Almost everyone is in some way familiar with the epic “1,001 Nights,” we all know the tale of Sultan Shahryar who, heartbroken by his wife’s infidelity, remarries every night only to kill his new bride at sunrise.
This carried on until he married his vizier’s daughter Scheherazade who, gifted with an extraordinary ability to weave exciting stories, manages to save her own life by promising to tell the king a new story every night.
Throughout the 100,1 nights readers remain enthralled and entangled in the stories narrated by Scheherazade.
The Egypt Independent reported on Thursday that a new collection of stories had come to light and been translated, the 101 nights.
Dubbed the younger sibling of Scheherazade’s epic tale, the 101 nights is a collection of 17 stories which tell of flying horses and every kind of unimaginable miracle, each so exciting that it creates “a whole cosmos of its own into which we and listeners alike are drawn,” explains Claudia Ott, the translator of the recently discovered manuscript of this medieval Arabic story collection, in a lecture held earlier this month.
“Who, centuries before Leonardo da Vinci, described to us a wooden flying machine with a takeoff and landing propeller, and with what are certainly the oldest motion detectors in the history of literature?” questions Ott.
Ott, a scholar, musician and professor at the Institute for Non-European Languages and Cultures of the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, Germany, set eyes on the beautiful Andalusian manuscript, adorned with red ink that read “The Book with the Story of the 101 Nights,” in 2010.
She saw the manuscript, dating from 1234, at an exhibition entitled the “Treasures of the Agha Khan Museum: Masterpieces of Islamic Art” in Berlin. The handwriting was legible, and all 39 pages, except the final one, had been-preserved.
She began to translate it into German.
This discovery is a great enrichment to world literature, she says.
101 Nights is not an abridged version of the well-known 1,001 Nights, Ott explains. In fact the collections have only two stories in common — “The Ebony Horse” and “The King’s Son and the Seven Viziers.”
All seven preserved manuscripts of the collection come from North Africa and Andalusia.
In the first tale of the “101 Nights,” we meet a trader from Qayrawan, Tunisia, and Umayyad caliphs are repeatedly referenced throughout the collection.
This, Ott says, is due to the important role played by the Umayyads in the history of Andalusia.
So, even though the 101 Nights is set in faraway India, the characters are still of Arab origin.
“It is certainly not by chance that this backdrop has something Oriental about it when seen from an Arabic perspective. It is an image of an Orient that is far away, unfamiliar and exotic — for this reason, particularly attractive,” Ott says.
India was the farthest and most exotic setting imagined at the time. 101 nights took its readers and listeners from Andalusia to the most Eastern point of the Islamic world.
For now, the collection is only available in German.