Saturday, January 5, 2019

'It was I who suggested the idea of two impostors meeting each other.'

From the publishers of Weird Tales, Oriental Stories covered an expansive "East" extending from our Middle East to the Pacific. In the Winter 1932 issue, E. Hoffman Price and Otis Adelbert Kline's "The Dragoman's Jest" is a play on readers' fanciful notions of the East. In Egypt, a native coffee shop owner regaled a tourist with the tale of how a conniving draagoman -- a translator and tour guide -- became a wealthy grandee. Once upon a time, this man was giving his American mark the usual tour, mainly in order to mooch off him, when the American is suddenly smitten by the vision of a briefly unveiled Kurdish princess. He promises a big payoff if the guide can arrange a tryst with the eastern beauty. The guide arranges with the princess to concoct an exotic adventure for the American, only for authentic bandits to introduce an unwelcome element of realism. That only makes things more romantic, but in the end the American mass to pay a huge ransom to the chieftain to whom his beloved had been sold in order to rescue her and himself. Just in case any reader thought the American had gone too far in his romantic enthusiasm, our native narrator assures us that the princess was also an American tourist (from Keokuk, Iowa) living out a fantasy adventure -- and that the tour guide had arranged for the bandits and ended up, disguised as the chieftain, collecting the ransom money. In short, everyone put on a show based on what a couple of yokels expected from their land and people, and laughed all the way to the bank. Cute stuff.

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