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New Translation of Arabian Nights Gives Women Back Their Stories

By December 18, 2021New Releases, News

Female protagonists in the Arabian Nights tales are finally making a comeback thanks to Yasmine Seale’s new English translation.

This will be the first English translation of the tales to be written by a woman, and it strips “the Orientalism and the added, interpolated racism and sexism Burton brought to the stories. If nothing else, this new edition knocks Burton’s finally off its pedestal,” according to editor Paulo Lemos Horta.

English readers will finally be able to enjoy tales of the “formidable” Princess Budur and Dalila the Crafty, who could “lure a snake from its lair” a “master of ruses and rackets”

The Annotated Arabian Nights will be released in December 2021, and will be a welcome antidote to the Francis Bruton 1885 translation, which had been peppered with racist tropes and sexism not in the original Middle Eastern and Indian tales.

The collection of tales is also known as The Thousand and One Nights, The Arabian Nights and dates back to the ninth century. The stories are told by Shahrazad, a woman married to the murderous Shahriyar, a king who kills a new wife every day. To save her life each night, Shahrazad tells a story but leaves it unfinished so the king will let her live in order to hear the end of the tale.

Editor Horta explained that Seale, a French-Syrian translator and poet, is the first woman to translate all the tales into English, and includes all the female protagonists previously omitted.

Publisher WW Norton welcomes the new translations, saying that the English-speaking world has had to rely on outdated translations of the Arabian Nights “for too long”.

“Seale’s distinctly contemporary and lyrical translations break decisively with this masculine dynasty, finally stripping away the deliberate exoticism of Orientalist renderings while reclaiming the vitality and delight of the stories,” said the publisher.



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