A unique, entertaining attempt to reconcile the ambiguities of an ancient myth with its archaeological record.

The Making of Bhishma

From the Great War, Re-Imagined series , Vol. 1

In this debut installment of Ramakrishna’s retelling of the Indian epic, the Mahabharata, warrior Devavrata Bhishma recounts a long road of intrigues and misunderstandings that led to his renunciation of a crown and the eventual eruption of a war.

Devavrata is captured by his grandnephew Yudhishthira and mortally wounded by his former lover, Amba. Knowing that the arrowhead lodged in his lungs could kill him at any time, he agrees to tell Yudhishthira his life story. He starts with his mother’s suicide, which was caused by the harsh limits on the number of children that Devavrata’s father, Shantanu, had placed on Hastinapura families. After her death, Shantanu fell in love with a Naga girl, Satyavati, who—to protect her future children—demanded that Devavrata give up his royal claims. Devavrata had fallen in love with her as well and yielded to her desires, but they treated each other as enemies ever after. Tragedies haunted Devavrata through the four regencies he served, including the mysterious death of his nephew Chitrangada, which earned Devavrata the title of Bhishma (“The Terrible”), and the murder of his only son, Shikhandin. Yudhishthira and Vyaasa Shukla—Satyavati’s brother and the leader of Hastinapura’s society of poets—listen and contribute to Devavrata’s tale as the archivist and mnemonist Lomaharshana preserves the words for posterity. As they each take turns illuminating their corner of the story, it’s a joy for readers to watch how the characters, and their understanding of each other, shift. Ramakrishna’s explanations of the relevant traditions of Hastinapura, and the other societies around it, help to pace the heavier revelations. He also uses Devavrata’s descriptions to capture the Hastinapuran civilization, drawing from historical records and explaining details in appendices and frequent asides. The sheer amount of reference material can be overwhelming, especially when it repeats itself—for example, the etymology of the name “Drona” is explained three separate times—but the complex narrative and sociological elements justify its inclusion.

A unique, entertaining attempt to reconcile the ambiguities of an ancient myth with its archaeological record.

Pub Date: Nov. 8, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-939338-05-1

Page Count: -

Publisher: Kashi Software Architects

Review Posted Online: Dec. 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH

While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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A LITTLE LIFE

Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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