Magic is not simply a matter of the occult arts, but a whole way of thinking, of dreaming the impossible. As such it has tremendous force in opening the mind to new realms of achievement: imagination precedes the fact. It used to be associated with wisdom, understanding the powers of nature, and with technical ingenuity that could let men do things they had never dreamed of before.
The supreme fiction of this magical thinking is the Arabian Nights, with its flying carpets, hidden treasure and sudden revelations. Translated into French and English in the early days of the Enlightenment, this Arabic collection of folk and fairy tales became a huge success with intellectuals, artists and composers. The book's strangeness opened visions of transformation: dreams of flight, speaking objects, virtual money and the power of the word to bring about change. Its tales create a poetic image of the impossible and an unexpectedly modern parable of knowledge and power. Above all they have the fascination of the strange - the belief that true knowledge lies elsewhere, in a mysterious realm of wonder.
As part of her exploration into the prophetic enchantments of the Nights, Marina Warner retells some of the most wonderful and lesser-known stories. She explores the figure of the dark magician or magus, from Solomon to the wicked uncle in 'Aladdin'; the complex vitality of the jinn, or genies; animal metamorphoses and flying carpets. Her narrative reveals that magical thinking, as conveyed by these stories, governs many aspects of experience, even now. In this respect, the East and West have been in fruitful dialogue. Writers and artists in every medium have found themselves by adopting Oriental disguise. With startling originality and impeccable research, this groundbreaking book shows how magic, in the deepest sense, helped to create the modern world, and how profoundly it is still inscribed in the way we think today.
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An epic study of the Arabian Nights...a dissection of the myths in these enduring classics that promises to throw light on the countries from which the stories spring and the lives of women in them - Observer, Books of the Year
Wide-ranging, erudite, wondrously polymathic exploration of the tales of magic... Warner, too is a beguiling storyteller: her fascination with true knowledge embedded in realms of wonder - The Times
Her mind is as rich and fascinating as the stories themselves, taking us on a magic carpet from Borges and Goethe, to Edward Said and the movies - Guardian, Books of the Year
Warner's book makes reading The Arabian Nights seem as essential to understanding the Western literary cannon as the King James Bible, and a lot more fun - Independent on Sunday
436 densely erudite and eclectic pages... Stranger Magic is a scholarly work that often reads like a fireside conversation - Guardian
An exuberantly clever investigation of the role of magic in the way we think - Independent
Attractively sociable in its storymaking, and her eye for detail is mesmerizing - Times Higher Education
This beautifully illustrated book, part retelling, part analysis, is a wonderful companion to some of the most marvellous stories ever told - Scotsman
An extraordinarily rich and elegant lesson in cultural involution... The product of Warner's meticulous research is a weighty volume that feels airborne on every page - Irish Times
A creditable survey of the West's response to The Nights - Telegraph
Fascinating and highly informed - Big Issue
Marina Warner’s superb study seeks to rescue “magic” from its place of exile outside of rationality and show that imagination can hold as much reason as empirical thought - Independent on Sunday
Explores the effects of the Arabian Nights on the western imagination - Observer
An erudite and original exploration of the fabric of childhood dreams, a perfect present - Swansea Bay
This beautifully illustrated doorstopper examines the enduring appeal of the Arabian Nights. Warner has produced a meticulously researched and far-reaching excursion into magical literature - Sunday Telegraph (Seven)
Warner’s gentle authority proves to be the perfect guide not only through many of the tales themselves but also through their attendant history, and theories about them... Her immersion in her subject makes for an enthusiasm that proves infectious - Independent on Sunday
Marina Warner spent her early years in Cairo, and was educated at a convent in Berkshire, and then in Brussels and London, before studying modern languages at Oxford. She is an internationally acclaimed cultural historian, critic, novelist and short story writer. From her early books on the Virgin Mary and Joan of Arc, to her bestselling studies of fairy tales and folk stories, From the Beast to the Blonde and No Go the Bogeyman, her work has explored different figures in myth and fairy tale and the art and literature they have inspired. She lectures widely in Europe, the United States and the Middle East, and is currently Professor in the Department of Literature, Film and Theatre Studies, University of Essex. She was appointed CBE in 2008. www.marinawarner.com