Charmed states and the “Arabian Nights”
Some dreamers move about on flying beds, apropos of which Warner notes that the English words sofa (from suffiah in Arabic), divan (from diwan in Persian), and ottoman (Turkish) are all words for a day bed; the oriental sofa became “the epitome of oriental hedonism, . . . a low-lying couch for reclining and abandoning oneself, alone or with others – to love-making, autoeroticism, smoking, gossiping, daydreaming, to storytelling, reading and studying, and to quietness and reflection”. It is the place where daydreaming readers lie fantasizing about the stories they’ve read.
... when Freud called his couch an ottoman and covered it with a Persian carpet, he may have been, “consciously or unconsciously”, creating an Oriental setting for the first psychoanalytical talking cures, “a form of storytelling, with the roles reversed (it is the narrator who needs to be healed, not the listener-Sultan)”. Freud, who kept a statue of the Hindu god Vishnu on his desk, was very much an Orientalist.
within the Arabic tradition, the tales of the Nights were discounted as popular trash, pulp fiction; despite numerous allusions to the Prophet, and quotations and echoes of the Qur’an, they were “too much fun, often transgressive or amoral fun, to be orthodox or respectable . . .”. Galland cleaned out the homosexual episodes, but Burton (whom Warner calls “the Frank Harris of the desert and the bazaar”) footnoted them and generally made the tales more salacious, stealing most of them from Richard Payne and adding many of his own, thumbing his nose at the prevailing prudery of Victorian Britain, “with glee and a fair deal of invention, projection, and transference”. One reviewer epitomized the European translators as “Galland for the nursery, Lane for the library, Payne for the study, and Burton for the sewers.”