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Classics around the corner

books Updated: Sep 16, 2011 22:52 IST
Antara Das
Antara Das
Hindustan Times
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Finding the right translator turned out to be the biggest challenge when Harvard University Press (HUP) took on the task of translating India’s classical texts for the Murty Classical Library of India (MCLI) project. With its mandate of translating works written in Sanskrit and classical Marathi, Kannada, Tamil, Bengali, Punjabi and Pali, among others, the publishers needed to find translators who would have a scholarly knowledge of the classical language and a grip on idiomatic English prose. “Not many students are studying Tamil, Bengali or Punjabi of the pre-modern era and it is almost as if these forms are on the brink of linguistic extinction,” said Sharmila Sen, executive editor-at-large, HUP.

The MCLI was set up last year on an endowment of $5.2 million from Rohan Murty, a research fellow at MIT and son of Infosys chairman emeritus NR Nararyana Murthy. His interactions with Sheldon Pollock, Sanskrit scholar, Indologist and professor of Sanskrit and South Asian Studies at Columbia University, led to the latter being appointed general editor of the project. The Murty project is modelled on the Loeb Classical Library, which provides easy access to Greek and Latin literature. Like Loeb’s classics, the MCLI texts will have the original version on the left-hand leaf with the translations on the right.

The first six books are expected to be published in the fall of 2013, including translations of Akbarnama, Waris Shah’s Heer Ranjha in Punjabi, two Mangal-Kavyas in Bengali and Tulsidas’s Ramcharitmanas among others. A design contest for the logo, logotype and jacket, worth $10,000 in prize money, has been launched on the official website ( “The winner will get incredible visibility as every book will give him credit,” said Rohan Murty.