"He doesn’t privilege the past or try to harmonize rules or role models; instead, by a leap of imagination, literary imagination, he works contemporary reality and subjectivity (very important!) into the fabric of lived faith."
"I think Tanūkhī’s stories outclass the Nightsin every way, and unlike Shahrazad, he doesn’t go on and on. His plots are brisk and varied, even though in Deliverance Follows Adversity all the stories are about someone, usually someone just like you or me, getting into some sort of tight spot in one of their less bright moments, and coming out gratefully on the other side[.]"
"It was very, very liberating to have gone through that experience—to be forced to be honest with myself."
"In other words, it’s important to welcome and embrace the uncertainties rather than to dismiss them[.]"
"I had to steep myself into the language of ghazal, not only the vocabulary but also the allusions and associations that are part of it for those who are in the know about the tradition – a bit like one must know the mystical concepts when you translate Sufi poetry. Without that background, one can go awfully wrong."
"[D]ull would s/he be of soul who could resist a country where one of the chief officers of state bore the title of the Sultan’s Buttocks (his military formation brought up the rear when the army was on the march) and where the court jester was also 'the Keeper of the Sultan’s Anger,' i.e., was the executioner."
"No manuscript copy of the work exists. Its earliest recension is a lithographic edition, in the hand of Nicolas Perron, the author's institutional superior and student, published in Paris in 1850."
"What I like best is the poem about the spiny-tailed lizard, called a dabb. He tells it as an animal parable, because this is an animal that’s admired for its toughness. It’s very hard to kill it. Even if you put it in a cooking pot, it keeps on swimming in the boiling water."
"[I]t’s also the only source we have for what people thought in that part of the world before the Wahhabi reform movement. We have no other sources."
"Surely, the life of the courtesan ʿArib differs in fundamental ways from, for example, the likes of a Britney Spears, Miley Cyrus, or even a Justin Bieber. But how exactly? Listening last year to a Radiolab podcast on K-Pop, I was again struck by how modern some aspects of these women’s lives were."
"It was fun! And what I quite liked about it is that it was tremendously educational, and it compelled me, in having to translate these poems, to really figure out what they said, and to participate in the intellectual culture of ninth-century Iraq. One of the advantages is that, in other projects that I’m working on, I’m seeing many of these poems coming back. And now I have a much more personal relationship with the poetry."
"The book should also be interesting to people who study medieval history of the rest of the world, because this was a time, in the post-Roman world, in which the identities of the modern European nations — the Franks, the Anglo Saxons, and even German identities — were being constructed in Europe. It’s really at the same time that Arabness was being constructed in the Middle East, so from a comparative perspective of the birth of modern nations, this book would be very helpful to people who know a lot about how Anglo Saxon identity was constructed, for instance."