All right, so the news is now a few days old, but it definitely calls for a celebration. For those who came in late...
N R Narayana Murthy, Chief Mentor of Infosys Technologies, and his family have donated $5.2 million to Harvard University and Harvard University Press to establish a new publication series called The Murty* Classical Library of India.
[*Yes, that's how it's been spelt in the Harvard release]
The dual-language series aims both to serve the needs of the general reading public and to enhance scholarship in the field.
Harvard Provost Steven E. Hyman noted that the Murty family gift would enable HUP to present the literary cultures of India to a global readership in an unprecedented manner. “The Murty Classical Library of India will make the classical heritage of India accessible worldwide for generations to come,” said Hyman. “We are truly grateful to the Murty family for their vision and leadership in making this historic initiative a reality.”
The Murty family’s endowed series aims to bring the classical literature of India, much of which remains locked in its original language, to a global audience, making many works available for the first time in English and showcasing the contributions of Indian literature to world civilization. Narayana Murty said of the new series, “I am happy that Harvard University Press is anchoring this publishing project.” His wife, Sudha, agreed. “We are happy to participate in this exciting project of bringing the rich literary heritage of India to far corners of the world.”
Under the direction of General Editor Sheldon Pollock, William B. Ransford Professor of Sanskrit and Indian Studies at Columbia University, and aided by an international editorial board composed of distinguished scholars, translators will provide contemporary English versions of works originally composed in Bengali, Gujarati, Kannada, Marathi, Persian, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Tamil, Telugu, Urdu, and other Indian languages.
Each volume will present the English translation with the original text in the appropriate Indic script on the facing page. The books will be supplemented by scholarly introductions, expert commentary, and textual notes, all with the goal of establishing Murty Classical Library volumes as the most authoritative editions available.
The Murty family’s vision has already begun to impress notable scholars, such as Thomas W. Lamont University Professor and professor of economics and philosophy at Harvard University, Amartya Sen, who expressed his appreciation for the initiative. “There are few intellectual gaps in the world that are as glaring as the abysmal ignorance of Indian classics in the Western world. It is wonderful that the Murty Classical Library of India is taking up the challenge of filling this gap, through a new commitment of the Harvard University Press, backed by the discerning enthusiasm of the Murty family, and the excellent leadership of Sheldon Pollock—an outstanding Sanskritist and classical scholar. This will be a big contribution to advancing global understanding that is so much needed in the world today.”
HUP plans to make the works available in both print and digital formats. The first volumes are scheduled for publication in fall 2013. An Indian edition is being planned.
Nilanjana Roy adds in today's Business Standard:
What do we currently read in the way of our own classics? We don’t have an easy equivalent of the Classical Canon — in the sense of a list of classic literary works that would be considered essential reading for any thinking Indian. Most of us imbibe the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, almost by osmosis, whether it’s through the great authoritative translations or through your grandmother’s retellings, or via a more popular comic-book or TV serial version. After this, it splinters according to individual preference — there are very few outside the academic world who would read, simultaneously, the Rajatarangini and the Cilappatikaram, Shakuntala and the Buddhist song-cycle of the Charyapada.
...This isn’t an argument for cultural representation; just a way to underline the fact that we have a large blank shelf in our households where the Indian classics should be. Where this space is filled with classics selected at random, it’s often limited by the language we know best — we’ll read our own region’s greatest authors, but not roam too far abroad. Murthy’s donation is a way of acknowledging that this is a country where we often read, and think, in translation. It’s just not reflected on our book shelves.
RIP Thomas Babington Macaulay.