Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Kama Sutra by Vatsyayana

Title: Kama Sutra
Author: Vatsyayana, A.N.D. Haksar (Translator)

Genre: Non-Fiction
Publisher/Publication Date: Penguin Classics (1/31/2012)
Source: The publisher

Rating: Liked.
Did I finish?: I did!
One-sentence summary: A new translation of the classic, notorious Kama Sutra -- without images, but still sexy.
Reading Challenges: Books in Translation, Dewey Decimal Challenge

Do I like the cover?: I adore the cover. It's gorgeous, naughty, playful, sinuous, sensual, striking, and provocative. I love the Beardsley-esque-ish style and the colors. The flipside has even naughtier poses!

First line: The Kama Sutra was written in India nearly two thousand years ago.

Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Borrow for sure -- learn what this notorious work really is about!

Why did I get this book?: I'm still 15 inside and am curious about sex!

Review: No need to feel mortified reading this book! Blessedly free of awkward 60s-ish drawn illustrations, Cosmo-esque cartoon figures, or really disquieting photographs of therapist/lovers modeling the poses, this edition of Kama Sutra offers the original, notorious, and famed work in a clean, straight-forward translation.

I'll be honest: until now, I was actually unfamiliar with the Kama Sutra, other than the usual teenaged interest in checking out the naughty pics.  So I was thrilled to see Penguin's new translation -- I've been dubious of the infamous Richard Burton version

The Introduction opens with an explanation of present perceptions of the Kama Sutra, including the fact that more than half the titles in the US Library of Congress are non-academic translations. The Kama Sutra has come to represent, simply, sex, and the spiritual, ethical, and literary merits of the work ignored or forgotten.

Vatsyayana -- a celibate cleric! -- wrote his guide as an educational tool to shape the whole person. From straight-forward tips on sex, it also includes information on hygiene, managing a harem, and the fiscal challenges facing courtesans.  Obviously, some of the sections rang ludicrous for me, but I was fascinated by the very pragmatic and practical attitude toward sex, sex workers, and sexual partnerships.  Haksar, the translator, uses lovely, clear language for the passages, and the work is readable and titillating!

A super fun gift for Valentine's Day or an anniversary, this is a wickedly delicious read that is edgy without being embarrassing.  Plus, there's something to be said for reading such a notorious work and knowing what it's actually about!

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GIVEAWAY!

I'm thrilled to offer a copy of Penguin Classic's new Deluxe edition of Kama Sutra. To enter, fill out this brief form. Open to US/CA readers, ends 2/24.

21 comments:

  1. No images? How on earth is one to understand all the freaky poses then?

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    1. The text is pretty self-explanatory, actually, and it's not all poses so much -- it's more about technique, paying attention to the body, stuff like that. Still -- very fun!

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  2. If my husband read books, this would be the perfect Valentine's gift for him, but since he doesn't read....I may just have to get one for myself. LOL

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    1. Serena -- it can be a gift for him, to you! ;) It's delightfully pragmatic in that Vatsyayana very much assumes all lovers want to be good. There's a refreshingly modern feel to the writing/attitude (healthy attitudes about sex) that made this less wiggle-in-my-seat-with-mortification than I expected!

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  3. I, too, have always been really curious about this book, but have never read it. I bet it would make for some very enlightening reading and I am really glad that you enjoyed it. It certainly seems more tasteful than a lot of other books of this type! Great review today!

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    1. Heather -- exactly -- I've been curious about the actual text, not the notoriety, and this edition is perfect. Fun, mature, and very well done -- it was eye-opening and sobering, in a way!

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  4. Tips on managing my harem?? FINALLY! I've been looking for something like that!

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    1. HA! Plus, the flipside of the book has slightly naughtier poses on the back. Sexy!

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  5. I've seen the version with photos and it was a bit uncomfortable to look at. I think Sting ought to come out with his own version. He practices it and he would be easier on my eyes than some therapist person.

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    1. Exactly -- the ones illustrated with photos are esp traumatic, I think. This one is nice -- all text (good font!) and you've just got your imagination to go on (which is the way I want it!).

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  6. I totally responded to your "15 inside" comment, because the 15-year-old inside me clicked on the link to this review as soon as I read the title. :) Great review of a very interesting -- and very misunderstood -- world classic!

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  7. How interesting... I don't think I ever really got what all this book was about except for the obvious. I was offered this for review as well but my reaction was pretty much "oh my I could never write about this on my blog" LOL! I had no idea the person who wrote it was a celibate cleric!

    I laughed at your reason for reading this!

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  8. Edgy without being embarrassing -- sounds like a good translation to me!

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  9. This sounds like such a fun read! I've seen it around or heard it mentioned before but really had no idea what it was truly about. Must pick it up some day :)

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  10. I've always been curious about the KS, but never actually read it. Maybe I'll pick up a copy now and brush up on my techniques :)

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  11. The fifteen-year-old in me blushed and giggled at the same time, when I saw the title of your review. Thank you, though, for enlightening me on the Kama Sutra's real subject matter, and I still can't believe it was written by a celibate cleric.

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  12. I think you might be the only person I know by name that has actually ever read this (and without images - extra brownie points).

    I agree with you: the cover is gorgeous!

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  13. I have never had the urge to read this, but your review has convinced me. It sounds so fascinating to read and think of it in both the context of when it was written and how it's still relevant today. Also, the new cover is gorgeous!

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  14. Traveled to the past in your reviews. I got offered this one too and thought 'what the heck?' It wasn't what I was expecting at all. Very interesting to read, though I doubt I'll ever pick it up again.

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    1. You're a time traveler!

      I was quite surprised by this one -- odd but intriguing -- I doubt I'll read it again but I am filled with smug satisfaction that I can say I've read it. For real.

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