On Friday 27th February the High Commissioner of India, H.E. Mr Ranjan Mathai, hosted the London launch of the Murty Classical Library of India. It was founded by Rohan Narayana Murthy and is published by Harvard University Press.
The mission of the Murty Classical Library of India is to present the greatest literary works of India from the past two millennia to the largest readership in the world. The series aims to reintroduce these works to a new generation.
The High Commissioner chaired a panel that was in conversation with the audience. On the panel were Rohan Murthy and his editor Professor Sheldon Pollock from the Faculty of Oriental Studies at Oxford. Roly Keating, Chief Executive of the British Library, also answered questions.
During the conversation, it was suggested that much of Indian learning could be more open and more imaginative rather than the narrow rote-learning model set by Lord Macaulay, still used today.
The distinguished audience included academics and journalists, and the Deputy High Commissioner, Dr Virander Paul was present. Dr Richard Blurton, former Head of the India Section at the British Library and Dr Christopher Shackle, former Professor of Modern South Asian languages at SOAS, were on hand.
Later, the Asian Voice interviewed Sharmila Sen, Executive Editor- at- Large for Harvard University Press, who said,
“It’s a great privilege for Harvard University Press to publish the Indian classics- which helps us broaden our scope of publishing the classics which we have been doing for a hundred and three years with the Loeb Classical Library [a pre-existing series].” This paper asked about market potential and the editor replied, “It will be as big as the market for the Loeb Classical Library. It will have that kind of vision; expensive and that long period of time.”
The Asian Voice also interviewed Professor Pollock about his experience editing the series. “It’s been a real challenge editing the Murty Classical library as translating Indian languages is more of a challenge than translating from Spanish or Italian or German. Partly this is because Indian writers have often felt the most interesting subject to write poetry about is language itself.
I have been blessed with great collaborators [like] Christopher Shackle, they made my life a lot easier. It’s difficult to work with Indian languages partly because of the distance from the language, partly because of the conceptual difference, but sometimes because language itself is the object of the poetry and that can be difficult to bring over into another language.”
All present agreed that the Murty Libary is a significant milestone in bringing world literature’s treasured heritage to a wider audience than before.