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Arabian Nightmare Paperback – 1 Jan 1998


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Product details

  • Paperback: 266 pages
  • Publisher: Dedalus Ltd; New edition edition (1 Jan. 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1873982739
  • ISBN-13: 978-1873982730
  • Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 623,291 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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33 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Tinfoilhat on 1 May 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A book set in the Cairo of hundreds of years ago. The tale of a young English Pilgrim whose caravan travels through Cairo on the way to Jerusalem. Immediately he arrives in the city he is assailed by a form of insomnia which seems to give way to periods of narcoleptic unconsciousness in which his nightmares assume a vivid and tangible reality. These become progressively more disorientating, engulfing and traumatic - and whatever the condition causing them, it is clearly worsening. He has the Arabian Nightmare - a condition which gradually drives a man from his mind and inverts his real and imagined selves. As it becomes increasingly difficult for him to distinguish dream from waking state, the events unfolding in each start to impact and influence those in the other. For the reader, the confusion experienced by the protagonist is masterfully conveyed by the fact that the story is told by several different narrators in turn.
Despite all this, the book is not tiresome in the way that so many 'clever clever' books are ("Sound and the Fury" anyone? "Ulysses"?). Here you will be borne along by a pantheon of rich and varied characters: sinister arab mages, assassins, talking monkeys, David Lynch-esque dwarves, beautiful but deadly prostitutes, a dissipated mogul and his bored, prosmiscuous daughters; and many more.
Also, the settings are vivid and pungent and fascinating. Many are in the heads of the characters. The description of the caravanserai and the surrounding precincts of old Cairo, with their stench, over-crowding, disease and darkness, is claustrophobic and menacing. Yet, it is preferable to remain within their sweaty labrynthine warrens than to stray into the hinterland surrounding the great city, where this world and some other seem to merge...
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By T. Pearce on 24 Jan. 2012
Format: Paperback
Sometimes the impression you're ultimately left with from a book is based on how well it fulfilled its early promise, or the hype that surrounded it. That's not really fair, I suppose, because the book's quality shouldn't really be based on your expectations. However, it was very difficult not to be extremely disappointed on finishing this book, precisely because I expected so much from it. The early chapters were everything the reviews promised. The conceit was indeed magnificent. There were some ideas here that will stay with me for a long time. But as the book progressed, things got more and more random and capricious, and there seemed to be less and less point. Plotlines and developments were picked up and dropped seemingly at random, and the novel's strong early sense of direction and meaningfulness petered out into nothing. Finally, everything is supposedly revealed in a few pages of exposition near the end.

I don't need a tidy resolution -- I recently loved Meyrinck's the Golem, for instance -- and I'm happy for the journey to be the point, but towards the end the journey seemed a real slog, and the muddled confusedness seemed to be the author losing control of what the story was and where it was going, or perhaps having too many ideas and not fully developing any one, rather than any reflection of the subject matter or any design. And that's a real shame, because this could have been a masterpiece. Overall, three stars covers it. It's still a worthwhile read overall, but I'd have been as happy giving up about two-thirds to three-quarters of the way through, maybe leaving like one of those unfinished dreams where you'll always wonder how it might have ended...
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Susan Rose on 26 April 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Plot: I can't really summarise the plot because of how many stories run into each other and involve the same characters this makes any summary a little bit pointless. However a really short introduction to the narrative is that a traveller arrives in Cairo only to be taken in by this unknowable force which is a cross between lucid dreaming and drug fueled fantasies known as The Arabian Nightmare.

Structure: Dreamlike, story within a story.

What I liked: The structure the vivid language and the engaging narration.

What I didn't like: Because of the nature of the stories it was sometimes hard to keep up with whether we'd met a character before and also just keeping up with which character was who. This just made it a little bit of a difficult read even if your reading it all at once as I did.

Favourite Quote: `Do you see the city below us? Do you seeit? In the evenings dimness does it not seem to you like a child's toy or a gaming board and the people thronging its streets like tiny dolls or even insects? Up here do not their struggles and their ideals and their passions seem ridiculous?'
Main Body of the Review:

First off I will say the most exciting thing about this book is the structure which is partly based on 1001 nights or Arabian nights. This means every story and chapter runs into each other. The structure is a dream within a dream, a story within an allegory within another story. This means that is hard to tell what is fantasy and reality in this novel. It starts very dreamlike and although events are odd they aren't horrible. SLowly however the characters and you as the reader begin to get trapped in a maze of overlapping narratives and the story becomes more of a nightmare.
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