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Samskara (a Sanskrit word) has many meanings: A rite of passage or life-cycle ceremony, forming well - making perfect, the realisation of past perceptions, preparation - making ready, are just some.

This novel (written in Kannada and translated to English by AK Ramanujan) has the English subtitle A Rite for a Dead Man, one of the meanings of Samskara.  But that meaning, while being the immeidate subject of the novel, is less important than some of the others.

Set before independence, it was written in 1965 and translated into English in 1976.


When Naranappa, a renegade Brahmin who flouted the rules of caste, dies his community can't decide whther he should be buried as a Brahmin.  And so we explore the flaws and foibles of the community as the decision is dsicussed, prayed upon and delayed.

The autor describes the novel as an allegorical tale and reading it that way helps.  Because despite a readable translation, the lack of knowledge of Hindu practices, legend, faith, means a lot of the nuance is lost.  I think a translation that allows for a westerner's ignorance of the nuances would make this a diferent book.  Perhaps the time is right for a new translation.


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