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Saturday 19 October: 11:00am - 12:00pm

Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, Room 8/9, Sidgwick Avenue, CB3 9DA

Ever since its first appearance in print 300 years ago in French, the origins of the Aladdin story has puzzled scholars and fans alike. The lack of an original Arabic source led many to believe that the famed translator Antoine Galland simply made it all up. The mention of a Syrian storyteller named Hanna Diyab in Galland's diaries and later discoveries of two forged manuscripts only deepened the mystery. Meanwhile, the tale's popularity grew as it passed into world folklore, the British panto tradition, and of course, the Disney films.

In this visually-rich presentation, Arafat Razzaque will take us on a tour of the story behind the story, including the issue of Aladdin's place in the '1001 Nights' or 'Arabian Nights'. The history of this literary classic takes us from the medieval metropolises of Baghdad and Cairo, to Aleppo and other cosmopolitan cities across Syria, to the book markets of Paris and London in the 18th century, to the Arabic printers of Calcutta, and indeed the college libraries of Cambridge in the 19th century. The varied representations of Aladdin over the past three centuries shed light on cultural encounters in a global world. Moreover, a recently discovered manuscript of Diyab's memoirs at the Vatican library reveals more than we previously knew about the man behind Aladdin.

We will look at examples of the tale's life in manuscripts, ephemera, artwork, theatre and film—with time for questions after the talk. Please register early to get a place.

Booking Information

Telephone number:
01223 766766

Booking required


Full access

Additional Information

Age: 8+, Talk, Arrive on time, free