Arabian Nights & Arabian Nights / Traditional Tales From a Thousand and One Nights, Contemporary Tales for Adults
Most readers are familiar with enduring works such as The Arabian Nights. Hence readers who read literary works that reference The Arabian Nights have some expectation of what the re-telling would entail. This work picks eight of the most widely known tales from the Arabian Nights collection. It presents the original tale and right after presents another tale set in contemporary times that reflects the same motifs as the original one. Each pair of tales is followed by an afterword that recaps common motifs.
The original tales weave magic–jinns, giants, and other-worldly characters–into their charming narrative. They deploy stories within stories, some of which break off and return later to the initial narrative. In contrast, the modern tales are stand-alone tales that shy away from the extraordinary. By singling out the tales and pairing only eight of the original tales with eight modern ones, the work takes away one or the charms of the original collection. By denuding the modern tales of the charms that other-worldly characters inevitably haul in their wake, another captivating appeal of the original tales is not inherited by the modern ones. Connecting the shared motifs between the paired original and contemporary tales is generally so obvious as to make the afterword redundant. In addition, most of the time the afterword focuses almost exclusively on the original tales, barely mentioning the contemporary tale.
The narrative throughout the book flows effortlessly, making it easy to follow. The original tales are seamlessly composed from various versions. The characters in the contemporary tales lack depth. They seem to be swayed too easily to commit egregious acts or to reform. Some of the events related in the contemporary tales detract from the main narrative, serving primarily to lengthen the story.
Spinning modern tales that capture the motifs of ancient ones is a worthy literary endeavor. However, erasing the elements that endear the original tales to readers diminishes the endeavor. Characters in the contemporary tales could benefit if they were better developed and displayed their rich personalities (like the characters in the original tales do). While the effort is noteworthy, this work reads more like a work-in-progress than a finished product.