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the Complete Review
the complete review - poetry


Shrikant Verma

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To purchase Magadh

Title: Magadh
Author: Shrikant Verma
Genre: Poetry
Written: 1984 (Eng. 2013)
Length: 157 pages
Original in: Hindi
Availability: Magadh - US
Magadh - UK
Magadh - Canada
  • Hindi title: मगध
  • This is a bilingual edition, from Almost Island Books
  • Translated by Rahul Soni
  • With a Foreword by Ashok Vajpeyi

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Our Assessment:

B+ : quite impressive, and nicely presented

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Hindu . 9/8/2013 Budhaditya Bhattacharya
The Sunday Guardian . 8/6/2013 Sridala Swami

  From the Reviews:
  • "(O)ne notices in it a spokespersonís knack for equivocation. (...) The bilingual edition serves as a mirror for the original and translation, making clear the points of convergence and departure between the two. These, however, are few, as the translator has aspired to a kind of invisibility in the translation process." - Budhaditya Bhattacharya, The Hindu

  • "Read together, read as a whole, the accumulated effect of these poems put the reader in a state of deep confusion that can only be called existential. (...) Which brings me to the only quibble I have with this translation: I would have welcomed a little more context with regard to the composition of these poems. (...) In all other ways, this translation is impeccable. Soni's immersion in the text has resulted in a pared down, burnished rendition of Verma's cycle of poems." - Sridala Swami, The Sunday Guardian

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Magadh is full of uncertainty, of location and nature. The first poem, after the opening 'Invocation', begins:

Listen horseman, where's Magadh ?
I've come
from Magadh
I must go
to Magadh
       Other places -- like Magadh, classical locales from Indian history -- are similarly concurrently established and lost in a Schrödinger's cat-like duality:
All travellers going to Ujjaini:
this road does not go to Ujjaini
and this same road goes to Ujjaini
       Using the (once-)real places of history, many now lost or completely changed, Verma journeys in a space that is less geographical than now almost mythical. Tellingly, the voice in these poems is often one between places -- or between the same place, both coming and going to it, yet not there.
       The places are significant not as physical locales; instead, for example:
Vaishali is not a city
it's a memory
of those who came
before us --
       Here, setting out with a specific destination in mind is no guarantee of reaching it -- far from it, it seems, as destinations (both specific and general) remain elusive and:
the roads
that you're shown
don't take you
you want to go
       'Questions from Friends' sums up much of the cumulative effect of the collection, with its suggested questions and deceptive forward-looking orientation that in fact only loop back in the eternal vicious circles of the sequence:
it is meaningless
to say I'm coming back.

The question is: where are you going ?

it is pointless
to say I'm moving with the times.

The question is: are the times changing you
or are you
changing the times ?

it is meaningless
to say I've reached home.

The question is:
where will you go next ?
       Even the poems that do not directly invoke history, place, and myth share this dominant sense of duality here, as in 'A Year of Poems', which simply reads:
What I wrote, useless
What I did not,
       Magadh refers both to many historical Indian locales, as well as a few significant figures, and readers from beyond the sub-continent would surely benefit from annotations or an explanatory afterword; the introductory remarks by translator Rahul Soni and by Ashok Vajpeyi are of some help, but not really sufficient.
       Otherwise, this bilingual edition from Almost Island Books is certainly impressive: a lovely volume, and an effective translation of a collection that works well to cumulative effect, even as many of the individual pieces also impress on their own.

- M.A.Orthofer, 20 June 2013

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Magadh: Reviews: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Hindi-writing author Shrikant Verma (श्रीकांत वर्मा) lived 1931 to 1986.

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© 2013-2022 the complete review

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