cover image Stranger Magic: Charmed States and the Arabian Nights

Stranger Magic: Charmed States and the Arabian Nights

Marina Warner. Harvard/Belknap, $35 (560p) ISBN 978-0-674-05530-8

This remarkable study is an arabesque, and an intricate Persian rug of themes, eras, tales, and authors—of the Middle East and West, playing on “states of consciousness” as well as state-cultures. With a basic knowledge of Arabic from childhood as well as a Catholic upbringing, Warner is almost divinely positioned to unravel the infinite strands of the wily Scheherazade, as she weaves her way through the Arabian Nights, exploring their boundless capacity to “keep generating more tales, in various media, themselves different but alike: the stories themselves are shape-shifters.” From Disney’s Aladdin to the works of Freud, Goethe, Hans Christian Andersen, and others, Warner explores the impact of the Arabian Nights on the West and the power of enchantment and fantasy. Like all myth, these of flying carpets, sofas, and beds of genies and heroic connivers grant lasting insights into human aspirations, transcendence, and love. Carefully documented, Warner’s ever shifting work takes its place alongside that of Edward Said, though she is refreshingly less polemical and less theoretical. No one need cover this enchanting ground again. 25 color, 55 b&w illus. (Mar.)