Arabian Nights Marathon
by: Justin Wang
How long, from start to finish, would it take to read Moby Dick out loud? In order to seek the answer to this question (and many more), CCA students organized the Moby Dick Marathon last year. Consisting of a cover-to-cover, full out-loud reading of Moby Dick, the marathon was a resounding success both its execution and the sheer variety of ways people conducted and responded to the reading. Given last year’s success, CCA students are attempting to create a new verison of the Moby Dick marathon - this time, centered on Arabian Nights.
Arabian Nights, or One Thousand and One Nights (its true title given the Arabic translation), is a collection of short stories likely composed during the Islamic Golden Age. The entirety of the story is based off of one frame narrative, which ties the stories together as one cohesive piece; in this case, the frame story focuses on a Sasanian king. This king, after finding his wife to be unfaithful, married and subsequently executed every virgin in the land (so that none of his wives could ever dishonor him again). However, after exhausting all of the virgins provided by his vizier, the king finds one more - the vizier’s daughter Scheherazade. Scheherazade, being markedly more intelligent than the other virgins, realizes that by telling the king a story, but saving the conclusion until the next day, she could delay her execution: the king, like everybody else, wants to hear the end of a good story. Scheherazade continues this trend for the next 1,001 nights, giving the collection its name.
However, out of all the long novels out there, why read Arabian Nights? This choice was, according to the club organizers, mainly based on how special the book as a whole is both in language and content. Arabian Nights is one of the earliest examples of uses like frame narrative and embedded narrative, which is evident in the events of the frame story that set up the rest of the collection. Furthermore, each story within the collection itself uses AP Lang staples like crime and horror fiction elements, foreshadowing, dramatic visualization, irony, etc. The content of Arabian Nights is even more interesting. In fact, Arabian Nights as it stands today was never popular in the medieval world — Arabs during this time period did not often recognize fiction as truly outstanding writing. It wasn’t until 1704, with the translation of Antoine Galland, that Arabian Nights finally started to gain recognition and transform into the classic that it is today. Every story told by Scheherazade is different in one way or another, and they all interlink with subtle themes that persist across stories.
Much like the Moby Dick marathon last year, the Arabian Nights marathon promises to be an amazing event. The project organizers also have a much larger vision in terms of interdisciplinary collaboration: musicians, dancers, actors, filmmakers, artists, and readers are all welcome to put their spin on one of the stories in Arabian Nights. Each story is meant to be its own act, to be performed, not read. And with a larger and more diverse production team, the marathon (stylized as CCA Arabian Night 2018) promises to be an amazing experience. If you want to get in on the action, the informational meeting for the marathon is on November 9th in Mr Stiven’s room (B103). Also, join the Facebook group for periodic updates (CCA Arabian Night 2018 is the group name)!