Richard van Leeuwen
The Thousand and One Nights and Twentieth-Century Fiction
New Books in Arts & LettersNew Books in Intellectual HistoryNew Books in Literary StudiesNew Books in Middle Eastern StudiesNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books Network August 31, 2020 Nataliya Shpylova-Saeed
In the impressive volume of The Thousand and One Nights and Twentieth-Century Fiction (Brill), Richard van Leeuwen thoroughly examines an array of intricate ways in which the Thousand and One Nights shaped the developments of literatures across the world.
This is a pioneering work in terms of approaching the ancient text not only as a source of inspiration for literary discoveries, but also as a carrier of literary memories and cultural experiences that are collected from a number of geographical locations. Cultural explorations intertwine with political implications which are coded in the texts that are shaped and inherently modified by delicate influences of the Thousand and One Nights.
Van Leeuwen gathers references to the Thousand and One Nights from the diversity of literary texts and arranges them to demonstrate the vitality and the fluidity of the text that travels from culture to culture, from text to text, and from one time space to another, from imagination to imagination. In this respect, van Leeuwen’s book, which includes more than 800 pages, replicates to some extent the very nature of the Thousand and One Nights: an on-going journey that takes readers to one destination and invites her/him to push the borderlines and to further explore inexhaustible texts.
Van Leeuwen’s book takes the readers to the world of incessant cultural overlaps and dialogues, which are carried forward by the literary text that travels through time and space. This creates a mysterious sense of something that is very familiar, and yet unfathomable. The Thousand and One Nights and Twentieth-Century Fiction invites the readers to explore the fluidity of literary texts and to delve into palimpsestic stories which emerge out of literary memories, converging and intertwining.
Van Leeuwen recently won a Sheikh Zayed Book Award for this book, which was awarded the ‘Arab Culture in Other Languages’ prize. Submissions for the 2021 edition of the award are open now until 1 October at www.zayedaward.ae.
Richard van Leeuwen, Ph.D. (1992) University of Amsterdam, is senior lecturer in Islamic Studies at that university.
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