LIVE from NYPL: Reading the Arabian Nights

Date and Time
January 20, 2022
Event Details
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Writers, translators, and artists celebrate the most famous story collection of all time.

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  • Yasmine Seale
  • Paulo Lemos Horta
  • S. A. Chakraborty
  • Elias Muhanna
  • Marjan Neshat
Book jacket for The Annotated Arabian Nights

A cornerstone of world literature and a monument to the power of storytelling, the Arabian Nights has inspired countless authors, from Charles Dickens and Edgar Allen Poe to Naguib Mahfouz, Clarice Lispector, and Angela Carter. In their extensive new collection, The Annotated Arabian Nights, literary historian Paulo Lemos Horta and poet and translator Yasmine Seale present a fresh selection of tales from the Nights. Featuring treasured original stories as well as later additions including "Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves," the collection definitively brings the Nights out of Victorian antiquarianism and into the 21st century.

Elias Muhanna, New Yorker writer and a scholar of classical Arabic Literature, speaks with Horta, Seale, and speculative fiction writer S. A. Chakraborty about the beloved story collection. Plus, a special reading by actor Marjan Neshat.

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Yasmine Seale is a writer who works across poetry, translation, criticism, and visual art.

Paulo Lemos Horta is an associate professor of literature at New York University Abu Dhabi, and the author of Marvellous Thieves: Secret Authors of the Arabian Nights. He lives in Abu Dhabi and Barcelona.

S. A. Chakraborty is the author of the critically acclaimed and internationally best-selling Daevabad Trilogy. Her work has been translated into over a dozen languages and nominated for the Hugo, Locus, World Fantasy, Crawford, and Astounding awards. When not buried in books about thirteen-century con artists and Abbasid political intrigue, she enjoys hiking, knitting, and re-creating unnecessarily complicated medieval meals. You can her online at or on Twitter and Instagram at @SAChakrabooks, where she likes to talk about history, politics, and Islamic art. She lives in New Jersey with her husband, daughter, and an ever-increasing number of cats.

Elias Muhanna is an associate professor of Comparative Literature and History at Brown University. He is the author of The World in a Book: Al-Nuwayri and the Islamic Encyclopedic Tradition, as well as two translations: The Ultimate Ambition in the Arts of Erudition and The Book of Travels. Muhanna's essays and criticism appears regularly in the mainstream press. He has written for The New Yorker, The London Review of Books, The New York Times, The Nation, and other periodicals. 

Marjan Neshat recently performed in Sylvia Khoury's acclaimed play, Selling Kabul, at Playwrights Horizons. In February, she will lead the cast of the new award-winning play English by Sanaz Toossi at the Atlantic in co-production with Roundabout Theatre Co. Other stage credits include the highly controversial Shakespeare in the Park production of Julius Caesar (NYSF), Fallaci by Lawrence Wright, The Seagull (with Alan Cumming and Dianne Wiest) and Girl Blog From Iraq (Fringe First nominee, Edinburgh Fringe Festival). Neshat's feature film work includes leading roles in the multi-award winning film Rockaway as well as the indie feature Almost in Love. She has played supporting roles in many films, including Robocop, Sex and the City 2, Alfie and the upcoming Love-40. Neshat's TV credits include New Amsterdam, For Life, Bull, Elementary, Quantico, Law & Order: SVU, and Fringe, among others. 



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Photo Credits
Book cover for The Annotated Arabian Nights: Tales from 1001 Nights © Liveright, W.W. Norton & Company. Illustration: From a Thousand and One Nights (1984) by Suad al-Attar.

Shahrazad. Dia al-Azzawi, 1986; with the permission of the artist.

Laleh Khorramian, Sudden Onset (2006). Born in Tehran, Khorramian is a visual artist and a designer based in upstate New York; with the permission of the artist.

The Vizier goes to Shahriyar to offer him his daughter, Shahrazad. Drawing by Dia al-Azzawi, 1985; with the permission of the artist.

Ramzi Choukair as the porter in “The Story of the Porter and the Three Women of Baghdad,” from Tim Supple’s stage adaptation of One Thousand and One Nights in Toronto (2011). Photo by Sophie Austin; with permission.

Parizade in “The Story of the Two Jealous Sisters” from The Arabian Nights Entertainments (1898). Illustration by H.J. Ford.

Beloukiya from “The Queen of the Serpents.” Illustration from Hezār Dāstān (1899—1900), a Persian verse translation illustrated by ‘Ali Khān. Reproduced from the personal archive of Ulrich Marzolph; with permission.

Baba Abdallah meets a dervish in “The Night Adventures of Harun al-Rashid” from L’agneau du Moghreb (1942). Illustration by Francois-Louis Schmied, created during the artist’s exile in Morocco.

The Second Dervish (Tewfik Jallab) in “The Tale of the Second Dervish,” from Tim Supple’s stage adaptation of One Thousand and One Nights in performance at the Luminato Festival in Toronto, 2011. Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann; with permission.

Marjana in Sinbad the Sailor and Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves (1896). Illustration by William Strang.