East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


Tits & Sand: the roleplaying game

2nro4lsBack when I opened this blog, one of the titles I had on my list was Alam al Mithral, an expression from Arabian philosophy which means The place where ideas are real.
It was quite good, but too long and too easy to spell wrong, I thought.
That, of course, was before I discovered to some this blog was Karavansahara.
But that’s another story.
Anyway, it looks like in 2017 I’ll finally get the opportunity to use that title – for a roleplaying game I will develop together with my brother, based on a new gaming engine.
A nice, swift, cool game of Tits & Sand – or Arabian Nights Adventures if you prefer.
Or Oriental Fantasy.
You get the idea. Continue reading


Arabian Nights Art 3: Abu Kir & Abu Sir

arabian nights italy 1958 2Last installment and last gallery for the 1958 Fratelli Fabbri edition of a selection of tales from the Arabian Nights.

The last story in the book is The Tale of Abu Kir the Dyer and Abu Sir the Barber, and once again it is illustrated by Benvenuti. This is the widest selection of illustrations: the two previous tales got ten images each, but the final tale gets nineteen. And we won’t complain for that!

Once again, if you’d like to read the original, you can check out the version available at Sacred Texts.

For a complete version of the Arabian Nights, Project Gutenberg offers both the Andrew Lang translation, and the “complete” 1890 “Aldine edition”. But the Gutenberg guys really have a wide selection of versions of the book.

Print editions are many and deserve a separate post (maybe, one day).

And now, here’s the gallery.

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Arabian NIghts Art 2: Blind Baba Abdalla

arabian nights italy 1958 2Last week I posted a gallery of images from the first of the three Arabian Nights tales, taken from the 1958 Fratelli Fabbri volume.
The experiment was quite successful, so here we go with the second tale – billed as The Blind Sheik, but commonly referred to as The Tale of Blind Baba Abdalla.
It is interesting to note that the stories in this 54 booklet are not adaptations but, apparently, straight translations of the original text.

If you like, you can read the original story from the Sacred Texts website – in the Andrew Lang, 1898 translation.

Once again, the illustrations are by Benvenuti.

Next week, the third and last story, and gallery.

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Arabian Nights Art 1: Kamar & Budur

arabian nights italy 1958 2My love of the Arabian Nights is on file – I have a few different editions, and I re-read a few tales every year. I’m still looking for the perfect, definitive edition, well knowing I will never find it and yet, that’s part of the mystique of the book.

Back in 1958, Italian publisher Fratelli Fabbri issued a gorgeously illustrated selection of stories from the Arabian Nights.
It was a 54-pages book – part of their line of books for young readers – and it included just three stories:

the Tale of Kamar al Zalam

the Tale of thge Blind Baba Abdalla

the Tale of Abu Kir the Dyer and Abu Sir the Barber

I actually never saw the book. What I saw was the artwork, which was absolutely stunning, and is credited to Benvenuti (most likely Gianni Benvenuti, 1926-2005).
So here’s a gallery taken from the first story, The tale of Prince Kamar and princess Budur.
You can read the original story on Wikisource.
I’ll post galleries for the next two stories in the next two weeks.


Tits & Sand: Arabian Nights, 1942

Arabiannights1Shot well before the tits & sand label was coined, Arabian Nights, directed by John Rawlins has all it needs to be listed in the genre.
Yes, there’s lots of sand, and star Maria Montez does show her graces in a number of lavish costumes.

A pity the story is so flimsy.
But we’ll get there.

Arabian Nights is one of the exotic movies featuring John Hall and Maria Montez poroduced in the ’40s by Universal pictures.
The first Technicolor feature produced by Universal in over a decade, the movie was designed to cash-in on the success of The Thief of Bagdad in 1940.
Both movies feature Sabu in a key role as the sidekick of the male lead. Continue reading

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Ten books meme – multiple reading edition

OK, there’s this meme going, about the Ten Books of Your Life.
Like there was only ten books that important in my life.
And I was talking about this with my friend Claire – and she’s doing two lists of ten books, because she knows.
And as we chatted about it I thought I can’t actually set down a list of ten books that are all-important – because I can’t decide what they are important for.

But I can do set down a list of ten books I re-read regularly.
Because sometimes I do re-read some of those books. Continue reading

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The true story of Sinbad the Sailor (sort of)

captain-sinbad-graham-diamond-paperback-cover-artI’m a sucker for a good novel with an Arabian Nights twist.
So I’m currently reading Graham Diamond‘s Captain Sinbad, a smart, highly entertaining historical fantasy adventure which supposedly tells us the “true story” of the Arabian Nights character and his travels around the Mediterranean, Medieval Europe and the Near East.

Now, I’ve always loved Sinbad – first discovered in old Technicolor adventure movies (Douglas Fairbanks!), the Fleischer Popeye cartoon (wonderful!) then through repeated readings of the Arabian Nights*, and Tim Severin‘s The Sindbad Voyage.

Continue reading