Geldner's RV in English? - YES!

Thu Nov 2 14:56:44 UTC 1995

The various messages from Asko, Enrica, Vidyanath Rao, Srinivasan Pichumani 
and Alfredo Villaroel:

1. Asko is correct. I am aware of Stanley's ongoing efforts (they were 
announced in 1981 by O'Flaherty.) But I also know (he told me a few weeks 
ago) that he is writing another book now, and I did not want to drag him 
into this discussion without his permission. Maybe he could come out of the 
lurking shadows and answer himself.

2. The point rather is: Geldner's  German transl. was finished in the 
Twenties. But due to the illness/neglect of the then editors and world 
war II it has been published only in 1951. (The proofs were available to 
a few German scholars until then). 

This has held up RV studies for 25 years, and since the translation is in 
German it has been largely neglected in the English speaking world 
(outside a very narrow band of Vedic specialists) even after its 
publication. The same holds good for Renou's French translation which is 
largely based on Geldner but is usually invoked just as an icon in 
English language articles and books -- with no discussion (again outside 
the same narrow band of *real* Vedic specialists).

3.We thus need a new complete *English* transl. -- as no *complete* one is 
available in another language and as a fresh one in Englsih is NOT in 
sight, we should translate GELDNER, -- if only for the simple reason that 
he spent a lifetime on the text (after editing the "sister text", the  
Avesta). He was the last one, perhaps, who penetrated so deeply into this 

Certainly Stanley (with a similar background -- see his Gatha transl) 
will be able to do so as well, but until then...

4. Another reason is that we have to take all SERIOUS translation 
efforts in whatever language very seriously indeed. That means, not those 
retranslations of Geldner and Renou that have begun cropping up in some 
languages (sapienti sat), but those which try to make  serious progress 
(incl. Elizarenkova). 

There are, of course, transl. into other often less widely read languages. 
Enrica mentioned V. Papesso's Italian translation, and I did 
not mention Naoshiro Tsuji's transl. since it is beyond the range of most 
non-Japanese colleagues, and then, there are the translations into Croatian, 
various Indian languages etc. etc. -- all written from various backgrounds 
and with various aims in mind. A future translator will have to compare and 

5. Finally, Geldner has added copious notes which need to be taken into 
account by any future translator (together with Oldenberg's Noten).They 
are cryptic for those who do not read German well -- as I have seen 
myself in the various translation efforts.

6. For all these reasons: MY OFFER STANDS. If someone will produce a good 
translation of Geldner, WE WILL PRINT it.


Regarding O'Flaherty's translation: I will give some examples when I get 
some time, maybe on Sunday.

If you want a well documented and  well balanced  English 
translation of some RV hymns get hold of Walter Maurer's PINNACLES.      
He has taken recent scholarship into account and has produced a readable 
and up-to-date translation with many annotations.

 Pinnacles of India's past : selections from the Rgveda /
                  translated and annotated by Walter H. Maurer.
 Amsterdam ; Philadelphia : Benjamins, 1986. xi, 350 p. ; 23 cm.
 SERIES: University of Pennsylvania studies on South Asia,, ISSN 0169 -0361

For readers of German I recommend Paul Thieme's translation of 23 hymns  in 
the RECLAM series (Gedichte aus dem Rig-Veda, Stuttgart 1964)  -- as 
always with many new ideas and re-interpretations.



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