Congress With a Crocodile
A titan of the Victorian age, Sir Richard Francis Burton was a scholar, linguist, explorer, and swordsman – and was feted as one of the most important British polymaths ever to have lived.
Having spent much of his adult life in Arabia, Burton was deeply fascinated not only by the dialects and folklore of the region, but also by lesser known points of culture – of the kind regarded as absolutely scandalous in the moralistic drawing rooms of polite Victorian society.
In the last decade of his life, Sir Richard hunkered down, and made a fresh translation of Alf Layla wa Layla, The Thousand and One Nights – publishing it in the longest and most eccentric edition ever known.
Running to seventeen weighty volumes and released by private subscriptions so as to circumvent the strict laws of decency, Burton’s Arabian Nights contained thousands of footnotes. So as to make the outrageous subject matter a little less apparent, many were couched in exceedingly abstruse language.
A work of art in their own right, these beguiling annotations offer a dazzling insight into Arabian society, as well into the idiosyncrasies of Sir Richard’s own mind.
Preoccupied as he is with The Arabian Nights, bestselling author Tahir Shah set himself the task of distilling a selection of the most intriguing footnotes down into a single mesmerizing volume.
Taking its title from an especially curious note on the possibility of achieving coital congress with a crocodile, this collection is a work of wonder, and is set to be as greatly appreciated as Burton’s monumental translation of The Thousand and One Nights.