Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Ancient eroticism, updated

I'm intrigued to hear that the ancient Indian work, the Kama Sutra, is being updated in a modern translation. Judging from an initial report, however, it appears it may be undergoing a politically correct reinterpretation at the same time.

The Kama Sutra is getting a modern makeover, with the new edition set to be more of a lifestyle guide to love and relationships than a "pornographic sex book".

The erotic drawings and sexual illustrations (warning: link is not safe for work!) that have accompanied various translations of the ancient Hindu text are gone from the new Kama Sutra published by Penguin, Britain's Sunday Telegraph reports.

Instead, the Kama Sutra will be a text-only, pocket-sized classy manual presented as a "lifestyle guide for the modern man and woman".

"Until now the Kama Sutra has always been presented as a scandalous, '60s, hippie-influenced pornographic sex book," said Alexis Kirschbaum, the editorial director at Penguin Books.

"But it was originally written as advice to a courtly gentleman on how to live a well-rounded life, not just a passionate life."

The Kama Sutra is believed to have been written in the third century by Indian sage Vatsyayana.

Previous English versions of the Kama Sutra have been widely based on the 19th century translation by explorer and orientalist Sir Richard Francis Burton, often featuring erotic illustrations to accompany the old-fashioned language.

The new edition, written by A.N.D. Haksar, an Indian scholar and translator of Sanskrit texts, will include updated chapter headings such as "Making A Pass", "Why Women Get Turned Off", "Girls To Avoid", "Is He Worthwhile", "Getting Rid of Him", "Easy Women", "Moves Towards Sex" and "Some Dos and Don'ts".

"The common perception of the Kama Sutra is that it is only about sex, but any honest reading of the book shows that it is about lifestyle and social relations between human beings," Haksar said.

There's more at the link.

I've never been all that interested in the Kama Sutra (particularly because, as George MacDonald Fraser once famously commented, position 36 turns out to be much the same as position 35, but with your fingers crossed!). Still, it is a very ancient work, and it's been misrepresented and mistranslated in the past. Perhaps it's time it was updated in the light of modern scholarship . . . but it'll still be a pity if that scholarship is infected with political correctness.


1 comment:

Old NFO said...

"infected with political correctness" Just what we need...sigh... Especially since with you can now see on the net....