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The Arabian Nights

2 recommendations

Good Books Don't Have to Be Hard

Speaking of The Arabian Nights, coincidentally (or not), the WSJ also had this today, in its Masterpiece column, about that work: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1000142405297020488630457430...

qohen, about 11 years ago

Good Books Don't Have to Be Hard

I loved this part:

> The Modernists felt little obligation to entertain their readers. That was just the price you paid for your Joycean epiphany. Conversely they have trained us, Pavlovianly, to associate a crisp, dynamic, exciting plot with supermarket fiction, and cheap thrills, and embarrassment. Plot was the coward's way out, for people who can't deal with the real world. If you're having too much fun, you're doing it wrong.

I'm currently reading The Arabian Nights. It's a really, really wonderful book. There's some great lessons in there and it's hilarious. When I read it in a cafe, sometimes I wind up laughing loudly out loud and people look over.

But the book was poorly translated for a long time. I'm reading Husain Haddawy's translation, and his introduction talks about translating a classic. Apparently some of the translators of the past thought the dirty, rough, common language of The Arabian Nights wasn't fitting enough, so they took a lot of liberties to make the language more difficult to read so it would appeal to more educated people. Haddawy's version feels like a friend is a telling you a story: No fancy language. The sex and violence are crass. Things are described in simple ways.

And it's really, really good, and highly recommended. I like books I can learn from, where reading the writing isn't made an extra intellectual puzzle and challenge to get satisfaction from the book. A basic swashbuckling type story like Musashi by Eiji Yoshikawa or The Three Muskateers by Dumas is really good. They're fun, readable, intelligent books that aren't difficult. And despite not being difficult, you still learn a lot of lessons from them. Good for relaxation time, for those of riding our minds pretty hard at work. I can understand how there's a pleasure in conquering a difficult book, but I personally prefer to get all the enjoyment and lessons out of a book with simple writing and interesting themes and characters.

lionhearted, about 11 years ago

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