Eric Ormsby

Stories Told in Bed

Stranger Magic: Charmed States & the Arabian Nights

By

Chatto & Windus 540pp £28 order from our bookshop

Visions of the Jinn: Illustrators of the Arabian Nights

By

Oxford University Press/The Arcadian Library 256pp £120 order from our bookshop

On certain restless nights, despite the plush furnishings of his royal bed or the soothing melodies of his musicians or even the exquisite attentions of one or more of his 300 concubines, the mighty caliph Harun al-Rashid, fifth in the Abbasid line, could not find sleep. Accompanied by his favourite eunuch, Masrur, who also served as his headsman, he prowled the palace gardens or roamed in disguise through the souks of Baghdad; sometimes he summoned learned scholars for a chat – normally an infallible remedy for insomnia. If these expedients failed, he had his eunuch fetch Ali ibn Mansur, a wit from Damascus, to while away the long hours of the night with his fabulous tales. In the end, only stories could lull the caliph to sleep.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • 'Her favourite design included a body in the shape of a horse, with a steam engine inside ... The passenger would t… ,
    • Sign up to our email newsletter below! Get free articles, highlights from the archive, and chances to win theatre… ,
    • RT : Founded in 1979, is a trusted independent source for reviews of new books across a variety of genres. A… ,
    • RT : Here we are - "Shelf Indulgence" by Ed Potten, a wonderful read, well worth your time: @Lit_Review,
    • 'Like going to a party hoping to get away as quickly as politeness allowed and at 4am finding myself still engrosse… ,
    • 'Neville never shed his sense of being the junior, and perhaps least-deserving Chamberlain.' From the archive, Mic… ,
    • 'The erecting and immediate destruction of a series of straw men rather detracts from what is for the most part an… ,