The Travels of a Master Storyteller

Yasmine Seale at The Paris Review:

Aladdin, readers are sometimes surprised to learn, is a boy from China. Yet the text is ambivalent about what this means, and pokes gentle fun at the idea of cultural authenticity. Scheherazade has hardly begun her tale when she forgets quite where it is set. “Majesty, in the capital of one of China’s vast and wealthy kingdoms, whose name escapes me at present, there lived a tailor named Mustafa.” The story’s institutions are Ottoman, the customs half-invented, the palace redolent of Versailles. It is a mishmash and knows it.

Like Aladdin, like Aleppo, Diyab’s is a story of mixture. He knows French, Turkish, Italian, even Provençal—but not Greek: in Cyprus, unable to understand the language, he feels like “a deaf man in a wedding procession.” Slipping in and out of personae, he is alert to the masquerades of others.

more here.