cover image The Sea of Separation

The Sea of Separation

Tulsidas, trans. from the Hindi by Philip Lutgendorf. Harvard Univ, $19.95 trade paper (208p) ISBN 978-0-674-29566-7

In this dynamic translation of the ancient Indian Sanskrit epic as retold by 16th-century poet Tulsidas in a literary dialect of classical Hindi, Lutgendorf (Lost in the Lake: Tulsidas and his Others) renders some of the poem’s most famous episodes into free verse. It includes scenes of battles with demons (“But the Lord first made his bowstring twang/ with a sound so deep and terrifying/ that the demons were deafened and bewildered/ and, in that moment, completely lost their wits”) and descriptions of the protagonist’s alliance with a troop of marvelous monkeys (“All the monkeys went forth to search/ woods, rivers, lakes, and mountain caves,/ their minds absorbed in Ram’s task/ and forgetful of bodily attachments”). The end of the story’s first section advises, “The Raghu master’s fame is the cure/ for worldly ills, and men and women who listen to it/ have all their wishes fulfilled/ by Ram, the triple-headed demon’s foe.// He whose body is dark as a blue lotus/ and who is more lovely than a billion love gods—/ listen to the litany of his merits—/ whose name is a fowler for the birds of sin.” This perceptive and accessible edition brings Tulsidas’s version, the most widely read across Northern India, to English-speaking audiences, giving readers a fresh glimpse into the tale’s impressive energy. (Feb.)