January 3, 2012 by Reader's Connection
Abulhassan is in a tricky position. He´s a well-known pharmacist and devoted alchemist in the City of Peace–which already, in the ninth century, is sometimes being referred to as Baghdad. He´s the only trusted friend of the powerful Sultan Harun al-Rashid, who used to have another trusted friend but decided to execute him.
Abulhassan tells us of a forbidden love between the Prince of Persia and the Sultan’s favorite woman, and of how he, the honorable pharmacist who plays chess with the sultan, is drawn into the couple’s intrigue.
Daniel Horch, author of The Angel with One Hundred Wings, borrowed the names of some characters “and fragments of the plot” from a tale in The Arabian Nights, and has delivered a wonderful story, complete with thieves, journeys by night, a puzzling marriage, and walls with niches carved in them where Abulhassan stores his alchemical supplies.
I never read The Arabian Nights when I was a kid. We were supposed to, according to Robert Louis Stevenson. I’m enjoying the collection pictured here (selections from the Richard Burton translation, with an introduction by A. S. Byatt), but the story which inspired Horch’s novel isn’t included, so I’ve requested the three-volume translation by Malcolm and Ursula Lyons.