A Fresh Look at ‘The Perfumed Garden’
The Webster Dictionary of the English language defines Erotica as “Literature of art dealing with Sexual Love”. Sexual Love is the epitome of delight and rapture and nothing quite compares with it. Food, drink and travel are good in themselves, but can never match the ecstasy savored in a union with a woman. God and man have sanctified this act of procreation from the dawn of civilization. The distinction between Erotica and Pornography is again more in the mind than anything else and is a matter of individual conjecture.
One of the foremost writings on Erotica is the famous book by Sheikh Nefzawi. However not much is known of this shadowy writer who authored ‘the Perfumed Garden’, but a lot is known of his translator Sir Francis Richard Burton who died in 1890. The perfumed Garden is the classic work on Arab erotica. It appears that the work was commissioned by the Grand Vizier of Tunis who asked the writer Nefzawi to put forth ‘The source of the greatest pleasure in order that this knowledge is widely known.’
The writer soon set to work and produced a book of Erotica that in some ways is unrivaled as a work of erotic literature. Interspersed in the entire book are a series of tales that amplify the theory of the work. The book treats the generative act as a source of great pleasure and advices a lover not to mate with a woman until one has excited her with playful caresses. He goes on to say a beloved is to be excited by kissing her cheeks, sucking her lips and nibbling her teats. He insists on kissing of naval and the thighs. The Sheikh than goes on to discuss thirty-six poses and positions for sexual love. But the best part of the Perfumed Garden is the inherent and purposeful tales that bring out the essence of sexual love.
Unfortunately very few people know that the present translation is an earlier version, first published in 1886. A later greatly enlarged and annotated version was put to flames by the wife of Burton on the sixteenth day after his death. The reason for burning are perhaps obscure and may never be known, but this act of burning the Perfumed Garden of nearly a thousand pages, she burned her reputation and it still is aflame today.
The stories in the manuscript are integral to the text and of course erotic in the extreme. One can read them by going across to the nearest library and getting hold of this book. It may noted that Burton also translated ‘The Arabian Nights’. But it is only in the Perfumed Garden he could combine his ferocious interest in sex and his literary powers to produce a monumental work that has stood the test of time.
The book was first published in England by the Kama Shasta Society. A reading of this translation may lead a reader to conclude that perhaps the translator and the author may have been kindred spirits; extremely close to each other. It is possible that Burton revealed more of himself than anything by this translation. Perhaps it was his inner voice speaking. Maybe he was reincarnate of the Sheikh-the author of the Perfumed baring of his soul and closeness to the act of coition could be one of the reasons for the burning of the book (Enlarged Edition) by Isabel. However everything is a conjecture, perhaps she was frightened at his intensity of his love for sex. But now in the present age we are thankful to Burton for giving to us this masterpiece which certainly ranks as one of the greatest books of erotica, perhaps the epitome of all erotic literature.