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The Bhagavad Gita on "Fiction" Bestseller List

on 2000/12/5 8:48:02 ( 1641 reads )


SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA: It's not a question at the heart of human existence. But if Krishna and Arjuna could resume their Bhagavad Gita dialogue, perhaps they'd take up a query that rumbled through the Hindu community this week: Can a sacred text be called a work of fiction? And, if so, is it worth any less? The discussion was first sparked last Sunday, November 26, 2000, when the San Francisco Chronicle published its weekly bestseller list. Stephen Mitchell's new translation of the Gita took a coveted spot-number 15 in the "fiction" category. Most Indians were delighted it made the prestigious list at all but were surprised it was classed as fiction. David Kipen, the editor of the Chronicle's book review section, confirmed that the holy text didn't slip into the wrong category by accident. "I'd like to think that we would place the Bible or the Koran, or any other holy book under fiction, judging them to be closer to mythology than history." But author Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni deemed it worthy of battle. "The Bhagavad Gita is a philosophical text; it's not fiction." Beth Kulkarni on the advisory board of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad was unperturbed, "The underlying spiritual truths are important, not the historical truths." And the reaction of the translator of the work in question? Responding to an e-mail query, Mitchell confessed to some surprise but didn't see a major snafu. "It does seem odd that they put it in the fiction category. The categorization of the Gita as fiction has nothing to do with its wisdom or its validity. The opposite of truth is untruth, not fiction."

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