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Mahabharata Paperback – November 14, 2000

4.2 out of 5 stars 43 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"Buck recaptures a spirit which is lacking in the more [literal and complete] translation; there is a poetry of expression, an atmosphere of awe, a liveliness of appreciation. . . . Buck captures much of the beauty of the Sanskrit thought. . . . A pleasure to read and to look at; the many illustrations by Shirley Triest have a magical quality in total harmony with the magic of the text."--"Times Literary Supplement

Language Notes

Text: English (translation) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 440 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press; New Ed edition (November 14, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520227042
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520227040
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.4 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #436,912 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Michael Gunther on July 3, 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The Great Bharata of Vyasa, comprising over 100,000 Sanskrit stanzas organized into eighteen volumes, contains within its vast length many stories - of gods and demigods, of kings and warriors, of legend, history, ethics, philosophy, law, politics, and religion. Within all its richness lies a core story of the great civil war between the Kurus and the Pandavas, two rival branches of the Bharata lunar clan, culminating in the terrible Battle of Kurukshetra, an Armageddon which wiped out both sides in the fighting and ushered in the degenerate Fourth Age of Mankind, in which we are all living today. It is this story, lying at the very heart of the Mahabharata, which most translators into English, including William Buck, choose to tell.
Buck created his version in the 1960's, resolving to tell the story in his own way, which would be accessible to readers in English but remain faithful to the spirit, if not the letter, of the original. He condensed, rewrote, and reinterpreted in order to make a work which he hoped would please and delight his readers while preserving the essential story. The result is very controversial, and the controversy continues to this day (Buck died in 1970).
Many readers, including me, appreciate the artistry and skill of Buck's writing. I am puzzled, however, by the changes that he made in the story. For example, Buck has Krishna kill Dushsasana prior to the battle (in Vyasa, Dushsasana is killed by Bhima at Kurukshetra). For another example, in Buck's version, it is Virata's son Uttara who breaks into the Kuru's Lotus formation during the battle (and is subsequently killed). In Vyasa, the protagonist is Abhimanyu, son of Arjuna.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In a nutshell it is an Indian story of Cousin's War that takes place more than two to three thousand years ago. I have read and heard narrations of Mahabharata in three Indian languages; Telugu, Oriya, Hindi as well as tried reading it aloud in English to my 10 year old. It is very hard for any Indian well versed in another Indian language to relish reading it in English. To use another metaphor,may be as discomforting as it will be for a Chinese person, adept at using chopsticks, to eat noodles with fork and spoon. Hence all the panning and bad marks heaped on this book from many readers who claim Rajagopalachari or RK Narayan or some other Indian has written better versions. Yet for anyone totally uninitiated in ancient Indian mythologies and epics as many of my current friends are, this happens to be a very succintly written version that conveys the essence. Yes, there are a few inaccuracies like Arjuna, in stead of his son Abhimanyu, marrying Virata's daughter Uttara and omissions of many sub plots like Ekalavya's triumphant self taught archery and devotion to a virtual teacher. But author himself has acknowledged that it is not a scholarly transliteration, and I am glad he made it more readable in the process. Even Tolstoy is accused of historical inaccuracies while creating a masterpiece called "War and Peace". I always like to compare Mahabharata with Tolstoy's epic novel with its multitude of characters and centrality of war as a metaphor for human life for those who have not yet been familiar with either of them. Anyone who has grown up in India may have been exposed to Mahabharata in one form or another, including many movies, one of the good ones made by Peter Brooks and a popular TV series in late 1980s.Read more ›
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Format: Paperback
Vyasa's Mahabharata is a massive epic that has no equal in Western literature. The central story of the Mahabharata revolves around five brothers (the Pandavas) who were disinherited of their kingdom through the treachery of their cousins (the Kurus) and their struggle to regain what is rightfully theirs. The epic culminates in the apocalyptic Battle of Kurukshetra, engineered by the Gods to wipe out the warrior race. Tagged to this central plot is a veritable mine of jewels and gems - a whole library of ancient Hindu folktales, myths and legends that serve to illuminate the ancient Hindu concept of dharma and adharma (which can be translated very loosely as "right/truth" and "wrong/falsehood"). William Buck's retelling of the Mahabharata is the second version that I've read in two months - the other being C. Rajagopalachari's version. While I enjoyed Rajagopalachari's version immensely, I felt that something was missing. As with most other Indian writers who retell the great Indian epics for English speaking audiences, Rajagopalachari successfully evokes a deep sense of piety - these epics are, after all, sacred scriptures to the Hindus - but he fails to measure up in terms of evoking the sheer sense of awe and wonder that Vyasa clearly intended his epic to convey. This Buck manages to do in spades - his version is told simply but clearly, with very little of the sermonising that Indian authors are sometimes prone to overdo, thus successfully transporting the reader to a wondrous time when Gods still walked the earth with men.Read more ›
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