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The Mahabharata (Penguin Classics) Paperback – Abridged, 28 May 2009


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Product details

  • Paperback: 912 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Abridged edition (28 May 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140446818
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140446814
  • Product Dimensions: 13.7 x 4.2 x 19.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 284,283 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

John D. Smith was born in Nottingham in 1946. He attended Magdalene College, Cambridge, where he read Sanskrit and Hindi. In the early 1970s he held a research fellowship at Christ's College, Cambridge; this was followed by nine years as lecturer in Sanskrit at the School of Oriental and African Studies in the University of London. In 1984 he returned to Cambridge, where he is now emeritus Reader of Sanskrit. He has worked on both Sanskrit and modern Rajasthani, and his publications include The Visa?adevarasa: a restoration of the text (Cambridge, 1976) and The epic of Pabuji: a study, transcription and translation (Cambridge, 1991).

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful By uma moorthy on 18 Sep 2011
Format: Hardcover
Too often, renderings into English of the Hindu classics are overly reverential, or use elaborate or archaic language or feel the need to keep readers (often uncomfortably) aware of the sacred significance of the text - all of this produces clunky unreadable prose. Not with this one. This translator has managed the feat of respecting the living classic while producing an updated and readable text. The introduction is particularly valuable for its summary of the narrative and for setting the context on the relevance and significance of the original work. And all of this at a tiny price!
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27 of 28 people found the following review helpful By J. R. Dersley on 13 Jan 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
First, be aware that this is not a complete translation. As the translator says, 11% is direct translation and the rest is summary. This is unavoidable since the full length work is several times longer than the Bible; I've seen various full length English translations in India and they run to 18 weighty volumes. Second, put aside any expectations of this being like the Odyssey or the Iliad. It's utterly Indian, complete with gods, celestial beings, sages and ascetics, battlefields through which runs a river of blood, mighty warriors who survive multiple arrow piercings and evil demons and other beings. Third, be ready for a style that is as exaggerated as anything you'll have ever encountered. Fourth, don't expect straight line narrative, it's full of digressions, recapitulations, summaries of elements that will be enlarged upon later - it even contains two "sermons" but not as you'll understand the term from a Christian context.

So have I put you off, or intrigued you? I hope the latter, because reading this Penguin abridged version has been one of the best, most engrossing and horizon-widening experiences of a long life of reading. Much of this enjoyment came from the huge contribution that the translator makes with his introduction and appendices including a glossary of main characters.

So if you're tempted, go for it. It's a story of good against evil, it's a manual of how to live your life, it's how to govern a country, it's sheer entertainment. I'm seriously tempted to get the full length translation but I'll certainly be going back to this Penguin edition.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Mal on 30 Jan 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
One of the most remarkable books I have read and all credit has to go to John Smith for the work he must have put into this abridged translation. Coming to this with little knowledge of Hinduism, I found myself glued to the narrative, enthralled by the stories of the war, the earthy but not offensive language, the exposition on dharma, the multiplicity of Hindu legends, the final twists and turns as the story climaxes.
There is some mention of flying chariots, celestial cities, armies incubated in jars, and of course a variety of celestial weapons. Make of this what you will but in places I did wonder if this was perhaps the first science fiction work ever written......or if history is stranger than fiction......
I found the sections on dharma most interesting and apart from the dharma of the warrior most teachings fit easily into Christianity or Buddhism, and may be their source - or the same teachings being passed on in different cultures. Like the Bible and the earlier Sumerian writings there is a story of a great flood, also of a Moses like character abandoned as a baby in the waters.(I think it was Karna). There is a version of the tortoise and the hare story - in the form of a goose and a crow. There is the original of the Princess and the frog; it's a Prince and a frog in the Mahabharata. In the destruction of the Vrsnis city in the section called "The Clubs" one calls to mind Sodom and Gomorrah. Krsna who had the power to avert his death like Christ on the cross did not exercise his power and "having relieved the earth of her burden and granted the world release...returned to his own supreme state."
I read the Books of Enoch some time ago, Dead Sea scroll texts about the fallen angels and these old works do make you wonder - but that's the fun of books isn't it?
I can not recommend this book enough.
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