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Astral Codex Ten Podcast

May 25, 2021



One Thousand And One Nights is a book about love, wonder, magic, and morality. About genies, ape-people, and rhinoceroses who run around with elephants impaled on their horns. About how to use indexical uncertainty to hack the simulation running the universe to return the outcome you want. But most of all, it's a book about how your wife is cheating on you with a black man.

Nights stretches from Morocco to China, across at least four centuries - and throughout that whole panoply of times and places, your wife is always cheating on you with a black man (if you're black, don't worry; she is cheating on you with a different black man). It's a weird constant. Maybe it's the author's fetish. I realize that Nights includes folktales written over centuries by dozens of different people - from legends passed along in caravanserais, to stories getting collected and written down, to manuscripts brought to Europe, to Richard Burton writing the classic English translation, to the abridged and updated version of Burton I read. But somewhere in that process, probably multiple places, someone had a fetish about their wife cheating on them with a black man, and boy did they insert it into the story.

Our tale begins in Samarkand.