Tale of the Incomparable Prince

Tshe Ring Dbang Rhyal, Author, Tshe Ring Dbang Rgyal, Author, Beth Newman, Translator
Tshe Ring Dbang Rhyal, Author, Tshe Ring Dbang Rgyal, Author, Beth Newman, Translator HarperCollins Publishers $25 (0p) ISBN 978-0-06-017400-2
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Newman, a scholar of South Asian languages and literature, has reclaimed an exotic gem of world literature with this sparkling translation of a Tibetan novel. The tale is an early 18th-century romantic adventure story, narrated in a mixture of prose and verse, that embodies Buddhist teachings of karma, reincarnation, compassion and liberation from suffering. The author, Tshe ring dbang rgyal (1697-1763), a leading politician, diplomat, man of letters and historian, draws parallels with the life of the Buddha through his protagonist, Prince Kumaradvitiya, who renounces worldly attachments-including his wife and his kingdom-to meditate in a forest retreat. There, he recalls his previous lives, performs miracles and attains enlightenment. The plot, involving kidnapping, warfare, selfless friendship and illicit lust, illustrates the karmic law of moral action and reaction. Despite static characters and an air of quaint artificiality, the poetry soars, waxing philosophical, erotic, spiritual, dramatic. Newman's supple translation conveys the stately yet lush quality of classical Tibetan verse while injecting a stunning modern undertone (""We are like animals led to the slaughterhouse/By butchers whose arms are stained with blood./Without any pause our every step and breath/Takes us closer to the Death Lord's domain""). UK, translation, first serial, dramatic rights: Wylie, Aitken & Stone. (Feb.)
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