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Marina Warner. 2012. Stranger Magic: Charmed States & the Arabian Nights

Croatian Association of Researchers in Children's Literature; [email protected]
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359 Enchanted and Erudite Marina Warner. 2012. Stranger Magic: Charmed States & the Arabian Nights. London: Vintage, 540 pp. ISBN 978-0-099-43769-7 Using nothing but superlatives to describe the works of Marina Warner has by now become an almost automatic response from reviewers and readers alike. The renowned novelist, critic, cultural historian, university professor and CBE has, in a sense, spoiled us with her intellectually and – given the numerous colour plates and illustrations – visually stimulating, yet accessible and highly readable books, covering a wide range of topics such as the Virgin Mary (Alone of All Her Sex: The Myth and the Cult of the Virgin Mary, 1976), fairy tales and nursery rhymes (From the Beast to the Blonde: On Fairy Tales and Their Tellers, 1994), representations of fear (No Go the Bogeyman: Scaring, Lulling, and Making Mock, 1998), etc. Stranger Magic (2012), Warner’s most recent publication, is an extensive study of Alf Layla wa-Layla or the Arabian Nights (also known as the Arabian Nights’ Entertainment, Tales of a Thousand and One Nights, or simply the Nights), one of the most famous and perhaps most mysterious collections of tales. The supposed mystery of this (as Warner calls it) “polyvocal anthology of world myths, fables and fairy tales” (8) stems to a large extent from its diversity and – for lack of a better term – elusiveness. Not only is the time and place of origin of the Nights unknown, but both the tales and the collection seem to lack a stable, definitive shape, existing in a state of flux, in innumerable versions, translations and adaptations. The main issue that prompted Warner to study the Arabian Nights was the fact that the collection was first presented to European audiences in “the most contradictory possible time” (20): the period of Enlightenment. French translations by Antoine Galland (1704–17; also the first printed versions of the collection) were immensely successful, giving rise to an ‘oriental craze’ – a

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