This work comprises a literary comparison of surviving alternative versions of selected narrative-cycles from the
Nights. Pinault draws on the published Arabic editions — especially Bulaq, MacNaghten, and the fourteenth-century Galland text recently edited by Mahdi — as well as unpublished Arabic manuscripts from libraries in France and North Africa.
The study demonstrates that significantly different versions have survived of some of the most famous tales from the
Nights. Pinault notes how individual manuscript redactors employed — and sometimes modified — formulaic phrases and traditional narrative topoi in ways consonant with the themes emphasized in particular versions of a tale. He also examines the redactors' modification of earlier sources — Arabic chronicles and Islamic religious treatises, geographers' accounts and medieval legends — for specific narrative goals. Comparison of the narrative structure of diverse story-collection also sheds new light on the relationship of the embedded subordinate-narrative to the overarching frame-tale.
All cited passages from the
Nights and other Arabic story- collections have been fully translated into English.
David Pinault, Ph.D. (1986) in Oriental Studies, University of Pennsylvania, is Assistant Professor of Religion and Islamic Studies at Colgate University, Hamilton, New York. His publications include several studies on the subject of Arabic literature.
...a major contribution to our understanding of the storytelling tradition that created and shaped the Arabian Nights.
It is necessary reading for anyone seriously interested in the history of this collection...'
International Journal of Middle East Studies, 26.
Auch des Arabischen nicht mächtige Leser werden einen hervorragenden Einblick in Wesen und Bau der arabischen Volkserzählung gewinnen.'
Die Welt des Islams, 1994.
...most rewarding and readable...his findings have a relevance that transcends the limits of the Nights...'
Bulletin of the SOAS, 1994.
The book is highly recommended...'
Journal R.A.S., 1993.
Pinault with admirable command of various manuscripts compares, analyzes, quotes differing versions, and extracts redactional patterns...'
Wer dieses Buch zur Hand nimmt, wird es mit Gewinn lesen.'
Die Welt des Orients, 1994.
Pinault's book is a serious contribution to this tradition, for it attempts to achieve several critical tasks simultaneously: comparative close reading of tales, positing a new solution for the problematic of sources, applying modern interpretative approaches to the text, proving its dynamic ability for constant transformation and detecting elements of orality and performance...Pinault makes a major contribution to the study of Alf Laylah
by his discovery of the significance of its Maghrebi analogues, a scarcely utilised resource.'
Journal of Semitic Studies, 1995.
This volume is undoubtedly one of the most rewarding and readable studies of the Nights
to appear in recent years...a close, careful and competent examination of narrative techniques in the classic texts...'
Bulletin of the SOAS, 1994.
Pinault's work is a welcome addition to the Arabic and Middle Eastern studies library, revealing depth of scholarship, sharpness of perception, and freshness of approach to the study of literary style.'
Asian Folklore Studies, 1996.
students of comparative literature, folklore and world literature as well as Arabists and Islamicists.