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

asko.parpola at helsinki.fi asko.parpola at helsinki.fi
Fri Jan 22 07:14:04 UTC 2016

  Dear George, In 2009, the Journal of Indo-European Studies published a
longer article of Thomson's with
three brief comments and Thomson's reply. I'll send you offline the PDFs:

Thomson, Karen, 2009.  A still undeciphered text: How the scientific
appproach to the Rigveda would open up Indo-European Studies. The Journal
of Indo-European Studies 37 (1-2): 1-47.
Part 1. The problem and its history (p. 1). The outcome of the hermeneutic
approach (p. 7). The influence of the Veda (p. 11). Test cases: puroḷāś
(p. 14). vakṣaṇā (p. 16). grāvan (p. 19). tiroahnyam (p. 20). The
process of disentanglement (p. 22).  Part 2. The evidence of the Rigveda
(p. 25).  Rigvedic ruins (p. 26). The meaning of the word samudra (p. 29).
"Did the Sarasvati* ever flow to the sea?" (Possehl 1998) (p. 30). The
Rigvedic chariot and the Rigvedic horse (p. 33). The need for a new
approach (p. 39). References (p. 42). 
Mumm, Peter-Arnold, 2009. Comment on "A still undeciphered text". The
Journal of Indo-European Studies 37 (1-2): 49-52.
Zimmer, Stefan, 2009. Hic Rhodus! A brief comment on Karen Thomson, A still
undeciphered text: how the scientific approach to the Rigveda would open up
Indo-European Studies. The Journal of Indo-European Studies 37 (1-2):
Parpola, Asko, 2009. Interpreting the Rigveda: Comments on Karen Thomson's
approach. The Journal of Indo-European Studies 37 (1-2): 55-58. 
Thomson, Karen, 2009.  A still undeciphered tex, continued: the reply to
my critics. The Journal of Indo-European Studies 37 (1-2): 59-88. 

Best regards, Asko

Quoting George Thompson <gthomgt at gmail.com>:

> 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 Vedic.
> 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.
> George
>    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
>> This attack should be confronted.
>> George Thompson

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