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Scheherazade Lately


Long-lasting and wide-ranging is the fame of Scheherazade, the legendary Arabian storyteller. Scheherazade’s 1001 cliffhangers saved her own life and the lives of many other young women who would have been beheaded by a misogynistic king. Among her many and varied fairy tales are the seven voyages of Sinbad the sailor and “Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp.” To this day, authors enrich their tales with Scheherazade’s narrative treasures. A few are Salman Rushdie, Haruki Murakami, and Nnedi Okorafor. These three authors tell magical stories with non-Western perspectives in a way that enchants Western readers and brings them to a better appreciation of other cultures. In the tradition of Scheherazade, they disarm prejudice as they delight and amaze.


The title of Salman Rushdie’s short story collection, East, West, the baby sister of the young narrator in “The Courter” is named Scheherazade. The magic in that story comes from the small triumphs of unlikely characters rather than from the supernatural, but magical objects in other stories from this collection include a strand of the Prophet Mohammad’s hair and Dorothy’s ruby slippers.


In Haruki Murakami's collection Men Without Women, one of the stories is entitled “Scheherazade.” In another, “Samsa in Love,” Murakami creates a sequel to Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, in which the mysterious curse on Gregor is undone and he will live on as a human, perhaps even happily ever after.


Nnedi Okorafor’s collection of stories, Kabu Kabu includes a story entitled “The Carpet.” The story’s young narrator and her sister Zuma travel from their home in the U.S. to check on the construction of their parents’ house in Nigeria. At the market, Zuma buys a carpet with gold tassels that “looks like something Scheherazade would own.” This story has not only a happy but a humorous ending that delights and disarms both the reader and the sisters in the story, who struggle with the conflicting values of the two cultures to which they belong. 

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