The Nahḍa's First Stirrings of Interest in <i>Alf Layla</i>

Pierre Cachia

in Exploring Arab Folk Literature

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print September 2011 | ISBN: 9780748640867
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748653300 | DOI:
The Nahḍa's First Stirrings of Interest in Alf Layla

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This chapter focuses on Alf Layla, with particular emphasis on Naḥda's interest in this work. To many educated Arabs, Alf Layla was the exact opposite of literary classics which are often cited and read. The component tales of Alf Layla were common knowledge but they were seen as at best ‘idle stories’ that fell under Qur'anic condemnation. However, when placed within the rudiments of classical Arabic literature, Alf Layla does not conform to the high style which Tāhā Husayn himself once declared a sine qua non of the literary canon. So far, no interest had been shown in the narrative techniques that are so engaging a feature of Alf Layla. The elite that had set out not to be elitist continued to dedicate itself to serving the masses without seeking any input from them.

Keywords: Alf Layla; Naḥda; classical Arabic literature; folk literature; literary elite; literary classics; Tāhā Husayn

Chapter.  4675 words. 

Subjects: Society and Culture

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