Monday 17 February 2014

Antoine Galland and One Thousand and One Nights

Antoine Galland (Rollot, Picardy, France, 4th April 1646 – Paris, France, 17th February 1715)

Antoine Galland

As a lady who wields a pen on a daily basis, it is always a pleasure to introduce another writer to the salon and today's guest is a gentleman who brought an iconic literary work to the public. Antoine Gallard was a writer, traveller and translator who introduced The Thousand and One Nights to an adoring European readership.

Whilst visiting Constantinople towards the end of the 17th century, the intrepid Gallard came into possession of a manuscript of The Tale of Sindbad the Sailor. Impressed by the thrilling narrative, he published a successful translation of the story in 1701 that enjoyed immediate success in his native land. 

Recognising the financial possibilities of the public's interest in such tales, he set about a translation of a 14th-century Syrian manuscript of tales from Mille et Une Nuit  or, in English, One Thousand and One Nights. This translation would eventually become a hugely influential twelve-volume masterwork some 13 years in publication, with the concluding volume appearing posthumously.

Gallard's work on the manuscript was further supplemented by more stories that were related to him by Hanna Diab, a monk from Aleppo. Diab shared a number of tales to the author that were incorporated into later volumes of his One Thousand and One Nights series. Some of Galland's stories appear to be of somewhat dubious origin and no Arabic manuscripts have been found that tell the tales of Ali Baba or Aladdin, leading to speculation that the enterprising Galland made these up himself!

Galland also made some changes to the stories to suit the tastes of the time, removing all poetic passages and heavily sanitising the eroticism of the original works. However, it appeared that Galland had perfectly captured the tastes of his readership and his works were enormously successful and influential, leading to numerous other translations that continued to popularise these well-loved tales for centuries to come. 


Unknown said...

Aha... So censorship was alive and well in the 17th Century! I used to love these tales as a kid.

Catherine Curzon said...

Very much, many years before the Lord Chamberlain!