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Incessant Awe as a Fantasy Land


The Arabian Nights is one of the most emblematic and endearing books printed on our collective imagination, an endless source of amazement that reveals our need for magic in everyday life.

Il n’y a peut-être pas de jours de notre enfance que nous ayons si pleinement vécus que ceux que nous avons cru laisser sans les vivre, ceux que nous avons passés avec un livre préféré.

Marcel Proust, Sur la lecture

In his emotive speech on One Thousand and One Nights, Borges mentioned this book as one of the most powerful and indelible references of the Orient. For Westerners, the Orient remains a place surrounded by magic and enigmas, an ambiguous territory and an almost imaginary place that has nurtured dreams with exoticism and unlikeness.

Eastern realms are home to oases and talismans, to monstrous creatures and geniuses locked in lamps, to palaces that appear and disappear from one night to the next, islands with trees that bears jewels as fruits and other fantasies that often share the same origin: The Arabian Nights: Tales from a Thousand and One Nights.

This collection, one of the most emblematic in popular literature, was passed down from mouth to mouth a long time before it was fixed on paper. Its origins take us to India and Egypt, as well as to ancient Persia and Mesopotamia, regions whose mere names immediately trigger our most intimate imagination.

Since they belong to a time before History itself began ––a previous stage that is somehow paradisiacal––, the tales in The Arabian Nights are intimately associated with the pleasure of our first readings. An important part of its charm, of its cast-spelling nature on readers, is its ability to fully transport us to a state where magic is not only possible but quotidian and necessary. An experience that, because of its miraculous and extraordinary essence, whenever it occurs it is as if it were happening for the very first time.

Perhaps that’s why a book’s historical particularities pale in comparison to the effects it has over our collective cultural consciousness. The Arabian Nights could easily be interpreted as a safe-conduct, emitted by a secret society of strangers who have bonded together over their reading. As the ticket to a fantasy land that is veiled behind a common door, one that has always been there, unnoticed, and that when we finally see it, and decided to cross it, we have no idea that we are entering a zone that will forever engulf us in the most astonishing charms.

For countless reasons, including the ones mentioned above, the trans-generational, millenary reading of the stories contained in this book –the ambassador of literary imagination par excellence–, have channeled the development of one of the most elaborate fantastical realms that mankind has ever set eyes on.

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