“To start a story and not survive to finish it would be the same as taking you both in a boat out into the middle of the sea, and then leaving you there without oars.”–Shahrazad, One Thousand and One Nights
- Here’s what happens:
- This is a sharp retelling of ancient Persian stories and legends. Inspired by a famous king’s decision to deflower and destroy all the virgins he can get his hands on, our brave narrator Shahrazad begins weaving many tumultuous, violent, and explicit tales to keep the king spell-bound and, consequently, too distracted to kill. These stories are old, and many are familiar from various retellings, but Al-Shaykh’s modern language and fast-paced story-telling keep them fresh and easily read.
- It’s good because:
- Though I mentioned some of these stories are rather familiar, many are less famous and, frankly, quite bizarre. The outlandish premises coupled with the contemporary translations (seriously–you’ll be surprised how many four-letter words and orgies find their way onto your pages) keep you on your toes as a reader.
- Read if:
- You enjoy the myths of another culture. Folklore and storytelling are one of the most interesting means to explore a different corner of the world, though sometimes the laborious old language or stiff translations can be a hindrance. Fortunately, that is not the case with this text! If you are interested at all in the stories of what we in the west often refer to as Arabian Nights, this lively and graphic retelling is worth a read.
Up next: Ethiopia with Abraham Verghese’s Cutting for Stone!