Tales of magic lamps, powerful genies and the granting of wishes have always had a hold on our imagination, clearly demonstrated by the enduring popularity of Disney’s Aladdin. These fantastic tales originate from the Kitāb ʾalf layla wa-layla, One thousand and One Nights, or as they’re more commonly known, the Arabian Nights.

Collected across the centuries by multiple authors, translators and scholars, the original tales are rooted in the fables and folklore of the East and their stories of magic, sorcerers and exotic lands have spread out to enchant a global audience, inspiring authors, artists and filmmakers alike.

Join event chair Boyd Tonkin and authors, Robert Irwin and Marina Warner, as they investigate the true origins of these tales and take us on a journey to explore how the Djinn of the Arabian nights has morphed through time to become the Genie of the western imagination.

About The Speakers

Robert Irwin

Robert Irwin has published seven novels, the most recent of which is Wonders Will Never Cease.  His non-fiction includes Memoirs of a Dervish: Sufis, Mystics and the Sixties.  He has edited and introduced The Arabian Nights, Tales of 1001 Nights and Tales of the Marvellous and News of the Strange for Penguin Classics.

Marina Warner

Marina Warner is a writer whose works include novels and short stories as well as studies of art, myths, symbols and fairy tales.  Her most recent work, Fly Away Home, is a collection of short stories.  She was recently elected the first female President of the Royal Society of Literature.

Photo by Dan Welldon

About The Chair

Boyd Tonkin

Boyd Tonkin is an award-winning journalist who currently writes on literature and culture for The Financial Times, The Economist, Newsweek and The Spectator. He was previously Literary Editor and then Senior Writer at The Independent, where he re-founded the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize and judged the award for 15 years. He chaired the jury of the 2016 Man Booker International Prize, and now serves as the prize’s Special Adviser.