The Book of One Thousand and One Nights
Translation by Sir Richard Burton, ~1850
The Arabian Nights, a tale of unfaithful wifes, Islamic mores, with monsters and gods. It's not what you've seen via Disney. To read the entire work thoroughly is tantamount to years of study of Arabian ethnology.
Here is selected stories of Sir Richard Burton's uncensored and unabridged version. Annotated by Xah Lee.
- The Tale of the Wazir and the Sage Duban
- King Sindibad and his Falcon
- The Tale of the Husband and the Parrot
- The Tale of the Prince and the Ogress
- The First Kalandar's Tale
- The Second Kalandar's Tale
- The Third Kalandar's Tale
- The Eldest Lady's Tale
- Tale of the Portress
Notes from Xah Lee
Vast majority of Arabian Nights in English are censored out of shape. All sexual and cultural aspects are elided to conform to Western norms, leaving just phantasmagorical fairy tale of monsters.
Sir Richard Burton's translation is the second uncensored translation. (first is by John Payne)
The popular stories such as • “Aladdin's Wonderful Lamp” • “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves”, • “The Seven Voyages of Sinbad the Sailor”, are not part of The Nights in its original Arabic versions but were added to the collection by Antoine Galland in ~1704. These stories, even in full uncensored version, are lackluster in comparison to the stories in Arabian Nights.
The Arabian Nights has origin in India, and is collected stories from years 700 AD onward. Stories are continuously added and edited from different Middle East countries and Egypt. So, there is really no one true Arabian Nights nor a sense of “complete” version.
The annotation here are by Xah Lee (me). Most are done in 2005. The text are based on Sir Richard Burton's uncensored and unabridged version.
One problem with Sir Richard Burton's translation is that it uses archaic and poetic English. I find this making it far more enjoyable, for literary reasons, on language and linguistics, like reading Shakespeare. But this is a problem for those who just want to read the stories.
Best modern uncensored translation in modern English is by Husain Haddawy.
See also: The Thousand-and-Second Tale of Scheherazade by Edgar Allan Poe.