Friday, December 19, 2008

`Famished for Wonder'

My first thought on learning of the demise of The New York Sun was: Now where will Eric Ormsby publish his book reviews? One reassuring answer is the new English publication Counterpoint. In the January 2009 edition Ormsby writes glowingly of Penguin's delicious-sounding new translation of The Arabian Nights: Tales of 1001 Nights. Here's a sample from Ormsby:

"The work poses a final puzzle. How can it be that such vivid tales lull us to sleep? In several, the great Harun al-Rashid, fifth caliph in the Abbasid line, finds himself troubled by insomnia and when all else fails, he calls for a story. Perhaps the answer lies in the tales' odd but pleasing combination of unrestrained fantasy and shrewd common sense. The stories, however improbable or grotesque, are underpinned by the homeliest of morals: the good prevail and the wicked are overthrown. The prince is restored to his realm and the merchant recovers his lost fortune. The tales satisfy imaginations famished for wonder. But even more importantly, they stand like fabulous cities against the encroachments of the dark."

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