Synopses & Reviews
"The poem is rising into splendid popularity. Some say it is better than Milton-but that is all bosh-nothing can be better than Milton; many say it licks Kalidasa; I have no objection to that. I don't think it impossible to equal Virgil, Kalidasa, and Tasso." Michael Madhusudan Datta wrote this in a letter to a friend about his verse narrative, The Slaying of Meghanada (1861). The epic, a Bengali version of the Ramayana story in which Ravana, not Rama, is the hero, has become a classic of Indian literature. Datta lived in Bengal at the height of what is frequently called the Bengal Renaissance, a time so labeled for its reinvigoration and reconfiguration of the Hindu past and for the florescence of the literary arts. It was also a period when the Bengali city of Kolkata was a center of world trade-the second city of the British empire-and thus a site of cultural exchange between India and the West. Datta was the perfect embodiment of this time and place. The Slaying of Meghanada is deeply influenced by western epic tradition, and is sprinkled with nods to Homer, Milton, and Dante. Datta's deft intermingling of western and eastern literary traditions brought about a sea change in South Asian literature, and is generally considered to mark the dividing line between pre-modern and modern Bengali literature. Datta's masterpiece is now accessible to readers of English in Clinton Seely's elegant translation, which captures both the sense and the spirit of the original. The poem is supplemented by an extensive introduction, notes, and a glossary.
"Clinton Seely's volume is a gift to all who teach in English about any aspect of South Asian culture." --Journal of Religion
"Clinton B. Seely's elegant, masterful translation of Meghanadavadha Kavya into English will enable the poem's dissemination to a wider audience and will be particularly useful as a teaching resource in course on South Asian literature, culture, and history. The exquisiteness of Seely's prose in this translation of Datta's extremely, compelling poem is reason enough to peruse this volume. Will be highly welcomed by students and scholars of South Asia." --Journal of Asian History
"[A] seemless translation. Datta's tale ingeniously mingles South Asian literary aesthetics with Miltonic-style poetics and whiffs of Dante, Byron, and wily Homer. The unexpected result is a new interculturally resonant version, tangled by themes of filial love, obligation, and ultimately, self-sacrifice that echo with a moral grandeur worthy of a Greek tragedy. Why Datta, a devout Anglophile and a formative Indian nationalist, attempted the Parnassian challenge is masterfully explained in Seely's deep biographical introduction to the poet's life and times, which readers will find especially illuminating."--CHOICE
About the Author
Clinton B. Seely is Professor in the Department of South Asian Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago. He is the author of A Poet Apart: A Literary Biography of the Bengali Poet Jibanananda Das, 1899-1954 (1990)
and several other books.