At the minimal level, every type of text explicitly selects a very general model of possible reader through the choice (i) of a specific linguistic code, (ii) of a certain literary style, and (iii) of specific specialisation indices ... (Eco 7)
In other words, every text contains an assumption as to the identity and context of its readers. Clearly a translation is in a special category, as its specific linguistic code is altered and, with it, its designated readers. In the case of the Nights, something beyond translation has occurred. The compilation of the text in Arabic over ten centuries1 successfully broke with each of these modes of selecting a reader and resulted in a diverse and slightly disreputable collection in response to which the reader had to guess the 'general model' of who to be.2 Translation into European languages resulted in the suppression of this core uncertainty about reading the Nights and concentrated attention upon the creation of the European self and context for responding to the text. The European Nights is a text shorn of its possible readers and displayed before strangers, a fact which left Europeans free to read it as they liked. This freedom was quickly relinquished in favor of a few dominant approaches. What took place was rather like a child reading an accessible adult book. There was a strong drive to know all, to fit the text into some kind of context and to make it certain, both textually and in interpretation. Gaining
knowledge, and defining the 'specific specialisation indices' assumed great importance. The core uncertainty of the Nights, the fact that it is too old, too diverse and too fragmentary to fit comfortably into anyone's definition of its identity and reader, has naturally resurfaced as an outcome of all this knowledge.