European Translations of the Thousand and One Nights and their reception: Orientalist falsification or literary fascination?

Richard van LEEUWEN

Abstract


The reception of the Thousand and One Nights, and more specifically of its European translations, have often been analyzed within the theoretical framework of orientalism as a mechanism governing cultural exchange. In this contribution, it is argued that the framework of orientalism, as conceptualized by Edward Said, is insufficient to fully explain and describe the process of the incorporation of the Thousand and One Nights into European literature and subsequently into world literature. Since orientalism as a methodological instrument emphasizes the exoticizing elements within the process of translation and transfer, it highlights ideological aspects and neglects the textual mechanisms involved in the transition of texts across cultural boundaries. In this essay it is argued that the influence of the Thousand and One Nights on world literature should be sought more in these textual aspects, rather than in forms of exoticism and cultural appropriation. Only then can the impact of Thousand and One Nights, as a vital work of literature, be fully appreciated.


Keywords


Thousand and One Nights; Literary fields; Translation; Orientalism; World literature

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References


Borges, Jorge Luis. 1988. «Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote». I Collected Fictions. Translated by Andrew Hurley. Penguin Books, New York, 88-95.

Dobie, Madeleine. 2008. «Translation in the Contact Zone: Galland’s Mille et une nuits: contes arabes». In The Arabian Nights in Historical Context; between East and West, ed. by Saree Makdisi and Felicity Nussbaum. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 25-49.

Jullien, Dominique. 2009. Les amoureux de Schéhérazade; variations modernes sur les Mille et une nuits. Genève: Droz.

Said, Edward. 1978. Orientalism. Pantheon: New York.

Van Leeuwen, Richard. 2004. «The Cultural Context of Translating Arabic Literature». In Cultural Encounters in Translation from Arabic, ed. by Said Faiq. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters, 14-25.




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