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

Richard van LEEUWEN


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.


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

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