[INDOLOGY] The study of Sanskrit as the epitome of uselessness

Jonathan Silk kauzeya at gmail.com
Tue Mar 24 05:33:04 EDT 2020

Dear Herman

One first thinks of course of Col.Pickering in My Fair Lady (I confess I
have not read the play itself). He is the author of "Spoken Sanskrit", and
thus obviously an object of ridicule.
When I was a child, an expression for something incomprehensible was
"Sanskrit legalese."
When I finally read (part of, I confess) a dharma text, I was
extraordinarily proud of the accomplishment for that reason!


On Tue, Mar 24, 2020 at 9:49 AM Tieken, H.J.H. via INDOLOGY <
indology at list.indology.info> wrote:

> Dear List members,
> Last night I started reading Ever After by Graham Swift. On p. 3 of the
> pocket edition (Vintage International) of 1993 we hear the protagonist
> think:
> "Before they [academics] are sixty, they are emulating one of the many
> varieties: ... the wide-eyed, latter-day infant, helpless in all mundane
> matters but possessed of a profound understanding of Sanskrit."
> A few months ago I was reading Nader tot U (1969) by Gerard van 't Reve
> gain. One of the characters has to fill in a profession on an official
> paper. In the end he decides to fill in "indoloog", which is considered to
> be better than "general in the Hungarian army" or "stratenmaker of zee"
> (general dogsbody) (p. 113). There is some confusion if indoloog refers to
> a civil servant in the Dutch Indies here (Indie verloren, rampspoed
> geboren) or to an indologist, which is later resolved by remarks about
> gurus and bhakti. I was amazed to see that I had bought the book in the
> summer of 1970, just a few months before I started with the study of
> Sanskrit.
> Are there more accidental references of this type to sanskritists or
> indologists in literature?
> (Leaving aside Lee Siegel's novel about Professor Roth being killed by
> Monier-Williams Sanskrit dictionary.)
> With kind regards Herman
> Herman Tieken
> Stationsweg 58
> 2515 BP Den Haag
> The Netherlands
> 00 31 (0)70 2208127
> website: hermantieken.com
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J. Silk
Leiden University
Leiden University Institute for Area Studies, LIAS
Matthias de Vrieshof 3, Room 0.05b
2311 BZ Leiden
The Netherlands

copies of my publications may be found at
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