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Arabian Nights, free to a good home
Bar Harbor
Once upon a time, I was a frequent storyteller, and one of my lesser specialties was Arabian Mythology. Through luck, and the financial assistance of a dear friend, I acquired a 17-volume edition of Sir Richard Burton's fabled translation of The Thousand Nights and a Night. I began reading it with great gusto. A volume or two in, I discovered, with some amazement, that the pages had not all been cut -- this book had never been read all the way through! I thought scornfully of the previous owner(s).

Well, time went on. Arabian material was never my *primary* focus as a storyteller, and eventually my storytelling days faded largely into the past. To my embarrassment, I never finished reading it either (though I got several volumes further than previous owner(s) had). And I now realize that I am unlikely ever to pick it up and continue reading, and it's taking up over 2 feet of valuable shelf space. It's time to let go.

If you can convince me that you will actually read the whole thing, I will give it to you for free. Otherwise, I'm asking $200, which I suspect is about what a bookseller would give me. (Similar sets from booksellers are asking $350.) If you will make *some* use of it, other than "looking impressive" on a shelf, I'll settle for less. Picture below.


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Alf layl wa layl!

I'd read the whole thing -- I've read exerpts. I'm not sure I have the shelf space for it right now. If no one else is interested, let me know and I'll see what I can come up with.

Hey Hugh, I missed seeing you at the Buttery this year; will you be about for New Year's?

I'm not sure. But if I am out and about, I'll be sure to swing by the Buttery.

If you want, I can bring the set by in a box. I don't require that it be displayed, only that it get read!

I'd love to be able to read it in the Original Klingon, but my Arabic's a long way from being up to that so Burton is probably the next best bet. I've read any number of exerpts, bests of, and so on -- as well as chunks of Burton. But I have yet to read the whole thing.

We had a full set of Burton in my school library -- not sure if it's the same edition as yours -- and I read several volumes more or less at random there.

Let's talk about it at New Years at the Buttery.

Didn't see you at Buttery. The set has migrated to a box in my front hall, ready to go. Still interested?

I think so. I might even have space for it on the shelves soon. I've just dropped off the first load of "read once and pass on" that had got stuck after the "read once" bit. Goodwill is either going to love me or hate me by the time I'm done.

Stop by some evening, then? Call first to make sure someone's home. (617)501-8190.

What's a good day? I can make most weekday evenings -- except Wednesday this week.

I'm home most weeknights by 7:30 or so.

So how good is Burton, in your opinion? More or less readable than other contemporaneous translations? Containing a lot of hidden gems, or not so much?

I would like to adapt (some tiny fraction of the) 1001 Nights as a graphic novel at some point, but that doesn't necessarily mean that I would be able to push through the 17-volume translation in its entirety.

Burton is, above all, COMPLETE. He doesn't leave anything out, and there are copious footnotes. In one notable story (about testing one character's knowledge), the footnotes outweigh the text by a considerable margin! Reading the Burton will make the structural complexity of the piece clearer than anyone else.

His prose is quite readable, but one aspect of being so thoroughly complete is that the pacing is considerably uneven. You can finish up a novel-length story, only to rapidly pop back up two layers, with no very good reminders about the story you are now (back) in.

I recommend Burton for scholars, or for those who have read a shorter version and want more. For you specifically, I would recommend picking the raw shape of your adaptation by reading one or more of the traditional "best of" selections -- and then going to a library, and reading those stories in the Burton translation. That would likely afford you some interesting turns of phrase or details that other versions left out, while still covering well-known, popular material.

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