[INDOLOGY] a recent review of the Jamison-Brereton RV translation by Karen Thomson

George Thompson gthomgt at gmail.com
Fri Jan 22 00:22:16 UTC 2016

Dear List,

I have been asked offline to take on the task of confronting Thomson's
views.  I will try to do so, briefly.

Her review is entitled "Speak for itself," which strikes me indeed as very
strange: Thomson here implies that the RV can 'speak for itself,' and
therefore that the extensive commentary of the JB translation [which
continues online among RV specialists today] is intrusive and unnecessary.
This dismissive approach to RV exegesis is astonishing to me.  I have spent
my entire career studying the RV, and in my experience of studying  it
within the context of the Indo-European Dichtersprache I have found no IE
text that is more difficult, or in more need of careful exegesis, than the
RV [except perhaps for Old Avestan, or Pindar...].  We can argue about
this, but to say that the RV can 'speak for itself' seems to me to be
naive, or perhaps full of hubris.

Thomson argues that JB have imposed their view of the RV as a wildly
obscene text based on their preconceptions, and not on the text of the RV
itself.  Again, I think that she is wrong about this.  Consider RV 1.179, a
dialogue between Agastya and Lopaamudraa, just as one example.

What she is trying to do here is to domesticate the RV and make it
compatible with her version of modern 'Vedic Hinduism, which is not really

The RV is a liturgical text.  It is also highly esoteric.  Consider the
cycle of hymns attributed to Diirghatamas [RV 1.140-164].  It is filled
with riddles and enigmas and brahmodyas.  His name itself tells us that he
intends to keep his audience in darkness.  We now, some 3000 years later,
cannot sit down with him to interrogate him about what meanings stand
behind his intentionally dark language.

I tell this to colleagues who are not Vedicists or who are not Indologists
but who are curious to know why I have invested so much time on the RV, so
remote and obscure:it is the RV''s remoteness and obscurity that attracts
me.  I take pleasure in examining its riddles.  I also take pleasure in
trying to translate it into a poetic and mysterious English.

Best wishes to all.


On Wed, Jan 20, 2016 at 2:40 PM, George Thompson <gthomgt at gmail.com> wrote:

> I have recently received a pdf file of a strange petulant revew of the J-B
> translation of the RV by Thomson in the Times Literary Supplement Jamuary 6
> 3026.
> I have tried to attach this review to an email to Indology, but it
> failed.  Have others seen this  weird attack?
> I will be happy to try to attach the review to individuals on the list.
> This attack should be confronted.
> George Thompson

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