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Arabian Nights and Days [Paperback]

Najaib Maohfauoz
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

1 Oct 1995
A renowned Nobel Prize-winning novelist refashions the classic tales of Scheherazade in his own imaginative, spellbinding style. Here are genies and flying carpets, Aladdin and Sinbad, Ali Baba, and many other familiar stories, made new by the magical pen of the acknowledged dean of Arabic letters.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 227 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group (1 Oct 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385469012
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385469012
  • Product Dimensions: 20.3 x 1.3 x 13.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,018,719 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Following the dawn prayer, with clouds of darkness defying the vigorous thrust of light, the vizier Dandan was called to a meeting with the sultan Shahriyar. Read the first page
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mahfouz recreates the classics! 12 Aug 2002
By Billy J. Hobbs VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover
It's "Scheherazade Redux" in Naguib Mahfouz's "Arabian Nights and Days." The
1988 Nobel Prize for literature winner takes the times and ages-old story and gives us a
re-telling, carving his initials on some of those characters (and stories) of a thousand
and one nights: Sinbad, Aladdin, Scheherazade, etc.
It is a tale told by a learned Egyptian who's display of the original themes take on a
more modern glimmer. Granted, Mahfouz keeps the setting in the middle ages, but he
takes those themes and re-iterates their timeliness.
Once again, here are the genies and humans facing (sometimes defying) love, hatred,
greed, lust, and certainly the social injustices of any corrupt system. Throughout the
narrative, good is constantly squaring off against evil. That there's nothing new under
the sun doesn't phase Mahfouz, however, as he takes some seventeen tales and
skillfully weaves them into his own magical spell.
Mahfouz is compared to Proust, Camus, Salinger, and an introspective Hemingway,
and justifiably so. Hailed as the "widest-read Arab writer currently published in the
U.S.," Mahfouz has certainly wielded his own influence among international readers
since the Prize; alas, it seems it took the impact of this award for his books to achieve
their circulation, but that doesn't diminish his themes, his philosophies, his impact on
both socially significant issues and modern literature. That said, however, the author
(already some 30 novels to his credit), strikes adamantly at issues that transcend into
modern, more socially-significant items of today and thus "Arabian Nights and Days"
is certainly more than just a fairy tale. It's a good read.
Comment | 
Was this review helpful to you?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars  17 reviews
36 of 40 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A world of outward piety and latent corruption 17 Jun 2003
By Matthew M. Yau - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Naguib Mahfouz's Arabian Nights and Days is a bitterly entertaining and compelling read. In medieval age, in some unknown Islamic town, genies pulled a series of escapades that created havoc. The clash between the genies and the townspeople was evocative of inveterate, age-old struggles of virtue, corruption, despotism, injustice, and other practices purged by conscience.
Seized by a pang of guilt that pricked his heart, Sultan Shahriyar repented of his atrocious massacre of virgins and other pious, god-fearing people. Shahrzad, daughter of vizier Dandan, sacrificed her happiness and remained with the sultan in order to stem the torrent of blood.
Merchant Sanaan al-Gamali had a nightmare in which a genie would otherwise punish him if he refused to kill the governor, who had brought about the genie through black magic and made the genie accomplish purposes not approved by conscience. In a state of delirium and crazed fantasies, Sanaan raped and murdered a girl. When Gamali finally summoned his courage, unsheathed the dagger, aimed at the governor's heart and stabbed with a strength drawn from determination and despair, the genie abandoned Gamali to his own fate.
Gamasa al-Bulti, the chief of police, was another man whom the genie chose to be the saving of the quarter from corruption. Gamasa was despondent at the ruin of Gamali's family, which now lived in ignominy. But the chief remained aloof to Gamali's widow for fear of ruining his own position and his standing with the sultan, who regarded the blow directed against his official as being aimed against him personally. The genie confronted Gamasa as one despicable person feeding off ignominy for he protected the elite (who was just as corrupted) by prosecuting the respectable people. In "repentance", Gamasa launched a lethal blow at the neck of the governor, who gave a horrified scream as his blood spurted like a fountain. Unlike the merchant, Gamasa was spared by the genie and was given a new identity Abdullah the porter who then continued the criminal killing spree.
The above tales are just a tasteful sampling of Mahfouz's tour-de-force as a raconteur. Arabian Nights and Days is made up of stories and adventures of 1001 Nights-like characters whose lives Mahfouz deftly and seamlessly woven together and converged at the Café of the Emirs. The café was the central hangout spot of town, where the elite met the ordinary, the rich mingled with the poor. It was where Sinbad parted with the town and returned with serendipitous treasures. It was where every father of a virgin daughter felt reassured relieved and rejoiced over the news of sultan's repentance. It was where the whisperings of people regarding Aladdin's innocence originated and eventually reached the sultan's ears.
The book does not manifest a plot; rather it drifts along and presents the etched characters and their tantalizing but bitter struggles. I have to employ some patience to scrupulously keep track of the exhaustive cast of characters and their intricate relationships (newly adopted identity, remarriage of widows, merry-go-round-like change/succession of governor and police chief). Underlying the thrilling tales are Mahfouz's persistent philosophical overtones and queries. What is the "true path" to salvation? To what extent is a person responsible for his wrongdoings? How does one gauge the extent of repentance, if one is persistently pricked by guilt? To what extent does conscience permit wrongdoings, if the wrongdoing is conducted for a good cause?
The Islamic town is somehow a satirical miniature of the incorrigible society, a world of outward piety and latent corruption. The acts and conduct of the characters bespeak man's weakness that betrays trust, treats generosity with disdain, and plunges recklessly into debauchery and criminal activities. From stealing, stupid pranks to murder; we see the pitiful fall of one of the most morally righteous man in the book. Does his conscience justify his actions?
I am not sure how much I am really absorbing the philosophical message Mahfouz brings about underlying the tale, other than to know I am reading a brilliant satire and a very richly-written novel. Arabian Nights and Days is a delightful departure from Mahfouz's formulaic melancholy works chronicling his times. 4.2 stars.
23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magical, inventive and never what it seems! Experience it! 16 Jun 1997
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
You know the stories, but you don't. You think you're on the path, but you are not on THE PATH. It's magical, but it feels real. And then you just give in to it, and you float away. This is why I read. Arabian Nights and Days will remain on my shelf for my children's children and then some, for it crosses generational, cultural and religious lines with the same ease and comfort of our best loved fables
26 of 29 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Arabian knights and daze! 30 July 2002
By Billy J. Hobbs - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
It's "Scheherazade Redux" in Naguib Mahfouz's "Arabian Nights and Days." The
1988 Nobel Prize for literature winner takes the times and ages-old story and gives us a
re-telling, carving his initials on some of those characters (and stories) of a thousand
and one nights: Sinbad, Aladdin, Scheherazade, etc.
It is a tale told by a learned Egyptian who's display of the original themes take on a
more modern glimmer. Granted, Mahfouz keeps the setting in the middle ages, but he
takes those themes and re-iterates their timeliness.
Once again, here are the genies and humans facing (sometimes defying) love, hatred,
greed, lust, and certainly the social injustices of any corrupt system. Throughout the
narrative, good is constantly squaring off against evil. That there's nothing new under
the sun doesn't phase Mahfouz, however, as he takes some seventeen tales and
skillfully weaves them into his own magical spell.
Mahfouz is compared to Proust, Camus, Salinger, and an introspective Hemingway,
and justifiably so. Hailed as the "widest-read Arab writer currently published in the
U.S.," Mahfouz has certainly wielded his own influence among international readers
since the Prize; alas, it seems it took the impact of this award for his books to achieve
their circulation, but that doesn't diminish his themes, his philosophies, his impact on
both socially significant issues and modern literature. That said, however, the author
(already some 30 novels to his credit), strikes adamantly at issues that transcend into
modern, more socially-significant items of today and thus "Arabian Nights and Days"
is more than just a fairy tale. It's a good read. (...)
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Deftly woven tales about timeless struggles 3 July 1999
By Rashed Chowdhury - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
A fascinating journey into the lives of the inhabitants of a city that faces the age-old struggles between virtue and corruption, freedom and despotism, justice and injustice. The novel is a loosely-woven collection of tales bound together by a strong sense of place that centres on the Café of the Emirs, where rich and poor alike gather daily to discuss the events of the day. Mahfouz's characters seek to escape the dreariness and injustice of everyday life, some through love, some by the sword, and some through dreams of flying or administering justice. Some succeed, some are put to death, but there is always a lesson to be learned by the city. A sense of timelessness pervades the book, the issues raised by Mahfouz as important today as they were in the days of the Arabian Nights. Some of the tales are more successful than others, but the overall work is enthralling.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature for a Reason 27 Mar 2006
By A. Yuen - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Unique, fresh, and inspiring. At times amusing, at times disturbing, but always thought-provoking, never allowing good and evil to really be defined. The reader never knows what to expect. Go read it! It's quality literature that should not be missed.
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