A new book called The Tenth Rasa: An Anthology of Indian Nonsense sounds like a lot of fun; amardeep of Sepia Mutiny says in his post “The book is a collection of nonsensical poems and short stories from all over India, most of them translated into English. It’s one of those rare Penguin India titles that ended up getting distributed in the U.S.” and quotes some samples, of which my favorite is:

Idli lost its fiddli
Dosa lost its crown
Wada lost its violin
And let the whole band down.

The primary editor, Michael Heyman, has a very enjoyable blog to promote the book (“Like the phoenix from the ashes, like the peanuts from Natchez; like paneer from the curd, like Subir the Goatherd (whose fear of paneer is absurd), The Tenth Rasa rises again! The official (really, official, this time) launch of The Tenth Rasa in the USA will take place in the new year!”) as well as an essay at about the creation of the book. Thanks for the link, Matt!


  1. Thanks for the pointer, this book sounds like a must have. Do you know if the translated works are also presented in their original languages?

  2. Doesn’t sound like it, I’m afraid. That would be ideal.

  3. A tangent into another LH favorite, if I may.
    Ezra Pound was an early champion of Rabindranath Tagore. He managed to have Harriet Monroe’s Poetry magazine scoop others with the publication of six poems from Gitanjali in the Dec. 1912 issue. Blasted Google Books only has snippet view, because someone entered 1966 for the copyright; perhaps it was a reprint, though that isn’t how copyright works. But, once again, the Internet Archive comes to the rescue.
    In the critical essay attached, Pound writes:

    These poems are cast, in the original, in metres perhaps the most finished and most subtle of any known to us. If you refine the art of the troubadours, combine it with that of the Pleiade, and add to that the sound-unit principle of the most advanced artists in vers libre, you would get something like the system of Bengali verse. The sound of it when spoken is rather like good Greek, for Bengali is daughter of Sanscrit, which is a kind of uncle or elder brother of the Homeric idiom.

    Pound later soured on Tagore, as did other critics (e.g., here). Neophilia, perhaps. Or perhaps the later English works lacked the needed editorial / translation help of the likes of Yeats. But that’s another story.
    Here is my question. Did Ezra Pound actually learn any Bengali? He dabbled in a number of other languages, with notoriously mixed results. Did he study the formal aspects of Bengali verse? Or was it all just sense impression from readings in salons by unknown Bengalis and/or later by Tagore himself?
    I rather think not. Pound’s life is pretty well documented. There is nothing beyond the usual story in the first volume of Moody’s recent literary biography. But, if anyone would know more, it’s the gang here.

  4. Did Ezra Pound actually learn any Bengali?
    Without having actually researched the matter, I’m quite confident in saying no. He hardly even knew any Greek. Lack of knowledge never stopped him from pronouncing authoritatively.

  5. John Emerson says

    His Chinese was pretty patchy too. IIRC most of the Chinese stuff in the Cantos (the historical part) was appropriated from De Mailla’s Latin translation of a Manchurian translation of Chu Xi’s “Tong jian gang mu”, a standard but tendentious summarization of the various Chinese histories, and (also IIRC) most of the Chinese poetry was translated from Japanese versions with the help of a collaborator (e.g. Li Po / Li Bai was “Rihaku”).
    Pound is really more plausible and more appealing as a wacky Yankee barbarian forger than he is as a temperate, scholarly Confucian gentleman. I found Kenner’s book about Pound interesting and impressive, but I was baffled as to why the book had been written about Pound.

  6. John Emerson says

    For “forger” read “faker”.

  7. Happy World Idli Day to all who celebrate.

    Though the transcription error is in the referenced post, Chattarji actually wrote, “Wada lost its wiolin.”

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