Indian epic question

Which translation of the Mahabharata should I read?

(Not Buck’s abridgement/retelling. Read that already, and appreciated it as a Cliff Notes introduction to what I understand is a very complicated story, but now I need to look at the actual text.)

0 Responses to “Indian epic question”

  1. wshaffer

    I’ve only read the Buck retelling, but caught an interesting interview on “The Book Show” on Australian radio some time back with John Smith, who did a translation of the Mahabharata for Penguin Classics. As I recall, the commentary on the show implied that Smith’s translation, though abridged, is the most complete English-language version available.

    You can still hear the interview online here:

    • Marie Brennan

      So there *is* no unabridged version? I guess I’m not entirely surprised, it being the length of the Wheel of Time and all, but still — it’s a bit startling.

  2. mastadge

    The Smith looks good. I have this edition and would happily recommend it — it seems to be about the same length as the Smith, and is also illustrated.

    While I have not read it, Ramesh Menon’s two-volume set seems to be the longest abridged translation, and I enjoyed his Ramayana so would be willing to bet his Mahabharata is good as well.

    Of course, when I dip into this stuff I’m looking not for scholarly translations but for engaging reads, so none of the above may be helpful. I know nothing of any unabridged translations that may be out there. I suspect there aren’t many of them, though.

    • Marie Brennan

      My concern isn’t precisely scholarly, but I’m trying to read up on a particular thread of the story, which is why I want to see the original text (in translation).

      Thanks for the recs.

  3. sartorias

    has a good handle on that–she should be back from China in a few days.

  4. aliettedb

    The only full text translation I was able to find was on Project Gutenberg, by Kisari Mohan Ganguli, produced at the tail end of the 19th Century. It’s a bit… decidedly Victorian, shall we say? Most of the sexual passages are rendered into Latin or skipped, which is fairly perplexing, and there’s a bunch of archaisms as well.
    I don’t speak sanskrit, so I can’t vouch for the accuracy, but it certainly is very complete.
    I remember looking for a complete version about a year ago, and I think the only other translations of the complete text are in progress: the J. A. B. van Buitenen is still ongoing, and so is the Clay Sanskrit Library version (about 50% of the way through, I think)

    • Marie Brennan

      I should have mentioned that Project Gutenberg was the first place I looked. The translation there is . . . special. 🙂 In that oh-so-special Victorian way. Given that the part of the Mahabharata I’m interested in is the part where a woman gets reincarnated as a girl who’s raised as a boy and then magically transformed into a man, I think I’m better off with a modern translation.

      I just got two very good recommendations from , though — one a seconding of the Menon mentioned above — so I think I’m set now.

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