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Stranger Magic by Marina Warner

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Featured on The Book Show on Sky Arts on 1 December 2011.

With startling originality and impeccable research, this groundbreaking book shows how magic, in the deepest sense, helped to create the modern world, and how profoundly it is still inscribed in the way we think today.


Stranger Magic by Marina Warner

Magic is not simply a matter of the occult arts, but a whole way of thinking, of dreaming the impossible. As such it has tremendous force in opening the mind to new realms of achievement: imagination precedes the fact. It used to be associated with wisdom, understanding the powers of nature, and with technical ingenuity that could let men do things they had never dreamed of before. The supreme fiction of this magical thinking is the Arabian Nights, with its flying carpets, hidden treasure and sudden revelations. Translated into French and English in the early days of the Enlightenment, this Arabic collection of folk and fairy tales became a huge success with intellectuals, artists and composers. The book's strangeness opened visions of transformation: dreams of flight, speaking objects, virtual money and the power of the word to bring about change. Its tales create a poetic image of the impossible and an unexpectedly modern parable of knowledge and power. Above all they have the fascination of the strange - the belief that true knowledge lies elsewhere, in a mysterious realm of wonder. As part of her exploration into the prophetic enchantments of the Nights, Marina Warner retells some of the most wonderful and lesser-known stories. She explores the figure of the dark magician or magus, from Solomon to the wicked uncle in Aladdin ; the complex vitality of the jinn, or genies; animal metamorphoses and flying carpets. Her narrative reveals that magical thinking, as conveyed by these stories, governs many aspects of experience, even now. In this respect, the East and West have been in fruitful dialogue. Writers and artists in every medium have found themselves by adopting Oriental disguise.

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'Marina Warner's essays and lectures reveal a consistently honest and agile mind preoccupied with the powerful controlling fictions of our lives.' - Observer

'She is a terrific writer and an original scholar.' - Victoria Glendinning , Daily Telegraph

About the Author

Marina Warner spent her early years in Cairo, and was educated at a convent in Berkshire, and then in Brussels and London, before studying modern languages at Oxford. She is an internationally acclaimed cultural historian, critic, novelist and short story writer. From her early books on the Virgin Mary and Joan of Arc, to her bestselling studies of fairy tales and folk stories, From the Beast to the Blonde and No Go the Bogeyman, her work has explored different figures in myth and fairy tale and the art and literature they have inspired. She lectures widely in Europe, the United States and the Middle East, and is currently Professor in the Department of Literature, Film and Theatre Studies, University of Essex. She was appointed CBE in 2008.

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Book Info

Publication date

3rd November 2011


Marina Warner

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Chatto & Windus an imprint of Vintage




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