Tales of the Marvellous and News of the Strange

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What to expect

Brought to you by Penguin.

On the shrouded corpse hung a tablet of green topaz with the inscription: ‘I am Shaddad the Great. I conquered a thousand cities; a thousand white elephants were collected for me; I lived for a thousand years and my kingdom covered both east and west, but when death came to me nothing of all that I had gathered was of any avail. You who see me take heed: for Time is not to be trusted.’

Dating from at least a millennium ago, these are the earliest known Arabic short stories, surviving in a single, ragged manuscript in a library in Istanbul. Some found their way into The Arabian Nights but most have never been read in English before. Tales of the Marvellous and News of the Strange has monsters, lost princes, jewels beyond price, a princess turned into a gazelle, sword-wielding statues and shocking reversals of fortune.

© Robert Irwin 2014 (P) Penguin Audio 2021

Critics Review

  • Offers a gateway to a different world of language and ideas, florid, wildly descriptive and are a powerful reminder of the human need for story . . . irresistible

  • Superb, a revelation – a real classic of popular literature . . . endlessly diverting and inventive, (giving) a unique insight into a now-lost elegant, courtly and tolerant Arab world

    Sunday Times
  • This book is an astonishment . . . a profound oddity, but an absolutely intriguing one

    Scotland on Sunday
  • Instantly appealing (with) headlong narrative drive . . . like a Medieval Fifty Shades of Grey . . . above all, fun


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