Monday, August 8, 2011

Review of In Arabian Nights

This book was a gift, and I am so lucky to have received it; It is the kind of book that I never would have chosen to read, and it affected me profoundly. Tahir Shah is the son of Idries Shah, a highly esteemed writer, philosopher, and scholar of eastern writings and traditions. As a child, Tahir spent months in Morocco traveling with his family, and when he had a family of his own he decided to move them to a crumbling estate on the outskirts of a slum in Casablanca. The trials and tribulations of buying and restoring that house are described in The Caliph's House, a book published prior to In Arabian Nights and one which I plan to read soon.

In Arabian Nights is the story of Shah's quest to find the story in his heart. Supposedly, everyone has a story in their heart, and it can take a minute or a lifetime to find it, but once you do, it stays with you forever. In his quest to find his story, Shah travels throughout Morocco and meets all sorts of characters with wonderful stories of their own. This is not a book of short stories, but instead a description of a journey that is woven with wonderful tales and folk stories. Shah is a gifted writer, and transports us not only to his life and experience living and traveling throughout Morocco, but one step further into all of the stories that he tells throughout the book. And there are some GREAT stories.

I plan to read this book again and mark all of the pages where he tells wonderful tales so that I can learn them and tell them to Tessa when she's a bit older. One of my fondest memories as a child is sitting with my own grandfather on a window seat overlooking Madison Avenue. As we looked out of the window of my grandparents' apartment he would tell me story after story, some completely made up, others about his childhood, and still others that had been told to him. I was always entranced, and realize that nothing can replace moments like those. In Arabian Nights is about the value of those moments.


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