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The Bhagavad Gita: The Original Sanskrit and An English Translation Paperback – 1 January 2007
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"This is a luminous translation that performs the exceptional feat of bringing the Gita fully alive in a Western language, combining accuracy with accessibility. In our troubled times, humanity needs the message of this sacred scripture as never before."
--Karen Armstrong, Author of The Great Transformation and A History of God
"I like Lars Martin Fosse's Gita because it is clear and straightforward."
--Margo von Romberg, Yoga Scotland
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So, while its a good translation, like most it still is full of additives ("Prince") and such to make it more familiar and read as a interesting story. Fosse explains in the preface his choice of translation of the words Sattvas, Rajah, Tamah, and as these are the building block words of Eastern thought, most already know them well, or else they should, so I would have preferred they were left in as much as the word "Karma" was left unchanged the majority of his text.
Personally I prefer very precise literal translation but have yet to find one.
the sanskrit of bg 1:10 reads as:
अपर्याप्तं तदस्माकं बलं भीष्माभिरक्षितम्
पर्याप्तं त्विदमेतेषां बलं भीमाभिरक्षितम्
aparyāptaṁ tadasmākaṁ balaṁ bhīṣhmābhirakṣhitam
paryāptaṁ tvidameteṣhāṁ balaṁ bhīmābhirakṣhitam
it looks like 8 words except you have compounds which must be broken apart, which equal 13 words, though four are repeated such example as Balam which is "Strength".
tad—that; or which asmākam—ours;
tv or (tu)—but; idam—this; eteṣhām—their
unlimited is-our strength
limited is-the strength
Fosse translates it as:
"That force, protected by Bhima, is not a match for us, but this force, protected by Bhishma, is a match for them."
So, all in all it's a fairly tight rendering though it still commits the horrid transposing of the two subjects, speaking first of the negative, followed by the positive, which if it was a dire matter of electric or dare I say alchemical connectivity it would be erroneous.
I have also read G. Thompson's review of this book, and he says indeed that Fosse's "English is clearly not that of a native speaker" and "often sounds awkward". The review also notes that Sanskrit terms and names are not transcribed correctly.
The introduction is rather short for such a text, there are also no footnotes and no bibliography. For casual readers this book may be okay, but personally I'd rather recommend instead the translations by Feuerstein or Mitchell.
This is one of those questions that may face one in their study of Hinduism. Do I go with a translation that is more literal but hard to read? Or do I go with a translation that "flows" better but may compromise the original intent and meaning?
Having read only one other edition of the Gita (Easwaran), I'd have to say that this edition falls somewhere in the middle.
First and foremost, although I can't read a bit of Sanskrit, I always appreciate editions that include the text in its original language. If I ever did want to do a further study on, say, the origins or meaning of a specific word, I can now do so.
I also appreciate the absence of footnotes as it makes for a less jarring reading experience--having to stop every few seconds for more clarification is not my idea of fun reading.
As for the translation itself, I can't speak for how well or accurately it captures the sense of the original, but I can tell you that it was a very easy read, which most Hindu texts are not.
Finally, the glossary at the end is always a welcome sight.
Although I like the spartan style of this book, there were a couple areas where I felt improvements could have been made. For one, I wish there were little headings to indicate who was speaking--Arjuna or Krishna. Secondly, for the most part, I felt that this translation was easier to read than Easwaran, however, there were a few cases where the Easwaran translation simply had more "flow" or was easier to follow. Compare these two passages . . .
"The self is a friend to that self by which self the self has been conquered. But the self of a man with an unconquered self would act in hostility like an enemy."
--Meditation couplet 6; Lars Martin Fosse translation
"To those who have conquered themselves, the will is a friend. But it is the enemy of those who have not found the Self within them."
--Meditation couplet 6; Eknath Easwaran translation
Right away you can see how the Easwaran translation is much easier to follow in this instance.
Finally, I disliked the inclusion of the other names of Arjuna and Krishna. I really don't feel that they added much to my understanding of the Gita, in fact, I would say that it was detrimental in that one has to think twice as hard or consult the glossary to figure out who is being referred to.
Before giving my overall assessment I'll breakdown a brief comparison of this edition with the Easwaran translation.
LARS MARTIN FOSSE TRANSLATION
--Easy to read
--Original Sanskrit text
--Introduction, glossary and index
EKNATH EASWARAN TRANSLATION
--Generally has more "flow" to it, but probably not as literal as the LMF translation.
--Introduction, chapter commentaries, glossary and index.
--Indicates who is speaking (Krishna, Arjuna, etc)
Between the two, I can't recommend one over the other. One should also bear in mind that with any translated text, it is wise to have MULTIPLE translations to refer to and not just one. For that reason, I think that the Lars Martin Fosse translation, while not perfect mostly on nitpicking grounds, is an excellent addition to one's collection of the Bhagavad Gita.