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Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Great Indian Novel by Shashi Tharoor: On The Cover


Okay, I'm almost halfway through this epic 418-pager and already feel I'm taking quite a long while finishing it up...not finishing, rather I should say, devouring! Since I'm traveling, it's a little difficult for me to make time for reading right now, but I'm trying as hard as I can as I'm simply loving the book! A full review shall follow soon, for now here's what the cover says. And since the cover jacket does not say anything about what the book is about, I'll also add in the note from the author that's more of a disclaimer....Read on!

The Great Indian Novel by Shashi Tharoor

'An entertaining tour de force' - Sunday Times

Shashi Tharoor reinvents India with a dazzling marriage of Hindu myth and modern history...

' Perhaps the best work of fiction written by an Indian' - Khushwant Singh, All Asia Review of Books

'This is [a] fascinating novel. It made me sit up' - P.Lal, Telegraph

'The Great Indian Novel is a masterpiece of Indian writing' - Sunday Observer

'Shashi Tharoor's brilliantly written book.....merits to be called a classic' - The Hindu

'Every sane Indian should buy a copy of this book' - Indian Express

'A brilliant concept, well executed and something in it for everyone' - The Book Review

'The Great Indian Novel might upset a few people, but more than that it will entertain and amuse' - Bombay

'Certainly a Great Indian Novel....An almost reckless sense of humour, mixed with considerable wisdom' - Sunday Herald

'A real tour de force only an Indian could write' - Financial Times

'Eminently readable' - Debonair 

A hasty note of disclaimer is due to those readers who may feel, justifiably, that the work that follows is neither great, nor authentically Indian, nor even much of a novel. The Great Indian Novel takes its title not from the author's estimate of its contents but in deference to its primary source of inspriation, the ancient epic the Mahabharata. In Sanskrit, Maha means great and Bharata means India.

Many of the characters, incidents and issues in the novel are based on people and events described in the great epic the Mahabharata, a work that remains a perennial source of delight and inspiration to millions in India. I am no Sanskrit scholar and have therefore relied only on a highly subjective reading of a variety of English translations of the epic. I should like to acknowledge, in particular, my debt to the versions of of C. Rajagopalachari and P.Lal, respectively the most readable renderings of of what scholars call the southern and northern rescensions of the work. The two differ sufficiently in approach, style and narrative content to be complementary, even though they both deal with essential aspects of the same story. I have relied greatly on both of them.

While some scenes in The Great Indian Novel are recastings of situations described in translations of the Mahabharata. I have taken far too many liberties with the epic to associate any of its translations with my sins. Those readers who wish to delve into the Mahabharata itself in search of the sources of my inspiration need look no further than Lal's 'transcreation', Rajagopalachari's episodic saga or Prof. J A B Van Buitenen's scholarly, thorough but incomplete translation for the University of Chicago Press. While this novel was with the publishers I also discovered Jean-Claude Carriere's stage script of the Mahabharata in Peter Brooke's most readable translation, and recommend it highly. The responsibility for this entirely fictional version is of course mine alone.

- Debolina Raja Gupta