Saturday, February 27, 2010

1001 Nights (Burton Translation)

When I was a child I had a well-loved but abridged copy of 1001 Nights (aka Arabian Nights). I knew there were some stories which were missing from my copy, so I figured I could read the whole thing and find out what wondrous tales have been excised in the name of brevity.

Well, as it turns out, I'm guessing not all the stories were excised for considerations of length. There's one, which goes on at some length, that involves a man carousing completely naked with three women and uses a lot of explicit terms. Yeah, they won't put that one in the children's edition, that's for sure. The story's not over yet either; the way the stories are nested several layers deep means that it'll be a few more chapters before I get to find out what happens to them and why the ladies are so willing to get nekkid with the guy who carried their groceries, or beat their dogs so cruelly.

Also, I'm noticing a theme in all these stories. Miscegenation seems to be a common theme. It seems that one of the greatest fears in the ancient Middle East is that their women will get it on with a black guy. The black men are always described as hideous and large-lipped. Now I'm not so sensitive that I don't mind discussing racial stereotypes with my kids. We have black friends and my older kids read Frederick Douglass' autobiography quite some time ago, so they know the truth, and they need to be aware of stereotypes, if only to know what to avoid. But it just gets grating how 1001 Nights seems to obsess about the whole miscegenation thing. Every third story has a woman getting it on with a black guy behind somebody's back.