"Something that I was aware of growing up in Syria, but more now that I’m in Lebanon, is that classical Arabic literature is associated with many things, but it’s not associated with being a space for creative and experimental thinking. So I think the main idea for both of us with this is experimental."
"I wanted to see if I could create a night-language, or find some form to reflect the fact that this is a night work...and the fact that these stories take place where dreams should be."
Brad Fox called in from lockdown in Peru to read from -- and discuss -- his translation (or recovery? or adaptation?) of Abu Dulaf's "Song of the Banu Sasan."
"Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night with an idea in my head. Other times I ravage entire books looking for the spark of a joke. I have read more widely on the subject of medieval Baghdad this spring and summer than I have since grad school, and this has been time very well spent."
"Al-Yūsī’s orientation, and Morocco’s orientation at the time, was toward the south. It’s something that we don’t think about today."
"It’s not quite the same as a purely autobiographical text, but it’s almost more interesting for that. They’re more like mini-essays. I do think that the work, for that reason, can be read by people who aren’t interested in seventeenth-century Morocco."
The talk, titled "Her Own Devices: Language and Craft in the Thousand and One Nights," is introduced by Marina Warner.
The thirteenth and fourteenth centuries were -- among other things -- a wonderful period for Arabic cookery compilations, several of which have recently been translated to English.
Mourns a friend and blames time
that struck her down with what struck me
Current discussions include talks with Bilal Orfali on wise fools, Maurice Pomerantz on the magic of words, and Marcel Kurpershoek on Nabati and classical poetries.
"I have not observed anyone who has gone to extremes and set aside a single chapter in the Arabic language for half the human world, in which is brought together those women who were famed for their merits and who shunned bad qualities, even though a group of these women has excelled, having writings to their names with which they have rivaled the greatest learned men and engaged in poetic competition with the master poets."
Many literatures are underrepresented -- India has only eight authors; Turkey has one; China gets short shrift with 12 -- but there is nothing quite as strange as the seats at the back of the classics created for "Africa" and "The Arab World."