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A historian’s response to the petition against Sheldon Pollock: Janaki Nair

Guest post by JANAKI NAIR


A petition, signed by 132 “academics” asking Rohan Murty and Narayan Murthy to dismiss Prof Sheldon Pollock from his role as Editor of the Murty Classical Library Series, is receiving attention that the signatories did not anticipate.  I put the word “academics” in quotes because the commitment of the signatories to an academic evaluation of Sheldon Pollock’s intellectual leadership is nowhere in evidence, since a quotation from Pollock was changed mid-way through the signature campaign. Nor does it seem as if the signatories have ever held any one of the hot- pink,  beautifully produced volumes in their hands, where   as much attention has been paid to looks and fonts,  as to the quality of translations.

Had they done so, they too would have appreciated the significance of this effort, in bringing to the wider reading public the oceans of literary texts and traditions, in a mind-boggling array of languages,  from a period covering two and a half millenia.  The individual translators and editors are among the best in the field. Thanks to this series, so many more Indians and others will learn of the sheer beauty and anguish of Punna, a  Therigatha poet (translated from Pali, 3rd century BCE).  People of the south will hear the voice of Bulle Shah, translated from Punjabi, and those from other parts of India will read Allasani Peddanna, translated from Telugu.  True we will miss the mellifluous chanting, or the energetic sounds of performance: for now, we will have to make do with the books on hand. Continue reading A historian’s response to the petition against Sheldon Pollock: Janaki Nair