Friday, March 29, 2024

The Annotated Arabian Nights

Yasmine Seale, trans.: The Annotated Arabian Nights. Ed. Paulo Lemos Horta (2021)

A new translation of the Thousand and One Nights can be quite a hard sell. You'll note that I've listed some 27 of them at the foot of this post - and that's just a selection ...

They range from the first - and still most influential - Antoine Galland's 12-volume French translation (1704-17), to a more recent 4-volume Spanish translation by Salvador Peña Martín (2016).

Among them there are a dozen or so English versions, at least three of them - Payne, Burton, and Lyons - claiming to be 'complete' (whatever, precisely, that can be taken to mean):
  1. Anonymous (from Antoine Galland) [1706-21] (French / English)
  2. George Lamb (from Joseph von Hammer-Purgstall) [1826] (French / English)
  3. Henry Torrens [1838] (English)
  4. Edward W. Lane [1839-40] (English)
  5. John Payne [1882-89] (English)
  6. Richard F. Burton [1885-88] (English)
  7. Andrew Lang (mostly retold from Galland) [1898] (English)
  8. Laurence Housman (mostly retold from Galland) [1907-14] (English)
  9. E. Powys Mathers (from Dr. J. C. Mardrus) [1923] (French / English)
  10. A. J. Arberry [1953] (English)
  11. N. J. Dawood [1954-57] (English)
  12. Husain Haddawy [1990-95] (English)
  13. Malcolm & Ursula Lyons [2008] (English)
I'm pleased to record that there's now another to add to that tally:

Yasmine Seale: Aladdin: A New Translation (2019)

The Annotated Arabian Nights, together with her earlier single-volume Aladdin, constitute all that we've seen so far of French-Syrian poet and translator Yasmine Seale's 1001 Nights. It's possible that there may be more to come, however. According to her Wikipedia entry Seale "is the first woman to translate the entirety of The Arabian Nights from French and Arabic into English."

The "entirety of The Arabian Nights" cannot be referring solely to Seale's and her collaborator Paulo Lemos Horta's Annotated Arabian Nights. While that book certainly presents a very extensive selection from the immense body of materials which constitute the Nights, it can certainly not be called "complete."

Gabriel Roth Horta: Paulo Lemos Horta

Richard F. Burton (1885-88) filled 16 closely-printed volumes with his own attempt to provide a complete Arabian Nights. A good deal of that consisted of annotation and commentary, but the same cannot be said of John Payne (1882-89), whose translation eventually occupied 13 volumes of text, covering much the same territory.

The most recent "complete" English version of the Egyptian recension of the Nights (by far the most extensive of the various textual traditions), by Malcolm C. & Ursula Lyons (2008), occupies three volumes and 2,700-odd pages. But even that has been (lightly) edited for repetitions and redundancies.

Perhaps the most complete (and most universally praised) modern translation, Jamel Eddine Bencheikh and André Miquel's 3-volume French version for the Bibliothèque de la Pléiade (2005-07) clocks in at 3,504 pages.

Hannā Diyāb: The Book of Travels (2022)

So what precisely is Seale's contribution to the Arabian Nights tradition? Here's Wikipedia again, in their page dedicated to the One Thousand and One Nights:
A new English language translation was published in December 2021, the first solely by a female author, Yasmine Seale, which removes earlier sexist and racist references. The new translation includes all the tales from Hanna Diyab and additionally includes stories previously omitted featuring female protagonists, such as tales about Parizade, Pari Banu, and the horror story Sidi Numan.
The reference to Hannā Diyāb is to a young Syrian traveller who visited Europe in the early eighteenth century, and - among all the other adventures detailed in his recently translated travel book - seems to have been the informant "Hanna from Aleppo" who told (or wrote out for?) Antoine Galland the so-called "orphan tales" which occupy the bulk of the last four volumes - roughly a third - of his translation.

To call Hannā Diyāb the co-author of the collection, as Paulo Lemos Horta does in his 2017 book Marvellous Thieves, is therefore no real exaggeration. Galland's diary for the period 1708-15 record details of 14 stories told him by the sbove-mentioned "Hanna from Aleppo". Roughly ten of these, albeit in greatly expanded form, made it into the final text of his Mille et une nuits (1704-17):
  1. Histoire d'Aladdin ou la Lampe merveilleuse [The Story of Aladdin, or the Wonderful Lamp] (told in 1709: May 5) [included in Galland, Vol. 9]
  2. Les aventures de Calife Haroun Alraschid [The Night Adventures of Caliph Haroun-Al-Raschid] (May 10) [Vol. 10]
    1. Histoire de l'Aveugle Baba-Alidalla [The Story of the Blind Baba-Alidalla]
    2. Histoire de Sidi Nouman [History of Sidi Nouman]
  3. Histoire de Cogia Hassan Alhababbal [The Story of Cogia Hassan Alhababbal] (May 29) [Vol. 10]
  4. Histoire d'Ali-Baba et de quarante voleurs exterminés par une esclave [Tale of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves] (May 27) [Vol. 11]
  5. Histoire d'Ali Cogia, Marchand de Bagdad [The Story of Ali Cogia, Merchant of Baghdad] (May 29) [Vol. 11]
  6. Histoire du Cheval enchanté [The Ebony Horse] (May 13) [Vol. 11]
  7. Histoire du prince Ahmed et de la fee Pari-Banou [History of Prince Ahmed and the Pari-Banou] (May 22) [Vol. 12]
  8. Histoire des deux Soeurs jalouses de leur cadette [The Story of the two sisters jealous of their younger sister] (May 25) [Vol. 12]
As you can see, they include such classic tales as "Aladdin" and "Ali Baba". Galland made no reference to this indebtedness in any of his published writings. However, since he died while his translation was still in progress (the final two volumes appeared posthumously), this may have been more inadvertent than deliberate.

Publishers Weekly: Yasmine Seale has retranslated Aladdin (19/10/18)

But going back to Yasmine Seale's original translation of Aladdin. In his Guardian review of the book (2/11/18), Richard Lea quotes her as admitting that these recent discoveries of the full extent of Galland's indebtedness to Hannā Diyāb have had little effect on her version, since “the only text we have is Galland’s, and that is what I have to work with”:
But knowing the story of the tale’s construction makes Aladdin “a document of exchange, of translation on several levels, a product of both the Arabic and French literary traditions.”
Seale continues, “I’m less interested in what ‘a Frenchman’ or ‘a Syrian’ might have invented than in the particular voices of these two men”:
Both came from learned, cosmopolitan cities. They were complex products of their knowledge and experience – who isn’t? Each was familiar with and fascinated by the other’s culture and language.
As for the Nights themselves, she sees them as "part of the bloodstream of world literature. They’re furniture, like the great myths. Because of their endless, slippery nature (a sea of stories without an author) they have flowed freely across borders of language and genre.”

Robert Irwin: The Arabian Nightmare (1983)

In an earlier interview with Wendy Smith for Publisher's Weekly (10/10/18), Seale revealed something of her own background, and the reason why she sees herself as such an ideal translator for such "slippery", cross-cultural works:
My mother is Syrian, but my father was a mix: his parents were Russian and Tunisian, he had grown up in Britain, and both my parents wrote in English. I grew up speaking and hearing three languages: French, English, and Arabic. For a long time I felt that I was just going to be French; my studies focused on French literature, and that was going to be my identity. Then I thought, ‘No, I must learn Arabic and understand it properly — that’s part of my heritage.’ That’s why this work has been so pleasurable; I feel I can bring all that to the table and I don’t have to choose. Galland’s description of Topkapi Palace — which I can see from my window — finds its way into the descriptions of the mythical palaces in Aladdin, but so do Diyab’s experiences at the palace of Versailles. Aladdin is neither just an Orientalist fantasy, nor is it just the vision of a Syrian person in France; it’s both at the same time, and I find it moving that it can be both.

Edward Said: Orientalism (1978)

This sense of the Nights as a work so contaminated by diverse cultural influences that the very notion of "fidelity to the original", normally so crucial in translation, becomes literally meaningless, underlies Seale's work on both Aladdin and the Annotated Arabian Nights. As she herself puts it:
Fidelity to what? When you have a story that exists in 80 different versions, you have to make choices. To translate the Nights means continuing to shape the stories and acknowledging that you are bringing your own sensibility to them rather than pretending it doesn’t exist.
Finally, it seems, the Nights may have found a translator who not only understands but actually embodies their paradoxical nature:
I was trying to bring out the freshness, vivacity, and wit I saw in the original French; Galland was an incredibly witty and playful person. I didn’t want to do what a lot of other translators of the Nights have done, which is to translate it into deliberately archaic language. The 19th-century translators all did this, Richard Burton most famously; his translations, even by Victorian standards, are incredibly florid and elaborate. It was a way of creating this sense of distance from the world these texts came from — a sense that the East was unfathomable, strange, and alien. I wanted to bring out the modernity that is already in the text.

Lord Leighton: Sir Richard Burton (1876)

I have to acknowledge the truth in this. Much though I adore Burton's Nights, it is almost necessary to learn a new language, Burtonian, to understand them. Perhaps that's why they've had such an influence on writers who were not native speakers of English: Jorge Luis Borges, most famously, but also Hugo von Hoffmansthal in Austria and Junichiro Tanizaki in Japan.

Her comments on the actual process of translation are fascinating, too:
Translating the 14th-century Arabic texts is “a completely different experience,” Seale comments. “Galland’s style is fairly close to what we would recognize as English prose, but in the Arabic there is no punctuation; clauses are separated by the word wa, which means and, or the word fa, which can mean so, or then, or however, or because. As a translator, you have to intervene to shape the narrative and create a readable English paragraph. To want ‘authenticity’ in The Arabian Nights is a bit of a misnomer: these are stories that have continually shifted, that are constantly changing, that are made of their accretions and layers.”

Ferdinand Keller: Scheherazade and the Sultan (1880)

It's perhaps a bit cheeky - not to mention somewhat predictable - to suggest an analogy here with the legendary Scheherazade herself, subject - as well as putative author - of the Arabian Nights in much the same sense as we postulate the authors of other "inspired" writings. But then, Seale does almost invite the comparison:
"In the framing story that begins the Nights, this king kills his unfaithful wife and decides to take a new woman every night and kill her in the morning,” she explains. “Scheherazade intervenes and says, ‘I will save my sisters from this fate.’ What we know about her from the story is that she has collected books, she has a library, she has studied and memorized tales from previous times and the history of bygone ages. She is in this sense a translator and reinterpreter of these stories. Thinking about Scheherazade helped me think about the whole text as a series of conduits — stories being channeled through a series of vessels, Scheherazade being one. Every single person who has written them down, every translator, everyone who’s added to this ocean of stories, is a kind of boatman ferrying the stories along. It makes sense to me, rather than thinking about this binary of original and translation, to break down that boundary.
As for her own relationship to the text:
Translating Aladdin, Yasmine Seale says, “made me feel like there was a plan in my life all along and everything had been leading to this moment.” Speaking from a sun-drenched room in her home in Istanbul, she explains, “It was written down in the 18th century by a Frenchman, Antoine Galland, based on the story he was told by a young Syrian traveler named Hanna Diyab, so it is both a product of France and also of the Arab world. I grew up in France and studied French literature, with a particular interest in the 18th century, and then went to university and studied Arab literature. So it’s a text that combines my two great interests."
In other words, she too has "collected books", she too "has a library", and "has studied and memorized tales from previous times and the history of bygone ages."

So if we are being invited here to imagine Yasmine Seale as a Scheherazade for our own times, what better USP [= Unique Selling Point] could there be for a new translation of this most evergreen, baffling, and slippery of works, the Arabian Nights?

Seriously, how can you hesitate to add this beautifully illustrated and annotated new translation to your own bookshelf? I, for one, am thoroughly sold.

Michael Holtmann: Yasmine Seale's Annotated Arabian Nights (17/11/21)

Jack Ross: Arabian Nights Bookcase (30-7-2021)
[photograph: Bronwyn Lloyd]

The 1001 Nights:

    Texts & Translations:

    1. Texts [c.800-1986] [Arabic]
    2. Antoine Galland [1704-1717] (French)
    3. Dom Dennis Chavis & M. Cazotte [1788-89] (French)
    4. Maximilian Habicht [1824-25] (German)
    5. Joseph von Hammer-Purgstall et al. [1826] (French / German / English)
    6. Gustav Weil [1837-41] (German)
    7. Henry Torrens [1838] (English)
    8. Edward W. Lane [1839-40] (English)
    9. John Payne [1882-89] (English)
    10. Richard F. Burton [1885-88] (English)
    11. Max Henning [1895-97] (German)
    12. Andrew Lang [1898] (English)
    13. Dr. J. C. Mardrus [1899-1904] (French)
    14. Cary von Karwath [1906-14] (German)
    15. Laurence Housman [1907-14] (English)
    16. Enno Littmann [1921-28] (German)
    17. M. A. Salye [1929-36] (Russian)
    18. Francesco Gabrieli [1948] (Italian)
    19. A. J. Arberry [1953] (English)
    20. Rafael Cansinos-Asséns [1954-55] (Spanish)
    21. N. J. Dawood [1954-57] (English)
    22. René R. Khawam [1965-67 & 1985-88] (French)
    23. Felix Tauer [1928-34] (Czech & German)
    24. Husain Haddawy [1990-95] (English)
    25. Jamel Eddine Bencheikh & André Miquel [1991-2001 & 2005-7] (French)
    26. Malcolm & Ursula Lyons [2008] (English)
    27. Salvador Peña Martín [2016] (Spanish)
    28. Yasmine Seale [2019-2021] (English)
    29. Miscellaneous

    Galland manuscript (14th Century CE)



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

  2. Arabic Key Readers. A Thousand and One Nights: Graduated Readings for English Speaking Students – Book 1: Story of the Book, Nights 1 through 9. Retold by Michel Nicola. Troy, Michigan: International Book Centre, 1986.

  3. 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.

  4. Antoine Galland: Les Mille et Une Nuits (1704-17)


    Antoine Galland (1646-1715) – [12 vols: 1704-1717] (French)

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. The Arabian Nights. Illustrated with Engravings from Designs by R. Westall, R. A. 4 vols. London: Printed for C and J. Rivington et al., 1825.

  9. Forster, the Rev. Edward, trans. The Arabian Nights’ Entertainments. 1812. Rev. G. Moir Bussey. Illustrated by 24 Engravings from Designs by R. Smirke, Esq. R. A. London: Joseph Thomas / T. Tegg; and Simpkin, Marshall, and Co., 1840.

  10. Galland, A. Las Mil y Una Noches: Cuentos orientales. Trans. Pedro Pedraza y Páez. Biblioteca Hispania. Barcelona: Editorial Ramón Sopena, 1934.

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

  12. Denis Chavis & Jacques Cazotte (fl. 1780s / 1719-1792) – [4 vols: 1788-89] (French)

  13. 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.

  14. Maximilian Habicht et al. (1775-1839) – [15 vols: 1824-25] (German)

  15. 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.

  16. Joseph von Hammer-Purgstall / Guillaume-Stanislas Trébutien / George Lamb (1774-1856 / 1800-1870 / 1784-1834) – [3 vols: 1826] (German / French / English)

  17. Lamb, George, trans. New Arabian Nights' Entertainments, Selected from the Original Oriental Ms. by J. Von Hammer, and Now First Translated into English. 1826. 3 vols in 1. Milton Keynes, UK: Palala Press, 2015.

  18. Gustav Weil (1808-1889) – [4 vols: 1837-41] (German)

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

  20. Henry Whitelock Torrens (1806-1852) – [1 vol: 1838] (English)

  21. Torrens, Henry, trans. The Book of the Thousand Nights and One Night: Translated from the Arabic of the Ægyptian M.S. as edited by Wm. Hay Macnaghten, Esqr. 1838. India: Pranava Books, n.d.

  22. Edward William Lane (1801-1876) – [3 vols: 1839-40] (English)

  23. 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.

  24. 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.

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

  26. 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.

  27. 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.

  28. John Payne (1842-1916) – [13 vols: 1882-89] (English)

  29. Payne, John, trans. Oriental Tales: The Book of the Thousand Nights and One Night [and other tales]. 1882-97. 15 vols. Herat edition (limited to 500 copies): No. 141. London: Printed for Subscribers Only, 1901.
    1. 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)
    2. The Book of the Thousand Nights and One Night (vol. 2)
    3. The Book of the Thousand Nights and One Night (vol. 3)
    4. The Book of the Thousand Nights and One Night (vol. 4)
    5. The Book of the Thousand Nights and One Night (vol. 5)
    6. The Book of the Thousand Nights and One Night (vol. 6)
    7. The Book of the Thousand Nights and One Night (vol. 7)
    8. The Book of the Thousand Nights and One Night (vol. 8)
    9. The Book of the Thousand Nights and One Night (vol. 9)
    10. 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)
    11. Tales from the Arabic (vol. 2)
    12. Tales from the Arabic (vol. 3)
    13. 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)
    14. The Persian letters, with introduction and notes, done into English from the original by Montesquieu (London, 1897)
    15. A Thousand and One Quarters of an Hour and Tartarian Tales, by Thomas Simon Gueulette (London, 1897)

  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 (1821-1890) – [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. 10 vols. U.S.A.: The Burton Club, n.d. [c.1940s].

  36. 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].

  37. Burton, Richard F., trans. The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night: A Plain and Literal Translation of the Arabian Nights Entertainments. 1885. Decorated with 1001 Illustrations by Valenti Angelo. 3 vols. New York: The Heritage Press, 1934.

  38. Burton, Richard F., trans. The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night: A Plain and Literal Translation of the Arabian Nights Entertainments. 1885. Decorated with 1001 Illustrations by Valenti Angelo. 3 vols. 1934. The Heritage Press. New York: The George Macy Companies, Inc., 1962.

  39. Burton, Richard F., trans. The Arabian Nights’ Entertainments, or The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night: A Selection of the Most Famous and Representative of these Tales. Ed. Bennett A Cerf. 1932. Introductory Essay by Ben Ray Redman. New York: Modern Library, 1959.

  40. Burton, Sir Richard, trans. The Arabian Nights’ Entertainments. Notes by Henry Torrens, Edward Lane, John Payne. Illustrations by Arthur Szyk. 1955. The 100 Greatest Books Ever Written. Norwalk, Connecticut: The Easton Press, 1983.

  41. Burton, Richard F. Love, War and Fancy: The Customs and Manners of the East from Writings on The Arabian Nights. Ed. Kenneth Walker. 1884. London: Kimber Paperback Library, 1964.

  42. Chagall, Marc, illus. Arabian Nights: Four Tales from a Thousand and One Nights. Introduction by Norbert Nobis. Trans. Richard F. Burton. Munich: Prestel-Verlag, 1988.

  43. 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.

  44. 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.

  45. Max Henning (1861-1927) – [24 vols: 1895-97] (German)

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

  47. Andrew Lang (1844-1912) – [1 vol: 1898] (English)

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

  49. Lang, Andrew, trans. Tales from The Arabian Nights. 1898. Illustrated by Edmond Dulac. Afterword by Pete Hamill. The World’s Best Reading. Sydney & Auckland: Reader’s Digest, 1991.

  50. Dr. J. C. Mardrus (1868–1949) – [16 vols: 1899-1904] (French)

  51. 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.

  52. 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.

  53. Mardrus, Dr J. C. The Queen of Sheba: Translated into French from his own Arabic Text. Trans. E. Powys Mathers. London: The Casanova Society, n.d. [1924].

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

  55. 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.

  56. 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.

  57. The Arabian Nights: The Book of the Thousand Nights and One Night, Rendered into English from the Literal and Complete French Translation of Dr. J. C. Mardrus by Powys Mathers. Introduction by Marina Warner. 6 vols. London: The Folio Society, 2003.
    • Vol. 1: with 8 colour illustrations by Kay Nielsen, 375 pp.
    • Vol. 2: with 8 colour illustrations by Grahame Baker, 424 pp.
    • Vol. 3: with 8 colour illustrations by Debra McFarlane, 424 pp.
    • Vol. 4: with 8 colour illustrations by Roman Pisarev, 424 pp.
    • Vol. 5: with 8 colour illustrations by Jane Ray, 431 pp.
    • Vol. 6: with 8 colour illustrations by Neil Packer, 448 pp.

  58. Cary von Karwath (?) – [19 vols: 1906-14] (German)

  59. 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.

  60. Laurence Housman (1865-1959) – [4 vols: 1907-14] (English)

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

  62. 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.

  63. Enno Littmann (1875-1958) – [6 vols: 1921-28] (German)

  64. 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.

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

  66. Mikhail Alexandrovich Salye (1899-1961) – [8 vols: 1929-36] (Russian)

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

  68. Francesco Gabrieli (1904-1996) – [4 vols: 1948] (Italian)

  69. 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.

  70. 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.

  71. Arthur John Arberry (1905-1969) – [1 vol: 1953] (English)

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

  73. Arberry, A. J., trans. Scheherazade: Tales from the Thousand and One Nights. Illustrations by Asgeir Scott. 1953. A Mentor Book. New York: New American Library, 1955.

  74. Rafael Cansinos-Asséns (1882-1964) – [3 vols: 1954-55] (Spanish)

  75. Cansinos Asséns, Rafael, trans. Libro de las mil y una noches, por primera vez puestas en castellano del árabe original. Prologadas, anotadas y cotejadas con las principales versiones en otras lenguas y en la vernácula por Rafael Cansinos Asséns. 3 vols. 1954-55. Mexico: Aguilar, 1990.

  76. Nessim Joseph Dawood (1927-2014) – [2 vols: 1954-57] (English)

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

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

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

  80. René R. Khawam (1917-2004) – [7 vols: 1965-67 & 1985-88] (French)

  81. 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.

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

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

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

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

  86. Felix Tauer (1893-1981) – [8 vols: 1928-34] (Czech & German)

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

  88. 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.

  89. 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.

  90. Husain Haddawy (?) – [2 vols: 1990-95] (English)

  91. 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.

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

  93. 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.

  94. Jamel Eddine Bencheikh & André Miquel (1930-2005 / 1929- ) – [10 vols: 1977-2001 & 2005-7] (French)

  95. Miquel, André. Un Conte des Mille et Une Nuits: Ajîb et Gharîb (Traduction et perspectives d’analyse). Paris: Flammarion, 1977.

  96. Miquel, André. Sept contes des Mille et Une Nuits, ou Il n’y a pas de contes innocents, suivi d’entretiens autour de Jamaleddine Bencheikh et Claude Brémond. Paris: Sindbad, 1981.

  97. Bremond, Claude, ed. Les Dames de Bagdad: Conte des Mille et une nuits. Trans. André Miquel / Claude Bremond, A Chraïbi, A. Larue, and M. Sironval. La Nébuleuse du conte: Essai sur les premiers contes de Galland. Paris: Desjonquères, 1991.

  98. Bencheikh, Jamel Eddine, and André Miquel, ed. Les Mille et Une Nuits: Contes choisis. Trans. Jamel Eddine Bencheikh, André Miquel & Touhami Bencheikh. 4 vols. Folio. Paris: Gallimard, 1991-2001.

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

  100. Album Mille et Une Nuits: Iconographie. Choisie et commentée par Margaret Sironval. Albums de la Pléiade, 44. Bibliothèque de la Pléiade. Paris: Gallimard, 2005.

  101. Prof. Malcolm C. & Dr. Ursula Lyons (1929-2019 / ?-2016) – [3 vols: 2008] (English)

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

  103. 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.

  104. 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.

  105. 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.

  106. Lyons, Malcom C., trans. Tales of the Marvellous and News of the Strange. Introduction by Robert Irwin. Penguin Classics. 2014. London: Penguin Random House UK, 2015.

  107. Salvador Peña Martín (1958- ) – [4 vols: 2016] (Spanish)

  108. Peña Martín, Salvador, trans. Mil y una noches. 4 vols. 2016. Madrid: Editorial Verbum, 2018.

  109. Yasmine Seale (1989- ) – [2 vols: 2019-2021] (English)

  110. Seale, Yasmine, trans. Aladdin: A New Translation. Ed. Paulo Lemos Horta. Liveright Publishing Corporation. New York & London: W. W. Norton & Company, 2019.

  111. Seale, Yasmine, trans. The Annotated Arabian Nights: Tales from 1001 Nights. Ed. Paulo Lemos Horta. Foreword by Omar El Akkad. Afterword by Robert Irwin. Liveright Publishing Corporation. New York & London: W. W. Norton & Company, 2021.

  112. Miscellaneous

  113. Blyton, Enid. Tales from the Arabian Nights: Retold by Enid Blyton. Illustrated by Anne & Janet Johnstone. 1951. London: Latimer House, 1956.

  114. Bull, René, illus. The Arabian Nights. Children’s Classics. Bath: Robert Frederick, 1994.

  115. Ouyang, Wen-Ching, & Paulo Lemos Horta, ed. The Arabian Nights: An Anthology. Everyman’s Library 361. A Borzoi Book. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2014.

  116. Pinson, R. W., ed. Märchen aus 1001 Nacht: Die berühmten Geschichten aus dem Morgenland. Selected by G. Blau, A. Horn & R. W. Pinson. 1979. Bindlach: Gondrom Verlaf GmbH, 2001.

  117. Samsó, Julio, trans. Antología de Las Mil y Una Noches. Libro de Bolsillo: Clásicos 599. Madrid: Alianza Editorial, 1975.

  118. Scott, Anne, ed. Tales from the Arabian Nights. Retold by Vladimir Hulpach. Trans. Vera Gissing. Illustrated by Mária Zelibská. London: Cathay Books, 1981.

  119. Weber, Henry, ed. Tales of the East: Comprising the Most Popular Romances of Oriental Origin, and the Best Imitations by European Authors: with New Translations, and Additional Tales, Never Before Published: to which is prefixed an introductory dissertation, containing the account of each work, and of its author, or translator. 3 vols. Edinburgh: James Ballantyne, 1812.
      Vol. I:
    • The Arabian Nights [Galland (1704-17)]
    • New Arabian Nights' Entertainments [Chavis & Cazotte (1788-89)]
    • Vol. II:
    • New Arabian Nights' Entertainments (cont.)
    • Persian Tales [Pétis de la Croix (1710)]
    • Persian Tales of Inatulla [Alexander Dow (1768)]
    • Oriental Tales [A. C. P., Comte de Caylus (1749)]
    • Nourjahad [Frances Sheridan (1767)]
    • "Four Additional Tales from the Arabian Nights" [Caussin de Perceval (1806)]
    • Vol. III:
    • The Mogul Tales [Thomas-Simon Gueullette (1723)]
    • Turkish Tales [Pétis de la Croix (1710)]
    • Tartarian Tales [Thomas-Simon Gueullette (1723)]
    • Chinese Tales [Thomas-Simon Gueullette (1723)]
    • Tales of the Genii [James Ridley (1764)]
    • History of Abdalla the Son of Hanif [Jean Paul Bignon (1713)]

  120. Wiggin, Kate Douglas & Nora A. Smith, eds. The Arabian Nights: Their Best-Known Tales. Illustrated by Maxfield Parrish. New York: Quality Paperback Book Club, 1996.

  121. Williams-Ellis, Amabel. The Arabian Nights Stories Retold. 1957. London: Blackie, 1972.

Jack Ross: Arabian Nights Bookcase (30-7-2021)
[photograph: Bronwyn Lloyd]

Secondary Literature:

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

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

  3. Baroud, Mahmoud. The Shipwrecked Sailor in Arabic and Western Literature: Ibn Tufail and His Influence on European Writers. London & New York: I. B. Tauris & Co Ltd, 2012.

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

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

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.
    • Vol. 1: Préface (pp. v-xxxix). 1892.
    • Vol. 2: Kalîlah. 1897.
    • Vol. 3: Louqmâne et les Fabulistes. Barlaam. Antar et les Romans de chevalerie. 1898.
    • Vol. 4: Les 1001 Nuits (1ere partie). 1900.
    • Vol. 5: Les 1001 Nuits (2ème partie). 1901.
    • Vol. 6: Les 1001 Nuits (3ème partie). 1902.
    • Vol. 7: Les 1001 Nuits (4ème partie). 1903.
    • Vol. 8: Syntipas. 1904.
    • Vol. 9: Recueils Orientaux. (pp. 57-95). 1905.
    • Vol. 10: Table des Matières. (pp. 145-46). 1907.

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

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

  11. Diyāb, Hannā. The Book of Travels. Trans. Elias Muhanna. Foreword by Yasmine Seale. Introduction by Johannes Stephan. Afterword by Paulo Lemos Horta. Library of Arabic Literature, 87. 2021. New York: New York University Press, 2022.

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

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

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

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

  16. Hamori, Andras. On the Art of Medieval Arabic Literature. 1974. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1975.

  17. Horta, Paulo Lemos. Marvellous Thieves: Secret Authors of the Arabian Nights. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2017.

  18. Irwin, Robert. The Arabian Nightmare. 1983. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1988.

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

  20. 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.

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

  22. 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.

  23. 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.

  24. Lewis, Bernard. The Muslim Discovery of Europe. 1982. London: Phoenix, 1994.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  34. Sallis, Eva K. Sheherazade through the Looking Glass: The Metamorphosis of the Thousand and One Nights. Curzon Studies in Arabic and Middle Eastern Literatures. Richmond, Surrey: Curzon Press, 1999.

  35. Von Grunebaum, Gustave E. Medieval Islam: A Study in Cultural Orientation. 1946. Phoenix Books 69. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1962.

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

Robert Irwin: The Arabian Nights: A Companion (1994)

Sunday, March 03, 2024

Classic Ghost Story Writers: L. P. Hartley

Joseph Losey, dir.: The Go-Between (1971)
[writ. Harold Pinter / adapted from the 1953 novel by L. P. Hartley]

"The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.”

This, the opening line of The Go-Between, is certainly L. P. Hartley's most commonly quoted phrase - though it does closely resemble an expression first used by his friend Lord David Cecil in his inaugural lecture as Goldsmiths' Professor in 1949:
Past periods are like foreign countries: regions inhabited by men of like passions to our own, but with different customs and codes of behaviour.
The Fine Art of Reading (1957)

L. P. Hartley (1895-1972)

Amongst all his other achievements as a novelist and man of letters, Hartley is perhaps not so well known as the author of some of the most effective ghost stories of the twentieth century.

Which are the best among them? Well, "A Visitor from Down Under" certainly takes pride of place. "The Travelling Grave" runs it a close second, though. What else? "Podolo", certainly - possibly "Feet Foremost", also.

You'll note that all of these are quite early stories, written, though not necessarily collected, before the Second World War, after which his energies turned decisively towards establishing himself as a novelist of manners, somewhat in the vein of Aldous Huxley or Henry James.

So what is it that makes this handful of stories so outstanding?

L. P. Hartley: A Visitor from Down Under (1926)

Let's start with "A Visitor from Down Under".

The protagonist of the story, Mr. Rumbold, has sat down in the lounge of his hotel to have an apéritif before dinner. After a while, he realises he can hear a voice - "A cultivated voice, perhaps too cultivated, slightly husky, yet careful and precise in its enunciation" - coming from the wall above his head:
‘ . . . A Children’s Party,’ the voice announced in an even, neutral tone, nicely balanced between approval and distaste, between enthusiasm and boredom; ‘six little girls and six little’ (a faint lift in the voice, expressive of tolerant surprise) ‘boys. The Broadcasting Company has invited them to tea, and they are anxious that you should share some of their fun.’ (At the last word the voice became completely colourless.) ‘I must tell you that they have had tea, and enjoyed it, didn’t you, children?’ (A cry of ‘Yes,’ muffled and timid, greeted this leading question.) ‘We should have liked you to hear our table-talk, but there wasn’t much of it, we were so busy eating.’ For a moment the voice identified itself with the children. ‘But we can tell you what we ate. Now, Percy, tell us what you had.’
Obviously a voice on the radio, obviously from some kind of children's hour broadcast. So far, so banal. But as it continues, things begin to seem just a little bit ... off:
A piping little voice recited a long list of comestibles; like the children in the treacle-well, thought Rumbold, Percy must have been, or soon would be, very ill. A few others volunteered the items of their repast. ‘So you see,’ said the voice, ‘we have not done so badly. And now we are going to have crackers, and afterwards’ (the voice hesitated and seemed to dissociate itself from the words) ‘Children’s Games.’ There was an impressive pause, broken by the muttered exhortation of a little girl. ‘Don’t cry, Philip, it won’t hurt you.’ Fugitive sparks and snaps of sound followed; more like a fire being kindled, thought Rumbold, than crackers. A murmur of voices pierced the fusillade. ‘What have you got, Alec, what have you got?’ ‘I’ve got a cannon.’ ‘Give it to me.’ ‘No.’ ‘Well, lend it to me.’ ‘What do you want it for?’ ‘I want to shoot Jimmy.’
After that the games begin. After "Ring-a-Ring of Roses", it's "Oranges and Lemons", with its sinister refrain:
Here is a candle to light you to bed,
And here comes a chopper to chop off your head!
A child screamed, and there was silence.
"Mr. Rumbold felt quite upset, and great was his relief when, after a few more half-hearted rounds of ‘Oranges and Lemons,’ the Voice announced, ‘Here We Come Gathering Nuts and May.’ At least there was nothing sinister in that."
The game began afresh. This time there was an eager ring in the children’s voices: two tried antagonists were going to meet: it would be a battle of giants. The chant throbbed into a war-cry.
Who will you have for your Nuts and May,
Nuts and May, Nuts and May;
Who will you have for your Nuts and May
On a cold and frosty morning?
They would have Victor Rumbold for Nuts and May, Victor Rumbold, Victor Rumbold: and from the vindictiveness in their voices they might have meant to have had his blood, too.
And who will you send to fetch him away,
Fetch him away, fetch him away;
Who will you send to fetch him away
On a cold and frosty morning?
Like a clarion call, a shout of defiance, came the reply:
We’ll send Jimmy Hagberd to fetch him away,
Fetch him away, fetch him away;
We’ll send Jimmy Hagberd to fetch him away
On a wet and foggy evening.
I think by now we can tell that it's all up with Mr. Victor Rumbold. Whatever it is that he's been getting up to down under, Jimmy Hagberd's coming to deal with him. And, when the visitor finally arrives at the hotel:
‘... take this message to Mr. Rumbold,’ said the stranger. ‘Say, “Would he rather that I went up to him, or that he came down to me?” ’
It doesn't make much difference in the end.

There are, to be sure, many such stories of nemesis being visited upon some smug fraudster, but it's the incidental details - such as the fact that the visitor comes to Mr. Rumbold on the top of a London bus, and finds considerable difficulty in paying his fare - which singles it out from the others:
‘Look here, now. Where do you want this ticket? In your button-hole?’

‘Put it here,’ said the passenger.

‘Where?’ asked the conductor. ‘You aren’t a blooming letter-rack.’

‘Where the penny was,’ replied the passenger. ‘Between my fingers.’

The conductor felt reluctant, he did not know why, to oblige the passenger in this. The rigidity of the hand disconcerted him: it was stiff, he supposed, or perhaps paralysed. And since he had been standing on the top his own hands were none too warm. The ticket doubled up and grew limp under his repeated efforts to push it in. He bent lower, for he was a good-hearted fellow, and using both hands, one above and one below, he slid the ticket into its bony slot.
That radio broadcast, steadily getting stranger and stranger, is the real prize of the piece, however. The person who wrote that had some personal demons, I would say, or at any rate found little difficulty in conjuring up such things.

Hermione Lee: Penelope Fitzgerald: A Life (2014)

Penelope Fitzgerald, before she took to writing fiction, spent quite a number of years researching a biography of L. P. Hartley. She'd already written a book about her father and three eccentric uncles, The Knox Brothers (1977), as well as a life of the poet Charlotte Mew.

The L. P. Hartley book remained still-born, however, which is a bit of a shame. There are many respects in which she might have been the ideal commentator on the immense oddity of both his inner and outer lives.

It's an open secret that the intense brother-and-sister relationship which is the principal subject of his Eustace and Hilda trilogy is based on his own feelings about his domineering older sister Enid. He was 49 before he dared to publish it, and it made him famous. When he followed it a few years later with The Go-Between, W. H. Auden told Hartley that he was his favourite novelist.

Not everyone was so enthusiastic about his work. After the publication of his first long fiction Simonetta Perkins (1925), Virginia Woolf asked him, "Have you written any more shabby books, Mr. Hartley?" referring to it as "one that might have been written by a man with one foot in England and the other in Venice".

Poveglia (Venice)

The second story I've chosen to discuss is one which nicely illustrates the problems associated with being "a man with one foot in England and the other in Venice." It's called "Podolo," and is set on a small island in the Venetian lagoon. So far as I can tell, there is no island called "Podolo", but there's certainly one called "Poveglia" (pictured above):
For more than 100 years, beginning in 1776, the island was used as a quarantine station for those suffering the plague and other diseases, and later as a mental hospital. The mental hospital closed in 1968, and the island has been vacant ever since ...
Visits to the island are prohibited, but various books and articles report on visits by writers and/or photographers. Believers in the paranormal have claimed that Poveglia is the most haunted island, or the most haunted place in the world.
- Wikipedia: Poveglia
What, then, of the story itself? It begins with some lighthearted plans for a visit to the island by the narrator, his friend Angela, and her husband Walter. Walter cries off, as he has business in Trieste, so the other two set off for their picnic together.
The sunlight sparkled on the water; the gondola, in its best array, glowed and glittered. ‘Say good-bye to Angela for me,’ cried Walter as the gondolier braced himself for the first stroke. ‘And what is your postal address at Podolo?’ ‘Full fathom five,’ I called out, but I don’t think my reply reached him.
There are already some ominous undertones in this sunny opening. There's clearly something going on between the narrator and Angela, right under Walter's nose, and getting her away to a deserted spot seems more than a trifle devious on his part. As for their destination:
Until you get right up to Podolo you can form no estimate of its size. There is nothing near by to compare it with. On the horizon it looks like a foot-rule. Even now, though I have been there many times, I cannot say whether it is a hundred yards long or two hundred. But I have no wish to go back and make certain.
The trouble begins shortly after they reach the island. Angela spots a mangy little stray cat, and is determined to catch it and bring it back with them. After a few unavailing attempts to seize it, after luring to her with food, she changes her approach:
‘I tell you what,’ Angela said suddenly, ‘if I can’t catch it I’ll kill it. It’s only a question of dropping one of these boulders on it. I could do it quite easily.’ She disclosed her plan to Mario [the gondolier], who was horror-struck. His code was different from hers. He did not mind the animal dying of slow starvation; that was in the course of nature. But deliberately to kill it! ‘Poveretto! It has done no one any harm,’ he exclaimed with indignation. But there was another reason, I suspected, for his attitude. Venice is overrun with cats, chiefly because it is considered unlucky to kill them. If they fall into the water and are drowned, so much the better, but woe betide whoever pushes them in.
Angela is unimpressed by Mario - and the narrator's - logic.
‘Let’s go and explore the island,’ she said, ‘until it’s time to bathe. The cat will have got over its fright and be hungry again by then, and I’m sure I shall be able to catch it. I promise I won’t murder it except as a last resource.’
I don't think I can say too much more without spoiling the story for you, but let's just say that the narrator dozes off after his meal, and Angela goes off exploring by herself. Their search for her, on the tiny, darkening island, is pretty perfunctory. Mainly because there appears to be someone - or something - else there.
We soon lost sight of each other in the darkness, but once or twice I heard Mario swearing as he scratched himself on the thorny acacias. My search was more successful than I expected. Right at the corner of the island, close to the water’s edge, I found one of Angela’s bathing shoes: she must have taken it off in a hurry for the button was torn away. A little later I made a rather grisly discovery. It was the cat, dead, with its head crushed. The pathetic little heap of fur would never suffer the pangs of hunger again. Angela had been as good as her word.
At this point, Mario rushes up, bundles him into the boat, and starts rowing frantically away from the island. Later on he explains:
‘When I found her,’ he whispered, ‘she wasn’t quite dead.’

I began to speak but he held up his hand.

‘She asked me to kill her.’

‘But, Mario!’

‘ “Before it comes back,” she said. And then she said, “It’s starving, too, and it won’t wait. ...” ’ Mario bent his head nearer but his voice was almost inaudible.

‘Speak up,’ I cried. The next moment I implored him to stop.

Mario clambered on to the poop.

‘You don’t want to go to the island now, signore?’

‘No, no. Straight home.’

I looked back. Transparent darkness covered the lagoon save for one shadow that stained the horizon black. Podolo. ...
Make of that what you will.

It's not that the plot of the story is so remarkable. Just as "A Visitor from Down Under" is a fairly standard vengeful revenant story, so "Podolo" is an account of what you fear might happen if you wander around some haunted old ruins at twilight. But in both cases it's the odd, outré details that count: In "A Visitor" it's the threatening radio broadcast, and in "Podolo" it's the joint, unspoken decision both men, the gondolier and her cavalier servente, make to leave Angela behind on the island.

She (it is implied) is the trouble-maker; she is the one who has insisted on hunting through all the crevices of the island for the small but viciously feral cat, despite Mario's warning that "It has been put here on purpose." And whatever she finds there is far beyond her powers, just as it turns out, unfortunately, to be equally beyond theirs.

It's a dark, rather nasty story, which leaves a bad taste in the mouth. But it's also an almost perfect illustration of M. R. James's doctrines on the best way to inculcate fear:
Let us be introduced to the actors in a placid way; let us see them going about their ordinary business, undisturbed by forebodings, pleased with their surroundings; and into this calm environment let the ominous thing put out its head, unobtrusively at first, and then more insistently, until it holds the stage.

L. P. Hartley: The Travelling Grave (2017)

I'd like to go on and analyse some more of his stories: "The Travelling Grave" itself, in particular, not to mention the haunted house story "Feet Foremost", but I hope that I've said enough to persuade you that L. P. Hartley was a haunted man, and therefore a haunted writer.

Not everyone can combine the two conditions, and his later work does not really maintain the fierce intensity of these early stories. His Complete Stories is a fascinating book, however: well worth reading from cover to cover by anyone who has the time or the inclination.

Though perhaps, as many of his stories imply, you'd better make time. The life you save may be your own. Even if it involves sacrificing a cat-killer - or (for that matter) a coffin-collector, or a few of their business associates - along the way ...

"Drawing on exclusive access to unpublished private papers, this is the first biography of novelist Leslie Poles Hartley, covering his life and work from his childhood at Fletton Tower, Peterborough, his relationship with his mother, his experiences in the Great War, his homes in Venice, Bath and London, and his struggle to come to terms with his homosexuality."

Henry Lamb: L. P. Hartley (1938)

Leslie Poles Hartley

Books I own are marked in bold:

  1. Simonetta Perkins (1925)
    • Included in: The Complete Short Stories of L. P. Hartley. Introduction by Lord David Cecil. London: Hamish Hamilton, 1973.
  2. The Shrimp and the Anemone. Eustace and Hilda Trilogy I (1944)
  3. The Sixth Heaven. Eustace and Hilda Trilogy II (1946)
  4. Eustace and Hilda. Eustace and Hilda Trilogy III (1947)
    • Included in: Eustace and Hilda: A Trilogy. ['The Shrimp and the Anemone,' 1944; 'The Sixth Heaven,' 1946; 'Eustace and Hilda,' 1947]. 1958. Introduction by Lord David Cecil. London: Faber, 1979.
  5. The Boat (1949)
  6. My Fellow Devils (1951)
  7. The Go-Between (1953)
    • The Go-Between. 1953. The Modern Novel Series. London: Heinemann Educational Books, 1966.
  8. A Perfect Woman (1955)
  9. The Hireling (1957)
  10. Facial Justice (1960)
  11. The Brickfield (1964)
  12. The Betrayal (1966)
    • Included in: The Brickfield and The Betrayal. 1964 & 1966. London: Hamish Hamilton, 1973.
  13. Poor Clare (1968)
  14. The Love-Adept: A Variation on a Theme (1969)
  15. My Sisters' Keeper (1970)
  16. The Harness Room (1971)
  17. The Collections: A Novel (1972)
  18. The Will and the Way (1973)

  19. Stories:

    1. The Island (1924) [NF] [TG] [CSS] [CMS]
    2. Talent (1924) [NF]
    3. Night Fears (1924) [NF] [TG] [CSS] [CMS]
    4. The Telephone Call (1924) [NF]
    5. St. George and the Dragon (1924) [NF]
    6. Friends of the Bridegroom (1924) [NF]
    7. A Portrait (1924) [NF]
    8. A Sentimental Journey (1924) [NF]
    9. A Beautiful Character (1924) [NF]
    10. A Summons (1924) [NF] [WW] [CSS] [CMS]
    11. A Visit to the Dentist (1924) [NF]
    12. The New Prime Minister (1924) [NF]
    13. A Condition of Release (1924) [NF] [WW] [CSS]
    14. A Tonic (1924) [NF] [WW] [CSS]
    15. Witheling End (1924) [NF]
    16. Apples (1924) [NF] [WW] [CSS]
    17. The Last Time (1924) [NF]
    18. A Visitor from Down Under (1932) [KB] [TG] [CSS] [CMS]
    19. The Killing Bottle (1932) [KB] [TG] [CSS] [CMS]
    20. Conrad and the Dragon (1932) [KB] [TG] [CSS] [CMS]
    21. A Change of Ownership (1932) [KB] [TG] [CSS] [CMS]
    22. The Cotillon (1932) [KB] [TG] [CSS] [CMS]
    23. Feet Foremost (1932) [KB] [TG] [CSS] [CMS]
    24. Podolo (1948) [TG] [CSS] [CMS]
    25. Three, or Four, for Dinner (1948) [TG] [CSS] [CMS]
    26. The Travelling Grave (1948) [TG] [CSS] [CMS]
    27. The Thought (1948) [TG] [CSS] [CMS]
    28. The White Wand (1954) [WW] [CSS]
    29. Witheling End (1954) [WW] [CSS]
    30. Mr Blandfoot's Picture (1954) [WW] [CSS]
    31. A Rewarding Experience (1954) [WW] [CSS]
    32. W.S. (1954) [WW] [CSS] [CMS]
    33. The Vaynes (1954) [WW] [CSS] [CMS]
    34. Monkshood Manor (1954) [WW] [CSS] [CMS]
    35. Up the Garden Path (1954) [WW] [CSS]
    36. Hilda's Garden (1954) [WW] [CSS]
    37. The Price of the Absolute (1954) [WW] [CSS]
    38. Two for the River (1961) [TR] [CSS] [CMS]
    39. Someone in the Lift (1961) [TR] [CSS] [CMS]
    40. The Face (1961) [TR] [CSS] [CMS]
    41. The Corner Cupboard (1961) [TR] [CSS] [CMS]
    42. The Waits (1961) [TR] [CSS] [CMS]
    43. The Pampas Clump (1961) [TR] [CSS] [CMS]
    44. Won by a Fall (1961) [TR] [CSS]
    45. A Very Present Help (1961) [TR] [CSS]
    46. A High Dive (1961) [TR] [CSS]
    47. The Crossways (1961) [TR] [CSS] [CMS]
    48. Per Far L'Amore (1961) [TR] [CSS] [CMS]
    49. Interference (1961) [TR] [CSS] [CMS]
    50. Noughts and Crosses (1961) [TR] [CSS]
    51. The Pylon (1961) [TR] [CSS] [CMS]
    52. Mrs Carteret Receives (1971) [MCR] [CSS] [CMS]
    53. Paradise Paddock (1971) [MCR] [CSS] [CMS]
    54. Pains and Pleasures (1971) [MCR] [CSS] [CMS]
    55. Please Do Not Touch (1971) [MCR] [CSS] [CMS]
    56. Roman Charity (1971) [MCR] [CSS] [CMS]
    57. Home Sweet Home (1971) [MCR] [CSS] [CMS]
    58. The Shadow on the Wall (1971) [MCR] [CSS] [CMS]
    59. The Silver Clock (1971) [MCR] [CSS]
    60. Fall In at the Double (1971) [MCR] [CSS] [CMS]
    61. The Sound of Voices (2001) [CMS]
    62. Mrs G. G. (2001) [CMS]
    63. The Stain on the Chair (2001) [CMS]

    Short Story Collections:

  20. Night Fears (1924) [NF]
    1. The Island
    2. Talent
    3. Night Fears
    4. The Telephone Call
    5. St. George and the Dragon
    6. Friends of the Bridegroom
    7. A Portrait
    8. A Sentimental Journey
    9. A Beautiful Character
    10. A Summons
    11. A Visit to the Dentist
    12. The New Prime Minister
    13. A Condition of Release
    14. A Tonic
    15. Witheling End
    16. Apples
    17. The Last Time
  21. The Killing Bottle (1932) [KB]
    1. A Visitor from Down Under
    2. The Killing Bottle
    3. Conrad and the Dragon
    4. A Change of Ownership
    5. The Cotillon
    6. Feet Foremost
  22. The Travelling Grave and Other Stories (US 1948 / UK 1951) [TG]
    1. A Visitor from Down Under
    2. Podolo
    3. Three, or Four, for Dinner
    4. The Travelling Grave
    5. Feet Foremost
    6. The Cotillon
    7. A Change of Ownership
    8. The Thought
    9. Conrad and the Dragon
    10. The Island
    11. Night Fears
    12. The Killing Bottle
  23. The White Wand and Other Stories (1954) [WW]
    1. The White Wand
    2. Apples
    3. A Tonic
    4. A Condition of Release
    5. Witheling End
    6. Mr Blandfoot's Picture
    7. A Rewarding Experience
    8. W.S.
    9. The Vaynes
    10. Monkshood Manor
    11. Up the Garden Path
    12. Hilda's Garden
    13. A Summons
    14. The Price of the Absolute
  24. Two for the River (1961) [TR]
    1. Two for the River
    2. Someone in the Lift
    3. The Face
    4. The Corner Cupboard
    5. The Waits
    6. The Pampas Clump
    7. Won by a Fall
    8. A Very Present Help
    9. A High Dive
    10. The Crossways
    11. Per Far L'Amore
    12. Interference
    13. Noughts and Crosses
    14. The Pylon
  25. The Collected Short Stories of L. P. Hartley (1968)
  26. Mrs. Carteret Receives (1971) [MCR]
    1. Mrs Carteret Receives
    2. Paradise Paddock
    3. Pains and Pleasures
    4. Please Do Not Touch
    5. Roman Charity
    6. Home Sweet Home
    7. The Shadow on the Wall
    8. The Silver Clock
    9. Fall In at the Double
  27. The Complete Short Stories of L. P. Hartley (1973) [CSS]
    1. Simonetta Perkins (1925)
    2. The Travelling Grave and Other Stories (1951)
    3. The White Wand and Other Stories (1954)
    4. Two for the River (1961)
    5. Mrs. Carteret Receives (1971)]
    • The Complete Short Stories of L. P. Hartley. Introduction by Lord David Cecil. London: Hamish Hamilton, 1973.
  28. The Collected Macabre Stories (2001) [CMS]
      From the Introduction to Lady Cynthia Asquith’s Third Ghost Book
    1. A Visitor from Down Under
    2. Podolo
    3. Three, or Four, for Dinner
    4. The Travelling Grave
    5. Feet Foremost
    6. The Cotillon
    7. A Change of Ownership
    8. The Thought
    9. Conrad and the Dragon
    10. The Island
    11. Night Fears
    12. The Killing Bottle
    13. A Summons
    14. W.S.
    15. The Two Vaynes
    16. Monkshood Manor
    17. Two for the River
    18. Someone in the Lift
    19. The Face
    20. The Corner Cupboard
    21. The Waits
    22. The Pampas Clump
    23. The Crossways
    24. Per Far L'Amore
    25. Interference
    26. The Pylon
    27. Mrs Carteret Receives
    28. Fall In at the Double
    29. Paradise Paddock
    30. Roman Charity
    31. Pains and Pleasures
    32. Please Do Not Touch
    33. Home Sweet Home
    34. The Shadow on the Wall
    35. The Sound of Voices
    36. Mrs G. G.
    37. The Stain on the Chair

  29. Non-fiction:

  30. The Novelist's Responsibility (1967)

  31. Edited:

  32. Essays by Divers Hands. Volume XXXIV (1966)

L. P. Hartley: The Collected Macabre Stories (2001)