Summary from Goodreads:
Long defined by popular film adaptations that have reductively portrayed Aladdin as a simplistic rags-to-riches story for children, this work of dazzling imagination—and occasionally dark themes—finally comes to vibrant new life. “In the capital of one of China’s vast and wealthy kingdoms,” begins Shahrazad— the tale’s imperiled-yet-ingenious storyteller—there lived Aladdin, a rebellious fifteen-year-old who falls prey to a double-crossing sorcerer and is ultimately saved by the ruse of a princess.
One of the best-loved folktales of all time, Aladdin has been capturing the imagination of readers, illustrators, and filmmakers since an eighteenth-century French publication first added the tale to The Arabian Nights. Yet, modern English translators have elided the story’s enchanting whimsy and mesmerizing rhythms. Now, translator Yasmine Seale and literary scholar Paulo Lemos Horta offer an elegant, eminently readable rendition of Aladdin in what is destined to be a classic for decades to come.
So, Aladdin lived in Agrabah with a small monkey and after getting tricked by Jafar and his mouthy parrot, he found a lamp with a funny blue genie and then married Princess Jasmine who lived in a palace with giant onion domes/looked like the Taj Mahal, right?
Eh, no. A new translation of Aladdin is just out from Liveright and it is a delight. This is a new translation from the French, drawn from a French edition by Antoine Galland in the early 1700s. Aladdin has a curious publication history, highlighted in Horta’s introduction. It has not been found in extant Arabic manuscripts of the 1001 Nights or The Arabian Nights, but was added to the collection by Galland after being told the story of Aladdin, and others, by a traveler from Aleppo, Hanna Diyab. If you’ve only been exposed to the Disney/Hollywood/children’s version of Aladdin this is fascinating reading. It definitely isn’t a children’s translation – the sentence structure is complex and this is an English translation of a French version of a Syrian tale that perhaps comes from centuries of oral tradition. Apparently, Aladdin’s kingdom is nearer to China than Arabia, who knew?
Searle is working on a new translation of the complete Arabian Nights, which I believe will be released in several volumes, and Aladdin is an early taste of her work as a translator of the French Galland edition. This is a very lovely translation to read and I’m definitely looking forward to the completed work.
Thanks to Liveright/Norton for the galley (I’m a little behind on my reading – Aladdin was released November 27).
Dear FTC: I read a digital galley from the publisher via Edelweiss.