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This paper aims to find traces of orality and techniques of memory in some versions of The Book of the Thousand Nights and One Night. It stems, thus, from some reflections on the techniques of memory used by the Arab culture that were inherited from the Greek art of memory. These traces are analyzed under three perspectives: as sortilege in the manner of Mnemosyne , as a way to imprint rhythm and cadency on the tales, and as the architecture of memory.
The stories from The Book of the Thousand Nights and One Night 1 henceforth The Book were told by men in charge of amusing insomnious kings by telling them stories during the night even before the first manuscript was carefully drawn by some copyist from the Orient. The Catalog Kitab al-fihrist , an index of Arabic literary works collected by Ibn al-Nadim, refers to the Nights as a lost book entitled Hasar Afsanah.
According to Ibn al-Nadim, who called those narrators confabulatores nocturne , although Alexander of Macedon was the first to gather around him men who were in charge of telling him stories, the emperors who succeeded him also made use of the Hazar Afsana BORGES, If this hypothesis cannot be confirmed, it can at least be demonstrated in the book, in which Queen Scheherazade would tell a king who is tormented by the fear of losing his throne or of being betrayed by women stories during the night.
The theme of the insomnious king is recurrent in the tales and is also found in the stories that portray sultan Harun al-Rashid. In general, these stories begin when the caliph, taken by oppression, tells his vizier, "this night is exhausting and heavy on my chest. I want you to free me from my torment. In the latter situation, which provokes new narratives, he and his servants are disguised as merchants or beggars. Another form of story transmission, way after the confabulatores nocturni , was through the figure of a rhapsode in Arabian coffee-rooms, namely, the rawi , a teller of riwayas, which, according to Haddad , p.
VI , originally mean oral narrations of stories. Edward Lane, one of the English translators of The Book , claims to have found around 50 narrators in Cairo in the s that would retell stories of the book LANE, Some attribute only a mnemonic function to the manuscripts.
Marks on the margins would indicate that the narrator could modify the plot of the stories according to the type of audience or their reactions. Not only does he believe that such hypothesis presupposes a devaluation of the work a, p.
Modifications would occur somewhat similarly to what aoidoi , or bards, did to texts from the Iliad and the Odyssey: they adapted them according to the audience KHAWAM, b , p. On the other hand, Jamil Haddad, taking a divergent stand, highlights the difference between oral and written language. According to him,. In Arabic, there are significant discrepancies between educated and popular speech. Vocabulary considerably changes from one case to the other.
Syntax changes. Sometimes phonetics changes. The changes are so substantial that, without our exaggerating it, we consider them two different languages: one of common men and the other of clergymen and mandarins HADDAD, , p. However, the issue of orality in The Book cannot be examined unless the whole Arabic culture is taken into consideration.
In effect, the unity of Islam was developed around the Koran, whose transmission for a long time depended on the exceptional effort of memorization. For 20 years he had visions, and thanks to a thorough work of memory, the content of the messages was orally transmitted to the believers. The written record of the Prophet's dreams started only later in a rudimentary manner: on scapula bones of camels and pieces of leather. Needless to say, these precarious inscriptions caused countless divergences in the understanding of the text.
The desire to have a sole book that would not lead to contradiction prompted religious leaders of Islam to destroy its "originals"; in other words, they destroyed any material that would contain revelations from the very lips of the Prophet.
The process of gathering fragmented compilations started with the aim at the collection of a corpus. Different reviews and systematizations were done in order to compile the corpus of Abu Bakr, which became the official Vulgate.
In fact, the role of memorization was never relegated to a second plane. Nevertheless, the differences in the text and in its interpretation remained. Only in the midth century was the text of the Koran Vulgate standardized.
At that time the manuscripts of The Book , which had been Arabinized and undergone the process of Islamization, were also in circulation. When the written Koran is confirmed, the Arabic language largely develops. The efforts to decipher the Holy Book are a result not only of the spelling reform, but also of the compilation of the Arabic grammar and of treatises on the history of the language.
This close relationship between Arabic and Islam produced, as an inevitable consequence, the sacralization of the language. Texts of a profane nature were not treated the same as Mohammed's revelations.
For Juan Vernet , a translator of the Koran and a scholar in Arabic literature, it is almost impossible to define the time when other literary texts appeared. Even the writing of verses of pre-Islamic poets was only validated two centuries after the Koran , p. Curiously The Book registers that the study of the Arabic language starts to be of importance.
In the tales the use of grammar and rhetoric terms are used as love metaphors, provoking an unusual effect - to say the least. This is what Curtis showcases as he cites Enno Littmann's German version: "plying the particle of copulation in concert and joining the conjunctive with the conjoined, while her husband was a cast-out nunnation of construction" , p.
On the boundary between oral and written language, The Book bears unquestionable marks of its condition. If its oral nature is undisputable and its obscurity invokes Arian myths and the very origin of the art of narration, it was its written form that was always presented to the Western world. In The Book memory is undoubtedly personified in Princess Shahrazad, who, in different versions of the tales, is described as someone who was "versed in the legends of the ancient kings and stories of peoples passed away.
She applied herself to philosophy, medicine, history, and fine arts. She also wrote verses better than the most renowned poets of her time. She was endowed with majestic beauty, and her solid virtue surpassed all the other qualities. In order to understand memory as a form of sortilege, we need at first to relate the beautiful Muslim woman to the Greek Mnemosyne, the goddess of memory, the mother of muses, who presides over the poetic function 8 and possesses wisdom of the divinatory type: "she knows [ Poetry is understood as a form of divine possession and takes the form of 'enthusiasm' that prophets experience.
In the Ancient World, diviners and poets are equally blind, but share the same extraordinary gift of 'second sight. Similar to the poets and diviners who are under the influence of Mnemosyne , Shahrazad has the absolute control over temporality. This is what Italo Calvino calls the capture of time: "knowing how to join one story to another, breaking off at just the right moment-two ways of manipulating the continuity and discontinuity of time" p.
Her words are bewitching formulas that truly enchant the Sultan. This is the realm of "hearsay," a specific form of understanding the world in the Middle Ages, in which the primacy of the senses depended on hearing, not on sight. In The Book hearsay can be understood as an enchanting ritual through which someone - a prince, as it should be - is captured by love - for a princess, naturally - of whose beauty and virtues he heard.
This type of love can be fatal. The lover is so bewitched that he gets sick, wastes away and becomes a prisoner of this passion until he attains the object of his desire. The lover is described as someone who is "plunged in some dark sea of grief. If the love sickness caused by hearsay is almost always catastrophic, when it becomes the love for the city, the outcome is always happiness.
This corresponds to the love for traveling and the symbolic role that cities, such as Bagdad, Basrah and Cairo, play in the narratives. These cities are the main route of merchants and the setting of countless wonders.
The main character of The Tale of the Yellow Youth is enchanted by hearsay. When he hears of a certain place, he is possessed by an unexpected love and an unstoppable desire to visit it. He abandons his family, sells all his properties and takes the first ship.
This is Shahrazad's narration:. Then, as I was distributing the fruit to my guests, I asked the captain whence it came. No sooner had he answered that he had brought it from Basrah and Baghdad than my guests began to expatiate on the marvels of those two cities, to vaunt the life that is lived there, the suavity of the climate, and the polished benevolence of the citizens.
Each capped the other's eulogy until I had no other thought except to visit the places at once. I sold all my goods and properties at a loss, got rid of my men and women slaves, and realised on my ladings and on all my ships with the exception of one.
Thus I found myself possessed of a thousand dinars, without reckoning the jewels and ingots of gold which I already had by me. If the enchantment caused by hearsay can be found at different places in the book, we can conceive of it also as the central theme of the book's universe, in which magic as a whole stems from the senses.
The Book is nothing more than an enduring enchantment to which Shahrazad's numbing voice submits Prince Shahryar. She adds small doses of her magic potion, and the prince, under her spell, slowly transforms and forgets his fear of women. The Prince's transformation, which takes on the character of mystery revelation, renders Shahrazad's speech an initiating nature.
We now go back to the prior connection between Shahrazad and the goddess of memory: Mnemosyne confers on the bard the privilege of undergoing a rite of passage, an experience of transformation by means of returning to the origins VERNANT, , p. For the sortilege to be complete, both memory and oblivion are summoned as the latter is also a form of magic and is inseparable from memory, for "Mnemosyne, she who makes one remember, is also she who erases the memory" VERNANT, , p.
Shahryar is gradually "healed," transformed through a binomial operation of remembering and forgetting. Shahrazad weaves the text of her narratives. We find it important here to retrieve the etymological meaning of text: that which is woven - using, in Walter Benjamin's words, remembrance as the woof and forgetting as the warp, which is "a counterpart to Penelope's work rather than its likeness," for Shahrazad has to weave the thread of her speech at night, which is unraveled by the day BENJAMIN, , p.
The opposition between night and day related to the operations of memory in analogous manner to remembrance and oblivion plays an important role in The Book. Shahrazad's tales are always narrated at night, on the threshold of sleep, and are suspended at dawn. They are sleepless nights.
Sleeping is pure and simple oblivion. The fundamental mythological drama, reported by every single myth, that is, the confrontation between night and day, is reproduced once again. As Shahrazad's fabulation is magical, it creates the illusion that the number of possible combinations in the supernatural universe is unlimited. However, the repertoire of combinations she uses in her tales can be perfectly classified.
By intercrossing plots, characters and objects, she plays with the limited possibilities of language and uses the verb "to count" tell a story 23 in its mathematical and etymological meaning of enumerating. In ancient Greece, the training of bards bore several similarities with the memory techniques used in the Arabian tales. For poets to become bards, they had to undertake a rigorous training, and the divine nature of their duty did not attenuate their responsibility.
The rules for oral composition and improvisation required the production of a previous draft of themes and tales, the use of formulaic diction, "predetermined combinations of words, and established rules of versification," and intensive exercises in memorization, which involved the recitation of long poems VERNANT, , p. Also in Muslim tradition, mnemonics was fundamental not only to the learning of verses from the Koran, but also to the dissemination of Arabic poetry.
As it is marked by an extraordinary notion of rhythm and musicality, Arabic poetry greatly favored memorization, allowing its verses to be known and recited even by uneducated people.
Because verses were lengthy and the writing system was precarious, a poet trusted his composition to the memory of a rawi , who would become his disciple later on. Similar to a Greek bard, a rawi underwent a long-term training, which allowed him to become a new poet.
Burton's translation was one of two unabridged and unexpurgated English translations done in the s; the first was by John Payne , under the title The Book of the Thousand Nights and One Night —, nine volumes. Burton's ten volume version was published almost immediately afterward with a slightly different title. This, along with the fact that Burton closely advised Payne and partially based his books on Payne's, led later to charges of plagiarism. Burton's original ten volumes were followed by a further six entitled The Supplemental Nights to the Thousand Nights and a Night — Burton's 16 volumes, while boasting many prominent admirers, have been criticised for their "archaic language and extravagant idiom" and "obsessive focus on sexuality"; they have even been called an "eccentric ego-trip" and a "highly personal reworking of the text".
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Show all documents For example, this can be clearly seen in the story" Abul - Hasan Hurasoniy"[7;] or in the sayings "Ghanim ibn Ayyub" [8;]. According to the story, a naive merchant young man with a pure conscience of Damascus will come to Baghdad with commercial affairs and will go out on a funeral. Until he returns from the funeral, the city gates are dumped. The guy will have to spend the night in the cemetery.
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This paper aims to find traces of orality and techniques of memory in some versions of The Book of the Thousand Nights and One Night.Natalie P. 21.06.2021 at 02:08
The tales have influenced and continue to inspire many well-known literary figures.Marlen O. 27.06.2021 at 11:14
Abbott, Nabia.Tanja B. 27.06.2021 at 12:14
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