Sunday, August 25, 2013

The True Story of the Novel (1): The Eastern Frame-Story

Chez Chiara: The 1001 Nights

I suspect that one reason why Ian Watt's Rise of the Novel scenario looks so out-of-date is because the novel itself is a very different beast now than in 1957. That was the heyday of the Movement in Britain, with novels by Kingsley Amis, John Wain and Iris Murdoch on the bestseller lists. It was before the "boom" in Latin American writing, before Magic Realism, before the Empire had even really started to write back ...

What I'd like to do in this series of posts, then, is to present a fairly uncontroversial account of the evolution of prose fiction as it seems to have taken place in a number of parallel traditions all over the world.

There's no particular reason to keep you in suspense over what I think I've detected in my desultory reading of Eastern and Western fiction over the past twenty-five years or so (the period I've been interested in the subject). So, here are my findings in a nutshell:

  1. Folktales can be patterned into larger fictional entities through more or less complex Frame-story structures:
    • The 1001 Nights / Apuleius' Golden Ass / Boccaccio's Decameron

  2. Auto/biographical Writing (both in the form of Confessions and Exemplary Lives) inspires similar tropes in fiction:
    • St. Augustine's Confessions / Xenophon's Cyropaedia / Plutarch's Parallel Lives

  3. Anthologies of Poems, with commentary on the events which inspired them, can provide a model for individual Chapter structures:
    • The Tales of Ise / Egil's Saga / Dante's Vita Nuova

  4. Epic Narratives in verse set an example for Prose Romances on a smaller or larger scale
    • Aucassin et Nicolette / The French Prose Vulgate of the Arthurian Legends / Malory's Morte d'Arthur

  5. Historiography (both Chronicles and more Analytical Accounts) inspires historical sagas and other fictions:
    • Ari Þorgilsson's Íslendingabók & Landnámabók / Sima Qian's Records of the Grand Historian / Nihongi: The Chronicles of Japan

  6. Religious Texts combine history, prophecy and philosophy in complex prose structures which can be adapted for the purposes of Secular Storytelling:
    • Confucius' Analects / Kojiki: Record of Ancient Matters / The Bible

  7. Satire and Parody of any and all previous genres encourages ever bolder experimentation in the emerging Modern Novel:
    • Cervantes' Don Quixote / Fielding's Shamela / Sterne's Tristram Shandy

I'd like to look at each of these processes in turn, in terms of one of the seven traditions I outlined in my first post on the subject, concentrating each time on one key text.

So the pattern should look something like this:

  1. The Eastern Frame-story [c.1st millennium BCE to 18th century CE]:
    • Alf Layla wa Layla [1001 Nights] (c.8th-14th century)
    There's a certain limit on the size a folktale can attain. Given it's an essentially oral medium, it tends to lose coherence and interest if carried on for too long. The idea of the frame-story (no. 1 above), allows authors and storytellers (if that distinction can really be made in this context) to carry their stories further. This allows the possibility of ironic reference between different levels of the frame: Scheherazade telling stories about adulterous and destructive women, for instance. It also tends to carry with it, as a corollary, an almost excessive layer of repetitive patterning (repeated threes, sevens, and nines: colour motifs such as the black knight, the red knight, etc.) If it weren't for the revival of many of these techniques in the postcolonial and postmodern novel, one might have seen these as characteristics of an embryonic stage of the novel's development. That did, in fact, use to be the critical orthodoxy on the subject. I don't think that view is tenable any longer, though.

  2. Apuleius: The Golden Ass

  3. The Greek and Roman Novel [c.1st century BCE to 4th century CE]:
    • Apuleius: The Golden Ass (c.125–c.180)
    Who is the narrator of the Asinus Aureus [Golden Ass]? Given the hero is called Lucius, and its author was called Lucius Apuleius (the two also share a hometown: Madaurus in Algeria), it's not surprising that many of its early readers saw it as essentially autobiographical (no.2 above) - St. Augustine among them. In fact, it's said to have been one of the major stylistic influences on his Confessions, composed in the late 4th century. More modern readings have pointed out the immense complexity and sophistication of Apuleius' narrative techniques. Far from a piece of naive picaresque, the novel can be read as satire, religious allegory, postmodern game-playing, or - yes - an apology for the life of one who was himself accused of black magic during his lifetime. Apuleius himself seems to have more in common with Borges and Nabokov than most of the prose writers in the intervening two millennia, in fact.

  4. Murasaki Shikibu: Genji Monogatari (1987)

  5. The Japanese Monogatari [c.9th-18th century CE]:
    • Murasaki Shikibu: Genji Monogatari [The Tale of Genji] (c.1000)
    Like all of the world's great masterpieces, Lady Murasaki's Tale of Genji can be approached from a lot of different directions, and read in a lot of different ways. She herself admits (in her diary) the influence of earlier historical writing on hers (or, rather, quotes a remark by the Emperor to that effect). The fact that each individual chapter - especially initially - is such an exercise in mood and atmosphere, encourages one to see the influence of poetry anthologies (no. 3 above) such as the earlier Tales of Ise on her conception of narrative. Interestingly, this same method resulted in Melville's last extended prose work, Billy Budd. It began as the headnote to a poem, and grew from there.

  6. Malory: Morte D'Arthur (1485)

  7. The Medieval and Renaissance Romance [c.12th-16th century CE]:
    • Sir Thomas Malory: Le Morte d'Arthur (1485)
    The discovery of the Winchester Ms. of Malory in the 1930s has enabled us to understand a lot more about his methods of composition. Essentially he drew from a pre-existing body of romance-writing (no. 4 above) in French - composed initially in verse (by the likes of Chrétien de Troyes), but subsequently in prose (by among others, the anonymous compilers of the prose Lancelot and its various successors). The pruning and condensation he used to simplify his originals transcended mere translation, however. Whle his editor, Caxton, had a good deal to do with our idea of him as the author of a single book in many parts, rather than a series of inter-related prose romances, the result is one of the most influential pieces of fiction ever composed.

  8. Njals saga (c.1300)

  9. The Sagas of Icelanders [c.13th-14th century CE]:
    • Brennu-Njáls saga [Njal's Saga] (late 13th century)
    Just how historical the Icelandic family sagas, or sagas of Icelanders, really are, was a subject of controversy for a long time. The initial assumption, by their first readers in Europe, was that they were fairly straight records of particular crimes and feuds in the era of the first settlement of the island. Subsequent research, though (notably in Sigurður Nordal's 1940 book on Hrafnkel's Saga) has pointed out a considerable number of historical inaccuracies in their narratives. They should, it is now argued by the likes of Hermann Pálsson (1988), be seen as sophisticated works of creative fiction based on regional history (no. 5 above), rather than being dismissed as mere transcripts of oral tradition. The more closely they are studied, in fact, the more complex and artful their narrative techniques turn out to be.

  10. Cao Xue Qin: The Red Chamber Dream (c.1780)

  11. The Chinese Novel [c.14th-18th century CE]:
    • Cao Xueqin: Hóng Lóu Mèng [The Red Chamber Dream] (late 18th century)
    The peculiarities of the classic Chinese novel - the immense length of most of them; the intense care with which each, essentially stand-alone, chapter is constructed - are familiar to most readers who've adventured into even one of them. The transition from historiography to fiction in China (as in Iceland) is an obvious one, hence one which has often been pointed out. A composition as intricate and self-conscious as the Hung Lou Meng [Red Chamber Dream - also knows as "The Story of the Stone"] draws its inspiration from many sources, however. On the one hand, the author of the preface sees it as largely autobiographical. Its weird mixture of supernatural and realist writing, though, tends to align it with earlier fictions such as the Journey to the West or the Ch'in P'ing Mei. I've argued above (no. 6) that one might see analogies with this genre-bending in certain religious narratives, both Eastern and Western. Whether the pious allegories at the end of this huge book are really meant to be taken straight, or were even composed by the original author, remain matters of controversy, however.

  12. Gustave Doré: Don Quixote (1863)

  13. The Modern Novel [c.17th century CE to the present]:
    • Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra: El ingenioso hidalgo don Quijote de la Mancha (1605 & 1615)
    What can one say about Don Quixote that hasn't already been said a thousand times? Well, quite a lot, as it turns out. Given that most readers don't persevere past the first few chapters, and very few make it even as far as the end of part one, let alone into the intricacies of part two, I think it's fair to say that the reason why it's been quite so influential on the evolution of the European novel is not really so obvious as it might be. A satire, yes (no. 7 above), but a satire of a genre that Cervantes actually returned to after finishing his novel (his last work, Persiles y Sigismunda (1617) is as romantic and absurd as any of the chivalric romances he abuses in the Quixote). Establishing the contention that Cervantes, rather than Richardson (or even Defoe) is the best point of departure for a fuller comprehension the modern novel is clearly an area where a great deal of work remains to be done.

So there you have it: that's the plan. Given this blog is mostly dedicated to recording my own adventures among books (and particularly the ins and outs of my own library), I'll try to illustrate each of these points with the readings that have inspired it as I go along:

Let's start, then, In India. Whether or not nineteenth-century scholars were correct in attributing the invention of virtually everything to the ancient Sanskrit-speaking Aryan cultures of Central Asia and (later) India is hard to say at this date. What is certain is that these are among the oldest works of creative prose fiction in existence:

Panchatantra Relief (Java)


Authors & Works: (chronological)

  1. The Jātaka Tales (c.4th century BCE)
  2. The Pañcatantra (c.3rd century BCE)
  3. Somadeva (c.11th century)
  4. Narayana (c.12th century)
  5. The Simhāsana Dvātrimśikā (c.12th century)
  6. Śivadāsa (c.12th-14th century)

    The Jātaka Tales (c.4th century BCE)

  1. Rhys Davids, T. W. trans. Buddhist Birth-Stories (Jātaka Tales): The Commentarial Introduction Entitled Nidāna-Kathā, The Story of the Lineage. 1880. Broadway Translations. London & New York: Routledge & Dutton, 1925.

  2. Cowell, E. B., ed. The Jātaka, or Stories of the Buddha’s Former Births. Trans. R. Chambers, W. H. D. Rouse, H. T. Francis & R. A. Neil, W. H. D. Rouse, H. T. Francis, E. B. Cowell & W. H. D. Rouse. 6 vols in 3. 1895-1907. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers, 1990.

  3. The Panchatantra [Pañcatantra] (c.3rd century BCE)

  4. Ryder, Arthur W., trans. The Panchatantra. 1925. Chicago: Phoenix Books, 1964.

  5. Edgerton, Franklin, trans. The Panchatantra. London: Allen & Unwin, 1965.

  6. Olivelle, Patrick, trans. The Pañcatantra: The Book of India’s Folk Wisdom. The World’s Classics. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997.

  7. Somadeva (c.11th century)

  8. Penzer, N. M., ed. The Ocean of Story: Being C. H. Tawney’s Translation of Somadeva’s Kathā Sarit Sāgara (or Ocean of Streams of Story). 1880-84. 10 vols. 1924. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1968.

  9. Somadeva. Tales from the Kathāsaritsāgara. Trans. Arshia Sattar. Foreword by Wendy Doniger. 1994. Penguin Classics. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1996.

  10. Somadeva. Océan des rivières de contes. Ed. Nalini Balbir, with Mildrède Besnard, Lucien Billoux, Sylvain Brocquet, Colette Caillat, Christine Chojnacki, Jean Fezas & Jean-Pierre Osier. Traduction des ‘Contes du Vampire’ par Louis & Marie-Simone Renou, 1963. Bibliothèque de la Pléiade, 438. Paris: Gallimard, 1997.

  11. Narayana (c.12th century)

  12. Chandiramani, G. L., trans. The Hitopadesha: An Ancient Fabled Classic. 1995. Mumbai: Jaico Publishing House, 1999.

  13. The Simhāsana Dvātrimśikā [Thirty-two Tales of the Throne] (c.12th century)

  14. Edgerton, Franklin, ed. & trans. Vikrama’s Adventures, or the Thirty-two Tales of the Throne. Harvard Oriental Series, ed. Charles Rockwell Lanman, 26 & 27. 1926. 2 vols. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers, 1993.

  15. Haksar, A. N. D., trans. Simhāsana Dvātrimśikā: Thirty-two Tales of the Throne of Vikramaditya. New Delhi: Penguin, 1998.

  16. Bhoothalingam, Mathuram. Stories of Vikramaditya. Illustrated by Jomraj. New Delhi: Publications Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India, 1982.

  17. Śivadāsa (c.12th-14th century)

  18. [Burton, Richard F. Vikram and the Vampire, or Tales of Hindu Devilry. 1870. Memorial Edition. Ed. Isabel Burton. London: Thylston & Edwards, 1893.]

  19. Śivadāsa. The Five-and-Twenty Tales of the Genie: Vetālapañćavinśati. Trans. Chandra Rajan. 1995. Penguin Classics. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 2006.

  20. Anthologies & Secondary Literature:

  21. Alphonso-Karkala, John B., trans. An Anthology of Indian Literature. A Pelican Book. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1971.

  22. Beck, Brenda E. F., Peter J. Claus, Praphulladata Goswami, & Jawaharlal Handoo, ed. Folktales of India. Foreword by A. K. Ramanujan. Folktales of the World, ed. Richard M. Dorson. 1987. Chicago & London: The University of Chicago Press, 1989.

  23. Keith, A. Berriedale. A History of Sanskrit Literature. 1920. London: Oxford University Press, 1966.

  24. Ramanujan, A. K. ed. Folktales from India: A Selection of Oral Tales from Twenty-two Languages. 1991. The Pantheon Fairy Tale and Folklore Library. Pantheon Books. New York: Random House, Inc., 1993.

  25. Souza, Eunice de. 101 Folktales from India. Illustrated by Sujata Singh. A Puffin Book. New Delhi: Penguin Books India, 2004.

Most of these works are very hard to date. Somadeva, author of the Ocean of the Streams of Story (which I've written about here), describes a most complicated, semi-mythical genesis for his work. It's certainly based on a much older version, but just how old it is, is almost impossible to establish.

The beast-fables of the Panchatantra have travelled across the world, but disentangling every stage of their journey at this late date is, once again, an almost unimaginably complex task.

The fact that the Jātaka tales of Buddha's early incarnations may predate even these early collections of folktales reminds me to acknowledge that all seven of the lines of transmission from other genres to extended prose fiction (what we might plausibly refer to as roads towards the Novel) can exist in any one of the traditions under examination here. It's only for convenience's sake that I've chosen to isolate one technique per tradition, in fact. The influence of religious texts on Sanskrit fiction is clearly omnipresence, however "secular" the motivations (sex, money, prestige) of most of the actual protagonists of the tales may be.

From India we move to Persia (or Iran, if you prefer). The main reason for this is because this is supposed to have been the route of transmission for the frame-tale tradition: from India to Persia and thence into the Arabian Middle East.

Certainly the original version of the Thousand and One Nights is said to have been written in Persian. Unfortunately this Hazār Afsān [Thousand Stories] is no longer extant, but the fact that all the major characters in the frame story (Shahryār, Shahrazad and Dunyazad) have Persian names, and are located historically in Pre-Islamic Persia, during the era of the Sassanids (224 to 651 AD), makes this genealogy fruitless to question:

Baysunghur: Shahnameh (1430)


Authors & Works: (chronological)

  1. Ferdowsi (940-1020)
  2. Omar Khayyám (1048-1131)
  3. Nizami Ganjavi (1141-1209)
  4. Farīd ud-Dīn ʿAṭṭār (1145-1221)
  5. Rumi (1207-1273)
  6. Saʿdī (1210-1291)
  7. Sa'ad ad-Din Varavini (c. 13th century

    Hakīm Abul-Qāsim Ferdowsī Tūsī (940-1021)

  1. Ferdowsi. The Epic of the Kings: Shah-Nama, the National Epic of Persia. Trans. Reuben Levy. 1967. Rev. Amin Banani. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1985.

  2. Omar Khayyám (1048-1131)

  3. Avery, Peter, & John Heath-Stubbs, trans. The Ruba’iyat of Omar Khayyam. 1979. Penguin Classics. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1981.

  4. Fitzgerald, Edward, trans. Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám. Ed. Reynold Alleyne Nicholson. 1909. London: A. & C. Black., 1973.

  5. Fitzgerald, Edward, trans. The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám and Six Plays of Calderon. Everyman’s Library 819. 1928. London & New York: J. M. Dent & E. P. Dutton, 1948.

  6. Fitzgerald, Edward. Selected Works. Ed. Joanna Richardson. The Reynard Library. London: Rupert Hart-Davis, 1962.

  7. Graves, Robert, & Omar Ali-Shah, trans. The Rubaiyyat of Omar Khayaam: A New Translation with Critical Commentaries. 1967. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1972.

  8. Nizami Ganjavi (1141-1209)

  9. Ganjavi, Nizami. Haft Paykar: A Medieval Persian Romance. 1197. Trans. Julie Scott Meisami. World’s Classics. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995.

  10. Farīd ud-Dīn ʿAṭṭār (1145-1221)

  11. Attar, Farid ud-Din. The Conference of the Birds. Trans. Afkham Darbandi and Dick Davis. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1984.

  12. Attar, Farid ud-Din. The Conference of the Birds, Mantiq ut-Tair: A Philosophical Religious Poem in Prose - Rendered into English from the Literal and Complete French Translation of Garcin de Tassy. Trans. C. S. Nott. 1954. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1967.

  13. Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī (1207–1273)

  14. Rumi, Jalal al-Din. Tales from the Masnavi. Trans. A. J. Arberry. 1961. London: George Allen & Unwin, 1968.

  15. Rumi, Jalal al-Din. Selected Poems. Trans. Coleman Banks, with John Moyne, A. J. Arberry & Reynold Nicholson. As 'The Essential Rumi', 1995. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 2004.

  16. Abū-Muhammad Muslih al-Dīn bin Abdallāh Shīrāzī, Saadi Shirazi [(1210-1291)

  17. Burton, R. F., trans [Edward Retnisak]. Tales from the Gulistân, or Rose-Garden of the Sheikh Sa’di of Shirâz. 1888. London: Philip Allen, 1928.

  18. Sadi. Gulistan or Flower-Garden. Trans. James Ross. Ed. Charles Sayle. London: Walter Scott, n.d. [c.1890].

  19. Sa'ad ad-Din Varavini (c. 13th century)

  20. Varâvini, Sa’d al-Dîn. Contes du Prince Marzbân. 1220. Trans. Marie-Hélène Ponroy. Connaissance de l’Orient. Paris: Gallimard, 1992.

  21. Anthologies & Secondary Literature:

  22. Arberry, A. J., ed. The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám and Other Persian Poems: An Anthology of Verse Translations. Everyman’s Library 1996. London & New York: Dent & Dutton, 1954.

  23. Dole, Nathan Haskell, & Belle M. Walker, eds. The Persian Poets. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1901.

  24. Ernst, Paul, ed. Erzählungen aus tausendundein Tag; Vermehrt um andere Morgenländische Geschichten. Trans. Felix Paul Greve and Paul Hansmann. 2 vols. Frankfurt: Insel Verlag, 1987.

  25. Fehse, Willi, ed. The Thousand and One Days. Trans. Anthea Bell. London: Abelard-Schumann, 1971.

  26. Levy, Reuben, trans. The Three Dervishes and other Persian Tales and Legends. Oxford: Humphrey Milford, 1923.

  27. McCarthy, J., trans. The Thousand and One Days: Persian Tales. 2 vols. London: Chatto, 1892.

  28. Olcott, Frances Jenkins. Tales of the Persian Genii. Illustrated by Willy Pogany. London: George G. Harrap & Company Limited, 1919.

  29. Pétis de la Croix, ed. The Persian and Turkish Tales, compleat. Trans. Dr. King. 2 vols. London: Richard Ware, 1714.

  30. Safâ, Z., ed. Anthologie de la poésie persane: XIe-XXe siècle. Trans. G. Lazard, R. Lescot & H. Massé. Paris: Éditions Gallimard, 1964.

I've included poets as well as prose-writers here, as some of the crucial works in the frame-story tradition are in verse rather than prose (like Chaucer's Canterbury Tales). You'll observe that they all postdate the era of the original transmission of the 1001 Nights by quite some considerable margin. There are some fascinating and influential works of fiction here, though: Rumi's Gulistan (1259), for instance, or Varavini's Marzubannama (1220).

Which brings us, at long last, to the Nights themselves. I've had a great deal to say about them on this blog already (at various times). And for basic information about them I can't do better than refer you to my blog on the subject: Scheherazade's Web

Philip Cole: 1001 Nights (1952)

The 1001 Nights:

Categories: (chronological)
  1. Texts
  2. Major Translations:
    1. Antoine Galland [1704-1717] (French)
    2. Dom Dennis Chavis & M. Cazotte [1788-89] (French)
    3. Max. Habicht, Fr. H. von der Hagen, and Carl Schall [1824-25] (German)
    4. Gustav Weil [4 vols: 1837-41] (German)
    5. Edward William Lane [1839-40] (English)
    6. John Payne [1882-89] (English)
    7. Richard F. Burton [1885-88] (English)
    8. Max Henning [24 vols: 1895-97] (German)
    9. Andrew Lang [1898] (English)
    10. Dr. J. C. Mardrus [1899-1904] (French)
    11. Cary von Karwath [1906-14] (German)
    12. Laurence Housman [1907-14] (English)
    13. Enno Littmann [1921-28] (German)
    14. M. A. Salier [1929-36] (Russian)
    15. Francesco Gabrieli [1948] (Italian)
    16. A. J. Arberry [1953] (English)
    17. N. J. Dawood [1954-57] (English)
    18. René R. Khawam [1965-67 & 1985-88] (French)
    19. Felix Tauer [1928-34] (Czech & German)
    20. Husain Haddawy [1990-95] (English)
    21. Jamel Eddine Bencheikh & André Miquel [1991-2001 & 2005-7] (French)
    22. Malcolm & Ursula Lyons [2008] (English)
  3. Analogous Collections
  4. Imitations & Tributes
  5. Anthologies & Secondary Literature


  1. Habicht, Maximilian, & M. H. L. Fleischer, ed. Tausend und Eine Nacht Arabisch. Nach einer Handschrift aus Tunis. 12 vols. Breslau, 1825-43.

  2. Alf Laylah wa Laylah. 2 vols. Bulaq, A.H. 1251 [= 1835].

  3. Macnaghten, W. H., ed. The Alif Laila, or Book of the Thousand Nights and One Night, Commonly Known as ‘The Arabian Nights’ Entertainments;’ Now, for the First Time, Published Complete in the Original Arabic, from an Egyptian Manuscript Brought to India by the Late Major Turner Macan, Editor of the Shah-Nameh. 4 vols. Calcutta: W. Thacker, 1839-42.

  4. Zotenberg, Hermann. Histoire d’Alâ al-Din ou La Lampe Merveilleuse: Texte Arabe publié avec une notice sur quelques manuscrits des Mille et une nuits. Paris; Imprimerie Nationale, 1888.

  5. Alph Laylé Wa Laylé. 4 vols. Beirut: Al-Maktaba Al-Thakafiyat, A.H. 1401 [= 1981].

  6. Major Translations:

    Antoine Galland [12 vols: 1704-1717] (French)

  7. Galland, Antoine, trans. Les Mille et Une Nuits: Contes arabes traduits par Galland. 12 vols. 1704-17. Ed. Gaston Picard. 2 vols. 1960. Paris: Garnier, 1975.

  8. Galland, Antoine, trans. Les Mille et Une Nuits: Contes arabes. 12 vols. 1704-17. Ed. Jean Gaulmier. 3 vols. 1965. Paris: Garnier-Flammarion, 1990, 1985, 1991.

  9. Arabian Nights Entertainments: Consisting of One Thousand and One Stories, Told by the Sultaness of the Indies, to divert the Sultan from the Execution of a bloody Vow he had made to marry a Lady every day, and have her cut off next Morning, to avenge himself for the Disloyalty of his first Sultaness, &c. Containing a better Account of the Customs, Manners, and Religion of the Eastern Nations, viz. Tartars, Persians, and Indians, than is to be met with in any Author hitherto published. Translated into French from the Arabian Mss. by M. Galland of the Royal Academy, and now done into English from the last Paris Edition. London: Andrew Bell, 1706-17. 16th ed. 4 vols. London & Edinburgh: C. Elliot, 1781.

  10. Forster, Edward, trans. The Arabian Nights’ Entertainments. 1812. Rev. G. Moir Bussey. London: J. J. Chidley, 1846.

  11. The Arabian Nights’ Entertainments. [Trans. Antoine Galland]. Sir John Lubbock’s Hundred Books 67. London: Routledge, 1893.

  12. Mack, Robert L., ed. Arabian Nights’ Entertainments. The World’s Classics. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995.

  13. Dom Dennis Chavis & M. Cazotte [4 vols: 1788-89] (French)

  14. Chavis, Dom, and M. Cazotte, trans. La Suite des Mille et une Nuits, Contes Arabes. Cabinet des Fées 38-41. 4 vols. Geneva: Barde & Manget, 1788-89.

  15. Max. Habicht, Fr. H. von der Hagen, and Carl Schall [15 vols: 1824-25] (German)

  16. Habicht, Max., Fr. H. von der Hagen, and Carl Schall, trans. Tausend und Eine Nacht, Arabische Erzählungen. 1824-25. Ed. Karl Martin Schiller. 12 vols. Leipzig: F. W. Hendel, 1926.

  17. Gustav Weil [4 vols: 1837-41] (German)

  18. Weil, Gustav, trans. Tausendundeine Nacht. 1837-41. Ed. Inge Dreecken. 3 vols. Wiesbaden: R. Löwit, n.d. [c. 1960s]

  19. Weil, Gustav, trans. Liebesgeschichten aus Tausendundeiner Nacht, übertragen aus dem arabischen Urtext von Gustav Weil: Mit Holzstichen der Ausgabe von 1865. 1837-41. München: Delphin Verlag, 1987.

  20. Edward William Lane [3 vols: 1839-40] (English)

  21. Lane, Edward William, trans. The Thousand and One Nights, Commonly Called, in England, The Arabian Nights’ Entertainments. A New Translation from the Arabic, with Copious Notes. 3 vols. London: Charles Knight, 1839-41.

  22. Lane, Edward William, trans. The Thousand and One Nights; Commonly Called The Arabian Nights’ Entertainments. Ed. Edward Stanley Poole. 3 vols. 1859. London: Chatto, 1912.

  23. Lane, Edward William, trans. The Arabian Nights’ Entertainments. Ed. Stanley Lane-Poole. 4 vols. 1906. Bohn’s Popular Library. London: G. Bell, 1925.

  24. Lane, Edward William, trans. The Arabian Nights’ Entertainments or The Thousand and One Nights: The Complete, Original Translation of Edward William Lane, with the Translator’s Complete, Original Notes and Commentaries on the Text. New York: Tudor Publishing Co., 1927.

  25. Lane, Edward William, trans. The Thousand and One Nights, or Arabian Nights’ Entertainments. Wood Engravings from Original Designs by William Harvey. London: Chatto and Windus, 1930.

  26. John Payne [13 vols: 1882-89] (English)

  27. Payne, John, trans. The Book of the Thousand Nights and One Night; Now First Completely Done into English Prose and Verse, from the Original Arabic. 9 vols. London: Villon Society, 1882-84.

  28. Payne, John, trans. Tales from the Arabic of the Breslau and Calcutta (1814-’18) Editions of the Book of the Thousand Nights and One Night, Not Occurring in the Other Printed Texts of the Work; Now First Done into English. 3 vols. London: Villon Society, 1884.

  29. John Payne, Alaeddin and the Enchanted Lamp; Zein ul Asnam and the King of the Jinn; two stories done into English from the recently discovered Arabic text. London: Villon Society, 1889.

  30. Payne, John, trans. The Portable Arabian Nights. 1882-1884. Ed. Joseph Campbell. 1952. New York: The Viking Press, 1963.

  31. Payne, John, trans. The Book of the Thousand Nights and One Night. 1882-1884. Publisher's Note by Steven Moore. 3 vols. Ann Arbor, MI: Borders Classics, 2007.

  32. Richard F. Burton [16 vols: 1885-88] (English)

  33. Burton, Richard F, trans. A Plain and Literal Translation of The Arabian Nights’ Entertainments, Now Entituled The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night: With Introduction, Explanatory Notes on the Manners and Customs of Moslem Men and a Terminal Essay upon the History of the Nights. 10 vols. Benares [= Stoke-Newington]: Kamashastra Society, 1885. N.p. [= Boston]: The Burton Club, n.d.

  34. Burton, Richard F., trans. Supplemental Nights to the Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night with Notes Anthropological and Explanatory. 6 vols. Benares [= Stoke-Newington]: Kamashastra Society, 1886-88. 7 vols. N.p. [= Boston]: The Burton Club, n.d.

  35. Burton, Richard F., trans. The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night: A Plain and Literal Translation of the Arabian Nights Entertainments. 1885. 3 vols. New York: The Heritage Press, 1934.

  36. Burton, Richard F., trans. The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night: A Plain and Literal Translation of the Arabian Nights Entertainments. 1885. 10 vols. U.S.A.: The Burton Club, n.d. [c.1940s].

  37. Burton, Richard F., trans. Supplemental Nights to the Book of the Thousand and One Nights with Notes Anthropological and Explanatory. 1886-88. 6 vols. U.S.A..: The Burton Club, n.d. [c. 1940s].

  38. Zipes, Jack, ed. Arabian Nights: The Marvels and Wonders of the Thousand and One Nights, Adapted from Richard F. Burton’s Unexpurgated Translation. Signet Classic. New York: Penguin, 1991.

  39. Zipes, Jack, ed. Arabian Nights, Volume II: More Marvels and Wonders of the Thousand and One Nights, Adapted from Sir Richard F. Burton’s Unexpurgated Translation. Signet Classic. New York: New American Library, 1999.

  40. Max Henning [24 vols: 1895-97] (German)

  41. Henning, Max, trans. Tausend und eine Nacht. 1895-97. Ed. Hans W. Fischer. Berlin & Darmstadt: Deutsche Buch-Gemeinschaft, 1957.

  42. Andrew Lang [1 vol: 1898] (English)

  43. Lang, Andrew, ed. Tales from the Arabian Nights. Illustrated by H. J. Ford. 1898. London: Wordsworth Classics, 1993.

  44. Dr. J. C. Mardrus [16 vols: 1899-1904] (French)

  45. Mardrus, Dr. J. C., trans. Le Livre des Mille et une Nuits. 16 vols. Paris: Édition de la Revue blanche, 1899-1904. Ed. Marc Fumaroli. 2 vols. Paris: Laffont, 1989.

  46. Mathers, Edward Powys, trans. The Book of the Thousand Nights and One Night: Rendered from the Literal and Complete Version of Dr. J. C. Mardrus; and Collated with Other Sources. 1923. 8 vols. London: The Casanova Society, 1929.

  47. Mathers, E. Powys. Sung to Shahryar: Poems from the Book of the Thousand Nights and One Night. London: The Casanova Society, 1925.

  48. Mathers, E. Powys, trans. Arabian Love Tales: Being Romances Drawn from the Book of the Thousand Nights and One Night, Rendered into English from the Literal French Translation of Dr. J. C. Mardrus. Illustrated by Lettice Sandford. London: The Folio Society, 1949.

  49. Mathers, E. Powys, trans. The Book of the Thousand Nights and One Night: Rendered into English from the Literal and Complete French Translation of Dr. J. C. Mardrus. 4 vols. 1949. 2nd ed. 1964. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1972.

  50. Cary von Karwath [19 vols: 1906-14] (German)

  51. Karwath, Cary Von, trans. 1001 Nacht: Vollständige Ausgabe in 18 Taschenbüchern mit einem Zusatzband: Nach dem arabischen Urtext angeordnet und übertragen von Cary von Karwath. 1906-14. 19 vols. München: Goldmann Verlag, 1987.

  52. Laurence Housman [4 vols: 1907-14] (English)

  53. Housman, Laurence. Stories from the Arabian Nights. Illustrated by Edmund Dulac. 1907. New York: Doran, n.d.

  54. Housman, Laurence. Sindbad the Sailor and Other Stories from the Arabian Nights. Illustrated by Edmund Dulac. 1907. Weathervane Books. New York: Crown Publishers, Inc., 1978.

  55. Enno Littmann [6 vols: 1921-28] (German)

  56. Littmann, Enno, trans. Die Erzählungen aus den Tausendundein Nächten: Vollständige deutsche Ausgabe in zwölf Teilbänden zum ersten mal nach dem arabischen Urtext der Calcuttaer Ausgabe aus dem Jahre 1839 übertragen von Enno Littmann. 1921-28. 2nd ed. 1953. 6 vols in 12. Frankfurt am Main: Insel Verlag, 1976.

  57. Littmann, Enno, trans. Geschichten der Liebe aus den 1001 Nächten: Aus dem arabischen Urtext übertragen von Enno Littmann. Frankfurt am Main: Insel Verlag, 1973.

  58. M. A. Salier [8 vols: 1929-36] (Russian)

  59. Salier, M. A., trans. Тысяча и Одна Ночь. 1929-36. 6 vols. Санкт-Петербург: «Кристалл», 2000.

  60. Francesco Gabrieli [4 vols: 1948] (Italian)

  61. Gabrieli, Francesco, ed. Le mille e una notte: Prima versione integrale dall’arabo. Trans. Francesco Gabrieli, Antonio Cesaro, Constantino Pansera, Umberto Rizzitano and Virginia Vacca. 1948. Gli struzzi 35. 4 vols. Torino: Einaudi, 1972.

  62. Faccioli, Emilio, ed. Le mille e una notte: Scelta di racconti. Dall’edizione integrale diretta da Francesco Gabrieli. Letture per la Scuola Media 56. Torino: Einaudi, 1980.

  63. A. J. Arberry [1 vol: 1953] (English)

  64. Arberry, A. J., trans. Scheherazade: Tales from the Thousand and One Nights. London: Allen and Unwin, 1953.

  65. N. J. Dawood [2 vols: 1954-57] (English)

  66. Dawood, N. J., trans. The Thousand and One Nights: The Hunchback, Sindbad, and Other Tales. Penguin 1001. 1954. Penguin Classics L64. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1955.

  67. Dawood, N. J., trans. Aladdin and Other Tales from The Thousand and One Nights. Penguin Classics L71. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1957.

  68. Dawood, N. J., trans. Tales from the Thousand and One Nights. 1954-57. 2nd ed. 1973. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1982.

  69. René R. Khawam [7 vols: 1965-67 & 1985-88] (French)

  70. Khawam, René R., trans. Les Mille et une nuits. Traduction Nouvelle et Complète faite sur les Manuscrits par René R. Khawam. 4 Vols. Paris: Editions Albin Michel, 1965-67.

  71. Khawam, René R., trans. Les Mille et une nuits. 4 vols. 1965-67. 2nd ed. 1986. Paris: Presses Pocket, 1989.

  72. Khawam, René R., trans. Les Aventures de Sindbad le Marin. Paris: Phébus, 1985.

  73. Khawam, René R., trans. Les Aventures de Sindbad le Terrien. Paris: Phébus, 1986.

  74. Khawam, René R., trans. Le Roman d’Aladin. Paris: Phébus, 1988.

  75. Felix Tauer [8 vols: 1928-34] (Czech & German)

  76. Tauer, Felix, trans. Tisíc a Jedna Noc. 1928-34. 5 vols. 1973. Praha: Ikar, 2001.

  77. Tauer, Felix, trans. Erotische Geschichten aus den tausendundein Nächten: Aus dem arabischen Urtext der Wortley Montague-Handschrift übertragen und herausgegeben von Felix Tauer. 1966. Frankfurt am Main: Insel Verlag, 1983.

  78. Tauer, Felix, trans. Neue Erzählungen aus den Tausendundein Nächten: Die in anderen Versionen von »1001 Nacht« nicht enthaltenen Geschichten der Wortley-Montague-Handschrift der Oxforder Bodleian Library; Aus dem arabischen Urtext vollständig übertragen und erläutert von Felix Tauer. 2 vols. 1982. Frankfurt am Main: Insel Verlag, 1989.

  79. Husain Haddawy [2 vols: 1990-95] (English)

  80. Haddawy, Husain, trans. The Arabian Nights: Based on the Text of the Fourteenth-Century Syrian Manuscript edited by Muhsin Mahdi. New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 1990.

  81. Haddawy, Husain, trans. The Arabian Nights II: Sindbad and Other Popular Stories. New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 1995.

  82. Heller-Roazen, Daniel, ed. The Arabian Nights. The Husain Haddaway Translation Based on the Text Edited by Muhsin Mahdi: Contexts, Criticism. 1990 & 1995. A Norton Critical Edition. New York & London: W. W. Norton & Company, 2010.

  83. Jamel Eddine Bencheikh & André Miquel [7 vols: 1991-2001 & 2005-7] (French)

  84. Bencheikh, Jamel Eddine, and André Miquel, ed. Les Mille et Une Nuits: Contes choisis. Trans. Jamel Eddine Bencheikh, André Miquel & Touhami Bencheikh. 2 vols. Folio 2256-57. Paris: Gallimard, 1991.

  85. Bencheikh, Jamel Eddine, and André Miquel, ed & trans. Les Mille et Une Nuits: Contes choisis III. Folio 2775. Paris: Gallimard, 1996.

  86. Bencheikh, Jamel Eddine, and André Miquel, ed & trans. Sindbâd de la mer et autres contes des Mille et Une Nuits: Contes choisis IV. Folio 3581. Paris: Gallimard, 2001.

  87. Bencheikh, Jamel Eddine, and André Miquel, trans. Les Mille et Une Nuits. 3 vols. Bibliothèque de la Pléiade. Paris: Gallimard, 2005-7.

  88. Malcolm & Ursula Lyons [3 vols: 2008] (English)

  89. Lyons, Malcolm & Ursula, trans. The Arabian Nights: Tales of 1001 Nights. Introduction by Robert Irwin. 3 vols. Penguin Classics Hardback. London: Penguin, 2008.

  90. Lyons, Malcolm & Ursula, trans. Three Tales from The Arabian Nights. Penguin Classics. London: Penguin, 2008.

  91. Lyons, Malcolm & Ursula, trans. The Arabian Nights: Tales of 1001 Nights. Volume 1: Nights 1 to 294. Introduction by Robert Irwin. 3 vols. 2008. Penguin Classics. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 2010.

  92. Lyons, Malcolm & Ursula, trans. The Arabian Nights: Tales of 1001 Nights. Volume 2: Nights 295 to 719. Introduced & Annotated by Robert Irwin. 3 vols. 2008. Penguin Classics. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 2010.

  93. Lyons, Malcolm & Ursula, trans. The Arabian Nights: Tales of 1001 Nights. Volume 3: Nights 719 to 1001. Introduction by Robert Irwin. 3 vols. 2008. Penguin Classics. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 2010.

  94. Analogous Collections:

  95. Benalmocaffa, Abdalá. Calila y Dimna. Introducción, traducción y notas de Marcelino Villegas. Libro de Bolsillo: Clásicos 1512. Madrid: Alianza Editorial, 1991.

  96. Clerk, Mrs. Godfrey, trans. Ilâm-en-Nâs. Historical Tales and Anecdotes of the Time of the Early Kalîfahs. London: Henry S. King, 1873.

  97. Gaudefroy-Demombynes, M., trans. Les Cent et une Nuits. 1911. Bibliothèque Arabe. Paris: Sinbad, 1982.

  98. Kalila and Dimna: Selected Fables of Bidpai. Retold by Ramsay Wood. Introduction by Doris Lessing. 1980. London: Granada, 1982.

  99. Lewis, Geoffrey, trans. The Book of Dede Korkut. Penguin Classics. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1974.

  100. Mas'ūdī. From The Meadows of Gold. Trans. Paul Lunde & Caroline Stone. Penguin Great Journeys, 2. London: Penguin, 2007.

  101. Richmond, Diana. ’Antar and ’Abla, A Bedouin Romance: Rewritten and Arranged by Diana Richmond. London: Quartet Books, 1978.

  102. Rosen, Georg, trans. Tutti-Nameh: Das Papageienbuch. Aus der türkischen Fassung übertragen von Georg Rosen. Stuttgart: Europäischer Buchklub, 1957.

  103. Shah, Amina, trans. The Assemblies of Al-Hariri: Fifty Encounters with the Shaykh Abu Zayd of Seruj. London: The Octagon Press, 1980.

  104. Imitations & Tributes:

  105. Gueullette, Thomas. Les Mille et Un Quarts d’heure. 1785. Cabinet des Fées 4. 2 vols. Arles: Éditions Philippe Picquier, 1994.

  106. Lemirre, Elisabeth, ed. La Bibliothèque des Génies et des Fées. 1785. Cabinet des Fées 3. 1988. Arles: Éditions Philippe Picquier, 1994.

  107. Manuel, Don Juan. Count Lucanor, or The Fifty Pleasant Tales of Patronio. 1335. Trans James York. Broadway translations. London & New York: George Routledge & E. P. Dutton, n.d.

  108. Anthologies & Secondary Literature:

  109. Abou-Hussein, Hiam & Charles Pellat. Cheherazade: Personage Littéraire. Algiers: Société Nationale d’Édition et de Diffusion, 1976.

  110. Ali, Muhsin Jassim. Scheherazade in England: A Study of Nineteenth-Century English Criticism of the Arabian Nights. Washington: Three Continents Press, 1981.

  111. Bencheikh, Jamel Eddine. Les Mille et une Nuits ou la parole prisonnière. Bibliothèque des Idées. Paris: Gallimard, 1988.

  112. Bencheikh, Jamel Eddine, Claude Bremond and André Miquel. Mille et un Contes de la Nuit. Bibliothèque des Idées. Paris: Gallimard, 1991.

  113. Campbell, Kay Hardy, Ferial J. Ghazoul, Andras Hamori, Muhsin Mahdi, Christopher M. Murphy, & Sandra Naddaff. The 1001 Nights: Critical Essays and Annotated Bibliography. Mundus Arabicus 3. Cambridge, Mass.: Dar Mahjar, 1983.

  114. Caracciolo, Peter L., ed. The Arabian Nights in English Literature: Studies in the Reception of The Thousand and One Nights into British Culture. London: Macmillan, 1988.

  115. Chauvin, Victor. La Récension Égyptienne des Mille et Une Nuits. Bruxelles: Office de Publicité / Société Belge de Librairie, 1899.

  116. Chauvin, Victor. Bibliographie des ouvrages arabes ou relatifs aux arabes publiés dans l’Europe chrétienne de 1810 à 1885. 12 vols. Liège: H. Vaillant-Carmanne, Leipzig: O. Harrassowitz, 1892-1922.

  117. Chebel, Malek. Psychanalyse des Mille et Une Nuits. 1996. Petite Bibliothèque Payot. Paris: Editions Payot & Rivages, 2002.

  118. Eliséef, Nikita. Thèmes et motifs des Mille et Une Nuits: Essai de Classification. Beirut: Institut Français de Damas, 1949.

  119. Gerhardt, Mia I. The Art of Story-Telling: A Literary Study of the Thousand and One Nights. Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1963.

  120. Ghazoul, Ferial Jabouri. The Arabian Nights: A Structural Analysis. Cairo: Cairo Associated Institution for the Study and Presentation of Arab Cultural Values, 1980.

  121. Ghazoul, Ferial J. Nocturnal Poetics: The Arabian Nights in Comparative Context. Cairo : The American University in Cairo Press, 1996.

  122. Glubb, John Bagot. Haroon al Rasheed and the Great Abbasids. London: Hodder, 1976.

  123. Hamori, Andras. On the Art of Medieval Arabic Literature. 1974. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1975.

  124. Irwin, Robert. The Arabian Nights: A Companion. London: Allen Lane, 1994.

  125. Kilito, Abdelfattah. L’oeil et l’aiguille: Essai sur “les mille et une nuits.” Textes à l’appui: série islam et société. Paris: Editions la Découverte, 1992.

  126. Kritzeck, James, ed. Anthology of Islamic Literature: From the Rise of Islam to Modern Times. Harmondsworth: Pelican Books, 1964

  127. Lahy-Hollebecque, Marie. Schéhérazade ou L’éducation d’un Roi. 1927. Collection Destins de Femmes. Paris: Pardès, 1987.

  128. Lane, E. W. Manners and Customs of the Modern Egyptians. 1836. Ed. E. Stanley Poole. Everyman’s Library 315. London: Dent, New York: Dutton, 1963.

  129. Larzul, Sylvette. Les Traductions Françaises des Mille et Une Nuits: Études des versions Galland, Trébutien et Mardrus. Précédée de “Traditions, traductions, trahisons,” par Claude Bremond. Paris: L’Harmattan, 1996.

  130. Lichtenstadtler, Ilse. Introduction to Classical Arabic Literature, with Selections from representative Works in English Translation. 1974. New York: Schocken Books, 1976.

  131. Lynch, Enrique. La Lección de Sheherazade. Barcelona: Editorial Anagrama, 1987.

  132. Mahdi, Muhsin. The Thousand and One Nights. Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1995.

  133. Marzolph, Ulrich, & Richard van Leeuwen, with the assistance of Hassan Wassouf, ed. The Arabian Nights Encyclopedia. 2 vols. Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO, 2004.

  134. Marzolph, Ulrich, ed. The Arabian Nights Reader. Series in Fairy-Tale Studies. Detroit, Michigan: Wayne State University Press, 2006.

  135. Mathers, Edward Powys, trans. The Anthology of Eastern Love. 12 vols in 4. London: John Rodker, 1927-30.

  136. May, Georges. Les Mille et une nuits d’Antoine Galland, ou le chef d’oeuvre invisible. Paris: P.U.F., 1986.]

  137. Naddaff, Sandra. Arabesque: Narrative Structure and the Aesthetics of Repetition in the 1001 Nights. Evanston, Illinois: Northwestern University Press, 1991.

  138. Nicholson, Reynold A. A Literary History of the Arabs. 1907. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1969.

  139. Pinault, David. Story-Telling Techniques in the Arabian Nights. Studies in Arabic Literature 15. Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1992.

  140. Ranelagh, E. J. The Past We Share: The Near Eastern Ancestry of Western Folk Literature. London: Quartet, 1979.

  141. Shah, Idries, ed. World Tales: the Extraordinary Coincidence of Stories Told in All Times, in All Places. 1979. London: Octagon P, 1991.

  142. Ullah, Najib. Islamic Literature: An Introductory History with Selections. New York: Washington Square P, 1963.

  143. Weber, Edgard. Imaginaire Arabe et Contes Erotiques. Collection Comprendre le Moyen-Orient. Paris: Editions L’Harmattan, 1990.

  144. Yohanna, John D., ed. A Treasury of Asian Literature. Readers Union. 1958. London: Phoenix House, 1960.

As you can see, I've been collecting books in this area for quite some time. The above list of major translations doesn't include all the retellings and abridgements I own (though if you'd like to check them out, they're all listed here. I think it includes all the major translations in most European languages - though with the notable exception of the various versions in Spanish: Vicente Blasco Ibañez's translation of Mardrus (1923), Rafael Cansinos-Assens (1960), Juan Vernet (1964-67) and Juan A. G. Larraya & Leonor Martínez Martín (1965).

The essential thing to note about them is that there are two major manuscript traditions: the Syrian (exemplified by Galland, and codified in Muhsin Mahdi's 1984 critical edition of the 14th century Ms. Galland). The best version of this in English is Husain Haddawy's 1990 translation of Mahdi. It's distinguished by intricacy and literary complexity, notably in such stories as "The Tale of the Hunchback" or "The Porter and the Three Ladies of Baghdad."

The second major manuscript tradition, the Egyptian (generally known as ZER: for "Zotenberg's Egyptian Recension) is much later, reaching its final elaboration in the late eighteenth, early nineteenth century, before being fixed in its present form by the 1835 Bulaq edition of the Arabic text. This is much longer and more compendious than the Syrian tradition, but appears to have been created largely to meet European demands for a "complete" text of the 1001 Nights, already well known from Galland's translation. The most complete translation of this version is Burton's, but probably the most convenient to read is Malcolm and Ursula Lyon's 2008 Penguin Classics edition.

There are many excellent critical books on the Nights, as you can see from the list above. If I had to recommend just one, though, it would be Andras Hamori's 1974 On the Art of Medieval Arabic Literature, for its brilliantly innovative analysis of the narrative complexity of such stories as "The City of Brass" and (once again) "The Three Ladies of Baghdad." There's much useful information (and good bibliographies) in Peter L. Caracciolo's The Arabian Nights in English Literature: Studies in the Reception of The Thousand and One Nights into British Culture (1988), though.

Peter L. Caracciolo: The Arabian Nights in English Literature (1988)


Richard said...


re the Pachatantra. I was surprised to see how many editions there are online for sale. Is it somewhat like Aesop's Tales? Is there some old connection or maybe these things repeat.

I am also guilty of not finishing Don Quixote. But like Perec's 'Life a User's Manual' it is a book one can dip into.

I also am very keen on The Golden Ass. I got to that via a lit.crit book called 'Re-making it New...' on various US poets by Lynn Keller, and it dealt in part with James Merrill and a poem of his concentrating on the Psyche and Eros story at the end.

Some great work and scholarship here.

Dr Jack Ross said...

Dear Richard,

The Panchatantra travelled to the west as "Kalila and Dimna" or "The Fables of Bidpai" and was extant in many diverse forms in different traditions (Arabic, Latin etc.) Some of the fables do double up on Aesop, but the exact process of transmission is a bit beyond conjecture (though undeniable) ... More on the Golden Ass in my next post.