Clive Johnson, author of the new book ‘Arabian Nights & Arabian Nights’, suggests that there can sometimes be joys to be had when writing about a subject or a place that is different to an author's own experience.
One of the things that I love when creating a new story is researching the biographies and day-to-day experiences of the types of characters that I want to write about. Sometimes, this involves imagining circumstances and places that I've never encountered myself – including periods in history that might be a little before my time.
This was the case with the story that I wrote to accompany one of the tales of the adventures of Sinbad the Sailor. Given that Baghdad features so strongly in many of the tales of The Nights – it was descriptions of the colorful souks and magic that played out in this very city that excited my interest in some of the tales as a child – I was keen to set one of my stories in this very city.
I've never been to Baghdad, nor does it seem likely that it will be safe for a budget conscious, independent traveler like myself to do so, at least in the foreseeable future. Even if I do eventually have the chance to set foot in the Iraqi capital, I'm sure that many of the wonderful sights that would have greeted the visitor 50 years ago will no longer be around.
This is a real shame. I would love to have seen Baghdad in its heyday, at least as it was around the middle of the last century. The personal recollections that I came across when I was researching my story painted a picture of a magical place, which attracted travelers from all corners of the globe.
But any regret that I have about not being able to experience this once great city must be one million or more times less than the sorrow those who live in Baghdad must feel. The city literally seems to have gone backwards through each of the past few decades. It's well known that many Baghdadis say that life during Saddam Hussein's era of power was far better than that of the experience now.
My story spans life during the time of Saddam and beyond – yet another experience that is very far from my own. Fortunately, some very evocative descriptions of the lives of those who did witness that period are available. Feeling into these is difficult, but I could imagine being transported into the situations that some of the document is described, albeit as an observer.
Magic carpets and flying horses, caverns glittering with gold, unexpected plotlines following the fortunes of heroes and villains–who cannot fail to be enchanted by the magic and wonder of the tales of the One Thousand and One Nights?
This most celebrated collections of tales feature shape-shifting and miraculous transportation across continents, powerful jinn who rise like smoke from simple vessels, dreams that delve into the secrets of the subconscious, and gigantic, man-carrying birds.
The backdrop for the tales moves from barren deserts to spectacular cities, from the edge of the world to the inner sanctuaries of mighty rulers. Kings and paupers, benevolent sages and devious magicians, worthy princesses and unscrupulous harlots–all play their part in teaching important truths and providing lively entertainment.
This innovative book offers retellings of a selection of tales that have captured the imaginations of countless people over many centuries. Accompanying each is a short story set in a contemporary context, which reframes the messages and teachings of the original, specifically written for an adult audience.
Here are stories of betrayal and murder, exploitation and sibling rivalry, soul-searching and discovery. The modern parallel tales swap the busy alleyways of old Baghdad for the horror of Saddam's prisons, move from following caravans sweeping across the Sahara to modern day pilgrims trekking along the Caminos of northern Spain, and lift Aladdin out of his cave to unwittingly face Triad gangsters and antiques smugglers.
Arabian Nights & Arabian Nights / Traditional Tales From A Thousand And One Nights, Contemporary Tales For Adults by Clive Johnson is published by Labyrinthe Press and available in paperback, Kindle, and audible versions. (ISBN 978-0-9932029-6-4)
This innovative book offers retellings of a selection of tales from the One Thousand and One Nights that have captured the imaginations of countless people over many centuries, alongside short contemporary stories, which reframe the messages and teachings of the originals, specifically written for an adult audience.
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You can find more info about Arabian Nights & Arabian Nights / Traditional Tales From A Thousand And One Nights on Goodreads or The Autistic Mystic (Clive's Website/Blog)