally discern its presence and we decide to cross it, without knowing that we could fully and eternally be converted to the cult of incessant astonishment.Tagged: The Arabian Nights, books, Fantasy Lands, astonishment, literature Credits: Imagen (Gustave Clarence Rodolphe Boulanger, "A Tale of 1001 Nights")