What a book

Notes from my week of study leave

Made my bimonthly pilgrimage to the Seminary Coop Bookstore, down in the basement of Chicago Theological School in the South Side of Chicago. (I still say it is the best academic bookstore I have visited on this side of the Atlantic.)

As usual, I walked out with ten or twenty pounds of books, including a copy of The Mahabharata: A Shortened Modern Prose Version of the Indian Epic, by R. K. Narayan, a prominent 20th C. Indian novelist.

I remember reading a review of this book a few years ago, probably when the University of Chicago Press edition came out in 2000. The reviewer said it was the best short version (179 pages of the massive 100,000 stanza original poem) of the Mahabharata in English. I’ve been meaning to read it ever since.

Having never read the full Mahabharata, I am in no position to judge how good an abridgement it is. But Narayna’s book is well-written, gripping, entertaining, and even manages to retain something of an epic feel to it in spite of its short length. Best of all, I now have a better sense of the context of the Bhagavad Gita, one of my favorite religious texts, which is but one small part of the entire Mahabharata.

Highly recommended.