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Upanisads (Oxford World's Classics) Paperback – June 15, 2008

4.0 out of 5 stars 23 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

`A new translation of the Upanisads into English is an event in itself. Even the more so if it is good, and this one is excellent. It is lucid and reliable and has taken into account the significant mass of research carried out by a number of Sanskrit scholars over the last decades. This excellent book should attract not only those interested in Indian religion and philosophy but anyone interested in the history of human thought.' Times Higher Education 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

  • Series: Oxford World's Classics
  • Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (June 15, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 019954025X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199540259
  • Product Dimensions: 7.7 x 0.9 x 5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #342,656 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
After some Sanskrit studies years ago, I decided I'd like to read the principal Upanishads in an accurate (so not the laughably loose Mascaro version) but readable (so not the painfully literal and commentary-heavy tome of Radhakrishnan) English version. It soon became apparent that the choice was between Olivelle (the volume reviewed here) and Valerie Roebuck's Penguin Classics edition of 2000/2003. The academic book reviews were quite ambivalent, so I got the two rivals out from the library and made my own comparison.

I was surprised to find the Oxford superior in every way. Most importantly, Olivelle's translation (while plenty literal) is simply in much more natural English. Roebuck is fond of unnatural word order. Her version includes many footnotes on each page, without which her text would sometimes make no sense; Olivelle manages to translate just as literally, but so that you don't NEED to consult his equally voluminous notes in the back. Looking at the Sanskrit text in cases of notable differences, I found that I was almost always more satisfied with Olivelle's version as scrupulously & clearly reflecting the original, too. (In any case, there's no question that Olivelle is the more authoritative scholar; Roebuck needs to cite several of his books in her bibliography and apologize for the "temerity" of offering a new version, but there is no important scholarly work of Roebuck's that Olivelle can cite in his extensive bibliography.)

Publishing is a business. Roebuck freely admits that she relied heavily on Olivelle's version in making her own. The surprise is that she did not manage to stand on his shoulders and make something better in any way.
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Format: Paperback
Some caveats have to apply here. For one, the challenge of rating a book like this with stars is obvious; who am I to pass judgment on such ancient literature? Or the translation, since I don't read the original language? With that in mind, I confine my review to the style in which it is rendered for the novice.
The Upanishads are not an easy read, and I have seen them done in verse format and in paragraph format; the latter is used here. I find it more readable, but others prefer verse. Whether you will like this translation depends largely on your preference in this area.
It does have (parenthesizations) after many words showing the original word, which helps a lot when learning to define terms like 'prana' and 'upanishad'... e.g., "... show me the hidden teaching (<i>upanisad</i>)...". This not only helps the reader to learn the meanings of these difficult-to-render terms, but points up the challenges involved in translation.
I found the foreword helpful in setting up a historical and cultural backdrop for the Upanishads. A good half of the work is taken up by a single Upanishad (the Brhadarayanka), but that was probably inevitable.
What I would have liked to have seen was a little more interpretation. As a novice reader of the Upanishads, it was really a struggle to understand what they meant in context, and I never did make head or tail out of much of it. A section at the end of each chapter (or some well-placed footnotes) would have gone far to make the work accessible to those for whom the cultural reach was a bit lengthy.
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Format: Paperback
Patrick Olivelle's translation is an excellent insight into Upanisads for a first timer. He has designed this translation in a very easy to follow fashion keeping in mind that most of us are not learned pundits.
The clear introduction gives a comprehensive background of the Vedas. The history of Indian social structure when the Upanisads were written, their authorship, chronology, geography, etc. give the reader a comfortable feel as they go forth with their reading. The reader is also provided with a table dividing the Upanisads into the four Vedas.
I find the paragraph (and the divisions of chapters the author has used) format used in this edition much easier than the verse format. Each chapter is accompanied by extensive notes in the back to the book.
The Upanisads are difficult and sometimes tedious read but this translation makes it much easier for people who have no prior knowledge.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Professor Olivelle is a great scholar - no doubt one of the most highly respected Sanskritists and prolific translators of our time. As such, it should be no surprise to find that his translation of the Upanisads is the best currently available, and will likely remain so for quite some time. The introduction to the text is extremely informative and helps place the works in their proper context. The text itself is quite meticulously translated - striking an agreeable balance of readability, scholarship and faithfulness to the original Sanskrit. A must for anyone interested in Hinduism.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is the best academic translation around. From my experience, prints from Oxford provide better clarity when they are compared to other translations on the market. I recommend this print for students studying eastern philosophy through a program/professor. This book is organized well and is easy to follow. Provided commentary is clear and easy to understand. I highly recommend this book over other translations out on the market. Patrick Olivelle's translation is the best!
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