The Mahabharata: A Shortened Modern Prose Version of the Indian Epic

Overview


The Mahabharata tells a story of such violence and tragedy that many people in India refuse to keep the full text in their homes, fearing that if they do, they will invite a disastrous fate upon their house. Covering everything from creation to destruction, this ancient poem remains an indelible part of Hindu culture and a landmark in ancient literature.

Centuries of listeners and readers have been drawn to The Mahabharata, which began as disparate oral ballads and grew into a ...

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The Mahabharata: A Shortened Modern Prose Version of the Indian Epic

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Overview


The Mahabharata tells a story of such violence and tragedy that many people in India refuse to keep the full text in their homes, fearing that if they do, they will invite a disastrous fate upon their house. Covering everything from creation to destruction, this ancient poem remains an indelible part of Hindu culture and a landmark in ancient literature.

Centuries of listeners and readers have been drawn to The Mahabharata, which began as disparate oral ballads and grew into a sprawling epic. The modern version is famously long, and at more than 1.8 million words—seven times the combined lengths of the Iliad and Odyssey—it can be incredibly daunting.

Contemporary readers have a much more accessible entry point to this important work, thanks to R. K. Narayan’s masterful translation and abridgement of the poem. Now with a new foreword by Wendy Doniger, as well as a concise character and place guide and a family tree, The Mahabharata is ready for a new generation of readers. As Wendy Doniger explains in the foreword, “Narayan tells the stories so well because they’re all his stories.” He grew up hearing them, internalizing their mythology, which gave him an innate ability to choose the right passages and their best translations.

In this elegant translation, Narayan ably distills a tale that is both traditional and constantly changing. He draws from both scholarly analysis and creative interpretation and vividly fuses the spiritual with the secular. Through this balance he has produced a translation that is not only clear, but graceful, one that stands as its own story as much as an adaptation of a larger work.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Growing from an oral tradition of ballads based on historic events in India, the Mahabharata was passed down and extended through the centuries, becoming the longest poem ever written. R. K. Narayan provides a superb rendition in an abbreviated and elegant retelling of this great epic. "Narayan makes this treasury of Indian folklore and mythology readily accessible to the general reader. It is an easy and pleasant introduction to a heterogeneous and complicated work. The language of Narayan's translation is clear and direct; he captures the spirit of the narrative.
Ashok Aklujkar
To narrate the long and involved story of the Mahabharata in about 180 pages without giving the reader the impression that a bare skeleton is being presented is no mean achievement. Mr. Narayan has certainly succeeded.
— (Pacific Affairs)
Sunday Times
Narayan is a trustworthy guide to the heart and mind of India.
Sunday Times

“Narayan is a trustworthy guide to the heart and mind of India.” 
Library Journal

“Narayan makes this treasury of Indian folklore and mythology readily accessible to the general reader. It is an easy and pleasant introduction to a heterogeneous and complicated work. The language of Narayan’s translation is clear and direct; he captures the spirit of the narrative.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780141185002
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 1/28/2009

Meet the Author


R. K. Narayan (1906–2001) was one of the most prominent Indian novelists of the twentieth century. His works include Mr. Sampath—The Printer of Malgudi, Swami and Friends, Waiting for Mahatma, and Gods, Demons, and Others, all published by the University of Chicago Press.
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 8, 2006

    An Epic Translated Wonderfully

    Have read and seen the Mahabharata as a young kid, I picked this up to get a refresher on this wonderful epic. I was surprised by the quality of the translation. It allowed for the reader to imagine the scenes in their mind. The drawbacks of the book were that they use language that is not easy to follow at times and I think they missed a couple key events. I wouldn't recommend it to be a first read of the Mahabharata, but I definitely recommend it if you need a refresher like me.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 24, 2009

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    Posted June 4, 2010

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