In a voice mellifluous as a gentle shower of honey, without faltering, without throwing in filler words, very gracefully, the goose made a highly learned presentation. […] She also demonstrated her proficiency in poetry, dramaturgy, poetics, music, and erotic science.

The goose Sucimukhi was taught by Saraswati, Goddess of Learning and Speech, and given the title “Mother of Similes and Hyperbole.” In this gorgeous, witty, sensual fifteenth-century novel from south India, she helps resolve a war in Heaven by match-making between Pradyumna, Krishna’s son, and Prabhavati, the daughter of a demon king.

If you skim the genealogies at the very beginning, you don’t need to already have a background in Indian myth and religion to appreciate this short novel, which can be enjoyed on many levels: as a love story told in luscious, Song of Solomon-like metaphors; as a love story punctuated by metafictional commentary and sly parodies of the overblown conventions of love stories; as myth; as a small taste of a literary culture that I suspect most of you haven’t encountered before. (I mean fifteenth century Telegu literature, not Indian literature in general.)

Unlike a lot of literature which was clearly hot at the time but not to modern readers’ erotic tastes… this is still hot. At least, I thought so. There are many more explicit passages, but I was particularly taken with this one, in which Prabhvati’s girlfriend helps her arrange her hair for her first meeting with her beloved, and breaks into spontaneous poetry:

If you let your hair down, you look beautiful.
When you let it hang halfway, you look beautiful, too.
If it gets tangled, you’re beautiful in a different way.
If you comb it down, even more so.
You can braid it, roll it into a bun, or better still
tie it into a knot on the side.
You’re beautiful with that hair every which way.

It’s long, black, and so thick
you can’t hold it in one hand.
No matter how you wear it,
you’ll trap your husband with your hair.


Translated and with notes by Velcheru Narayana Rao and David Shulman.

The Demon's Daughter: A Love Story from South India (S U N Y Series in Hindu Studies)
boundbooks: Katara jumps down to the pool for a water-bender bomb. (avatar: katara waterbender bomb)

From: [personal profile] boundbooks


Ahhhhhh. I really want to read this now, but none of my local libraries have it and I really shouldn't buy books. I'm going to try this on Google Books and see if I have to break my book buying ban. XD

<3 the reviews!
Edited Date: 2011-03-20 01:50 am (UTC)
boundbooks: Zhang Ziyi (blue tea cup)

From: [personal profile] boundbooks


After being foiled by Google Books (only the cover and the back were up!) I totally had a dream last night where somehow I'd found a copy of The Demon's Daughter, read it, and thought it was awesome. Looks like I'll be breaking that book buying ban sooner than later.... XD

From: [identity profile] lnhammer.livejournal.com


This looks like my sort of thing. Yum.

(BTW, a long time ago I asked you to recommend verse translations of Mahabharata, but either I didn't write them down, didn't bookmark them, or managed to do so in a special place that I thought I wouldn't forget and so of course did. Are you up for recreating the recs some time?)

---L.

From: [identity profile] rachelmanija.livejournal.com


The Mahabharata: A Modern Rendering (2 Volume Set) (Vol 1,v.2). Ramesh Menon. Sensual, a bit overwritten but often very beautiful, an easy read. Worth the money.

Mahabharata. Kamala Subramaniam. Stiff, archaic style, but very moving once you get used to it. Also worth the money.

Mahabharata. Rajagopalachari. Inexpensive, good basic (very abridged) version.


From: [identity profile] lnhammer.livejournal.com


Thanks!

*this time writing it down in the USUAL place, with the rest of his TBB list*

---L.

From: [identity profile] marzipan-pig.livejournal.com


"If it gets tangled you're beautiful in a different way"

Nice.

From: [identity profile] rparvaaz.livejournal.com


I didn't know this book existed....will try to find it...thanks a ton. :)

I am familiar with the story and find Pradyuman's love story and then his son's [Anirudh's] rather delightful...in the latter, it is the simple fact that Usha kidnaps him and then proceeds to seduce him slowly...

Happy Holi :)

From: [identity profile] rachelmanija.livejournal.com


Happy Holi! (Here, have a colorful icon.)

I do not know the story of Anirudh and Usha... I will have to look that up.

From: [identity profile] shveta-thakrar.livejournal.com


Oh, d'oh, that's in my shopping cart already. I got confused and thought it was another I hadn't heard of. Well, this just makes me want to read it even more!
.

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