Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Blogshetra: Away we go

The Bride and I decided to read the Mahabharata, together and in different countries. She's done this before, only that time she chose Joyce's Ulysses. *shudder*

We're also probably going to end up reading different translations, given the fact that here in desh I have access to whatever I want. Mine is Kamala Subramaniam's, and she (The Bride, not Kamala) is still deciding.

So last night, after dragging all and sundry to Landmark to acquire said book, and acquiring about 6 more in the process, I settled into bed to begin reading.

First off, I'm always nervous with translated books, especially if they are originally in a language very far removed from Latin, Greek and the Germanic languages that are the foundation of English. It really does become about interpretation, and then I often wonder how the original is. I found, for example, that W. S. Merwin's translation of Neruda's "Tonight I can write the saddest lines" is quite bad, because he Englishises the structure so much that I feel that much of the charm of the original is lost, since a lot of it lies in the inversions of word order etc. This problem is a million times worse with Indian languages, so I was very happy to see, when I began reading last night, that KS manages to keep the complicated structures and cadences of what I imagine is a chanting, sonorous, oral tradition alive. It may seem a bit...strange, because the sentences are often abrupt, and there is very little active voice, and way too many words - but that's just how I think it would be in Sanskrit. Of course, my Outer Stickler is dying to rewrite the translation for an audience more familiar with traditional English...but I can keep her in check.

The story began very simply, and very much in the way my Grandma's used to when we were children, and I slipped into it immediately. It also ran very quickly, and after Bheeshma spent several years several times over to raise various princes and marry them off and do everything but 'spill his seed' to further the dynasty, I have reached the point where he has successfully married Dritharashtra and Pandu off to Gandhari and Kunti respectively.

I expect tonight's session to be a titch more exciting, and definitely enter into those parts of the story I am familiar with (I had no clue who Devavrata was until the word Bheeshma appeared. Also, it annoys me that I don't know the meanings of these words and names - any ideas where I can find out online?)

P.S. Will post extract for Bride to read and put her out of her misery of not knowing what it reads like in this translation.

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