27 February 2019

One Night in a Thousand

Aladdin: A New Translation
Yasmine Seale
Liveright Publishing, 2019
118 pages

Most of us probably think that we know the story of Aladdin and the magic lamp, which has long been a staple of children's storybooks. Had I seen "Aladdin" propped up on a shelf at a bookstore or my library, I'd have thought "oh, that charming story from my childhood" and passed right on by. But luckily I read a Publishers Weekly interview with Yasmine Seale, the woman who has newly translated the story, and was intrigued.


"Aladdin" is a short fairytale novella, readable as a long winter afternoon's escape. There is more to the tale than I recalled, and it's set in China not the Middle East. Good things happen and bad, there's a poor boy named Aladdin, an evil magician, a magic lamp with a jinni, and a beautiful princess who cleverly saves the day. The translation's prose flows nicely and I enjoyed reading "Aladdin".

There is a fascinating introduction by Paulo Lemos Horta, a scholar of world literature and cross-cultural collaborations. How the story of Aladdin was included in the original French collection "The Arabian Nights" is nearly as interesting as the story itself. "Aladdin" is a fun read and I recommend it for the fairytale lover in each of us!

Further Reading

Yasmine Seale Has Retranslated "Aladdin"

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