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on 18 September 2011
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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on 13 January 2013
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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on 30 January 2014
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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on 18 August 2013
A very unique translation.

The other English translations are either too academic or written by an Indian enthusiast (often with lots of spelling errors). But clearly alot of thought has gone into this one... effort is made to join up the myriad dots that make up the Mahabharata.

Spiritualists be warned, the book is a translation: not a religious exposition. So don't expect flowery explanations around the Gita etc.
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on 10 April 2014
Penguin Classics provide , courtesy of the translator, information that aids the understanding of this monumental work.
Through this translation Westerners can learn something of the major influences on the life of this Hindu people.
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on 7 November 2015
Excellent book, great delivery service. Thank you!
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on 4 August 2015
Very good
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on 1 September 2015
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on 4 February 2015
This is a great and cheap copy. However, the print is wrong... some of the pages are not in the right order and some are missing.
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on 15 October 2015
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