Monday, July 17, 2017

Featured Author: Romesh Chunder Dutt

ROMESH CHUNDER DUTT is the author of two influential verse adaptations of the Indian epics into English. His Mahabharata: The Epic of India Rendered into English Verse was published in 1898, and his Ramayana: The Epic of Rama Rendered into English Verse was published in 1899.

Although these books are not widely read today, they were very popular in their time; the two epics were published together in a combined edition in 1900 and later as part of the Everyman's Library. I have relied on both of these books in creating the Public Domain Editions of the epics.

In both books, Dutt takes the approach of choosing what he considers to be the pivotal incidents of the epics, and translating those portions of the Sanskrit originals into English verse, while filling in the gaps between the episodes with a prose summary. You might be interested to read Dutt's explanation of his English verse style:
And one of my greatest difficulties in the task I have undertaken has been to try and preserve something of the "musical movement" of the sonorous Sanskrit poetry in the English translation. Much of the Sanskrit Epic is written in the well-known shloka meter of sixteen syllables in each line, and I endeavoured to choose some English meter which is familiar to the English ear, and which would reproduce to some extent the rhythm, the majesty, and the long and measured sweep of the Sanskrit verse. It was necessary to adopt such a meter in order to transfer something of the truth about the Mahabharata. into English, for without such reproduction or imitation of the musical movement of the original very much less than a half truth is told.
If you are curious to learn more about the Sanskrit shloka meter, you can read about that at Wikipedia: Shloka.

There is also a detailed article in Wikipedia about the life and career of Mr. Dutt (1848-1909), who was an Indian civil servant and a historian as well as being a writer and translator. He was especially involved in the Bangiya Sahitya Parishad, a Bengali literary society in which Rabindranath Tagore also participated. After he retired from the Indian civil service in 1898, he became a lecturer in Indian History at University College in London. He was also involved in the nationalist movement and served as president of the Indian National Congress in 1899.

This photographic portrait is from a biography of Dutt published in 1911: The Life and Work of Romesh Chunder Dutt.

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