The one thousand and second night of the Arabic tales
dictated by the spirit of Frédéric Soulié
OBSERVATION: The Roman numerals mark the interruptions in the
dictation. Several times the work was only restarted after two or
three weeks and, despite that, as we have already observed, the report de-
velops as if written at once. And this is not one of the less curious features
of the production from beyond the grave. We repeat to those who could
see this as futile that we don’t publish it as a philosophical piece of work,
but as material for study. Nothing is useless to the observer. He knows
how to take advantage of everything in order to better understand the
Nothing, however, could disturb our happiness. Everything was calmness
around us. We lived in perfect security when one night, thinking that we
could not be safer, from our side (we were in a roundabout, so to speak,
reached from several alleys) appeared the Sultan and his Grand Vizier.
Both men bearing a frightening expression in their faces: rage had altered
their expressions. Both were – particularly the Sultan – showing an obvi-
ous exasperation. The first thought that crossed the Sultan’s mind was of
killing me, but knowing the family I belonged to and fearing for his fate,
he dared not touch one single hair from my head. He then pretended not
to have noticed me, as I had moved to the side as he got closer. However,
he continued like a furious man over Nazara, swearing that her deserved
punishment would not be long. He took her away, always followed by the
Grand-Vizier. As for myself, once the initial scaring moment was over, I
swiftly returned to my palace, thinking of any means to take back the
star of my life from the hands of that savage who would likely destroy her
And then what did you do, asked Manouze. Because, after all,
I don’t see any reason for you to be in so much pain, unable to
remove your lover from this situation that you created. You give
me the impression of being a weak man that has neither courage
nor will power when dealing with difficult situations.
Manouze, before you criticize you must listen. I come to you af-
ter having examined all means at my disposal. I made offers to
the Sultan; I promised gold, jewelry, camels, even palaces, if he
returned my smooth gazelle. He despised everything. Since I saw
my offers repelled, I threatened him; those were despised as the
others. He laughed at everything and made fun of me. I also tried
to break into the palace; I corrupted slaves; I got to the rooms but
despite all my efforts I could not reach my beloved one.
You are honest, Nureddin. Your sincerity deserves an award and
you will have what you came for. As such, I will do something ter-
rible to you. If you have the strength to withstand the trial that I
will submit you to, you can rest assured that you will recover your
old happiness. I give you five minutes to decide.
Once the five minutes was over, Nureddin told Manouze that he was
ready to do everything she demanded in order to save Nazara. The witch then stood up and said: “That is fine. Come!” She then opened a door at
the back of the room, showing him the way. They went through a somber
patio, full of horrible things: serpents, frogs sternly strolling side by side
with black cats, holding an air of superiority among other filthy animals.
At the opposite side of that patio there was another door also opened by
Manouze. Once Nureddin went through they got into a lower room, only
illuminated from the ceiling above: the light came from a very tall dome,
surrounded by multicolored glasses, forming all sorts of arabesques. In
the middle of the room there was a lit chafing dish and on a tripod; above
the chafing dish, a large bronze vase with a simmering potion of aromatic
herbs whose pungent odor was unbearable. By that vase there was a kind
of a black velvet couch. When sitting on that couch the person would im-
mediately disappear. Manouze sat down while Nureddin helplessly tried to find her for a few minutes. She suddenly reappeared and said:
• Are you still ready?
• Yes, said Nureddin.
• Then, sit on that couch and wait.
Nureddin had just sat on the couch when everything changed ap-
pearance. A crowd of white figures populated the room suddingly.
These figures, at first barely visible, later appeared to be covered in
blood caused by their bleeding wounds. They were dancing in a kind of
infernal circle with Manouze in the center, showing sparse hair, spark-
ing eyes, ragged clothes, bearing a crown of serpents on her head. She
held a lit torch in her hand, like a flame casting scepter, whose smell
constricted the throat. After dancing for about a quarter of an hour,
they suddenly stopped, following a signal given by their queen, who
had thrown the torch into a fervent boiler. Once all those figures were
prostrated around the chair, Manouze asked the oldest figure to approach. This figure, recognized by his long white beard, said:
Come here, you who follow the devil. I must assign you with this
very delicate task. Nureddin wants Nazara and I promised him
that I would give her to him. It is a difficult business. Tanapla, I
count on your support. Nureddin will endure all required trials.
Move on, then. You know what I want; do it as you please but do it.
Watch it if you fail. I reward the one that serves me but cursed be
the one who does not grant my wishes!
Your wish will be attended, said Tanapla. Leave that to me.
Then go and do it!
As soon as she mentioned those words everything changed before
Nureddin’s eyes. The objects went back to what they were doing before and he was alone again with Manouze.
Now, she said, go home and wait. I will send you one of my gnomes
to tell you what to do. Obey him and everything will be fine.
Nureddin felt happy with those words and more so for leaving the
witch’s den behind. He crossed the patio again and the room from
where he came in; she then followed him to the entrance door. Then, as
Nureddin asked if he should return, she responded:
No, it would be useless for now. If it is necessary I will let you
Nureddin quickly returned to his palace. He was impatient to find
out if something new had happened since his departure. He found ev-
erything unchanged. The only thing different showed up in the marble
room, a summer resting room used by the inhabitants of Bagdad. There
is where he saw, near the small pool in the middle of the room, a kind
of disgustingly ugly dwarf. He was dressed in yellow, with red and blue
embroidery; he had a monstrous hunchback, tiny legs, a wide face, and
green crossed eyes, an ear-to-ear wide mouth and a red hair that rivaled
Nureddin questioned him about what he was doing there and how he
had gotten there.
I am Manouze’s envoy, he said, to deliver your lover. My name is
If you are really Manouze’s envoy, I am ready to obey you. But
hurry up. The one who I love is in chains and I am in a hurry to
If you are in a hurry then take me to your room and I will tell
you what to do.
Follow me then, said Nureddin.
After having crossed patios and gardens Tanapla got to the young
Nureddin’s room. He closed all doors and said:
You know that you have to do everything that I tell you to, with-
out objection. Go and dress up like a merchant. You will carry a
package on your back with the objects that we need. I will dress
up like a slave and will carry the other package.
Greatly surprised Nureddin saw two large packages by the dwarf’s
side, although he had not seen nor heard anybody bringing them over.
Then, Tanapla said, we will go to the Sultan’s house. You will
ask to have the Sultan be informed that you carry rare and curi-
ous objects; that if he wanted he could offer them to his favorite
and that no other huri had ever worn something like that before.
You know the curiosity. He will feel like seeing us. Once he is in
your presence you will have no difficulty in showing him your
merchandise and you will sell everything that we will take to
him: these are wonderful dresses which transform the person that
wears them. As soon as the Sultan and the favorite wear them
they will take our places and we will take theirs: you the Sultan’s
and me Ozara’s, the new favorite. Once this metamorphosis is
completed, we will be free to act at will; you will then free Nazara.
It all happened as predicted by Tanapla: the sale to the Sultan and
the transformation. After a few minutes of horrible furor from the part of
the Sultan, who wanted to expel the inopportune, making a terrible fuss,
Nureddin called several slaves, following Tanapla’s orders; he ordered that
the Sultan and Ozara should be arrested as rebel slaves; he then ordered
that he should be taken to the presence of Nazara. He wanted to verify
that she was prepared to confess her crimes and then die. He also wished
Ozara, the favorite, to follow him, in order to witness the punishment
that he had inflicted to the unfaithful woman. Next he marched for about
fifteen minutes, followed by the chief of the eunuchs, through a somber
corridor terminated by a solid and massive iron gate. The slave opened the
three locks; they all got into a large room that was only four or five feet
high. Nazara was sitting there, on a straw mat, with a vase of water and
a few dates by her side. She was no longer the brilliant Nazara of former
times: she was beautiful as always but pale and skinny. She had the shivers
of fear when she saw the one that she took by her master, thinking that
her time had come.
(Continue in the next issue)