The Ramayana: A Shortened Modern Prose Version of the Indian Epic by R.K. Narayan
Published: 2006 by Penguin Books
Genre(s): Classic, Mythology (India)
After I’ve finished reading this book, I’m certain that mythology, fairy tales, folklore, legends and such all share common notions no matter which culture they are part of. In The Ramayana: A Shortened Modern Prose Version of the Indian Epic (which I will shorten to ‘The Ramayana‘ from here onward), is a tale both familiar and unknown to me. Although the Indians are ‘one of the three main races’ in my country, I’ve never really ventured into their culture, beliefs, traditions and such—a huge error on my part. Even so, as mentioned earlier, there are common notions that can be found in this tale and due to this, I felt like I already knew the tale.
This ‘modern’ retelling of The Ramayana is a very easy read. There is a glossary for terms I know not of, and a list of characters which is very helpful since there are many in this tale. However, despite finding this an easy read, I found the narrative disjointed at some parts. The short stories within this tale threw me slightly off course since I was expecting this tale to focus on Rama and his journey only. The breaking of the fourth wall—which is common in tales like this—isn’t as smooth as I’d like it to be as well. I don’t know how else to put this except that it didn’t seem like part of the story to me. In a way, it was like breaking the fourth wall’s fourth wall.
Other than that, I unfortunately found R.K. Narayan’s translation of this epic is too simple. I do like that it made reading this text easier, but I also think that the words used are mostly common and somehow, that just took away the beauty and complexity of this story. I’ve read a few versions of translations for Grimm’s Fairy Tales and although simple words are also used, there are still some complex/big words which then, gave them a lovely balance between simplicity and complexity. In this version of The Ramayana, I felt that it is overall, more simple than complex. Due to this, I also got bored reading this epic after a while and even though my interest did revive, getting bored at any point is still a negative.
The Ramayana is a patriarchal text. Like the fairy tales we all know and love, the women’s journey is also the question of the man’s desire here. While Rama develops throughout this epic, Sita remains flat and acts as a source for plot points. Had Rama not desired Sita in the beginning, she would’ve never had a ‘journey’ in this text. Nevertheless, The Ramayana is still an enjoyable read. I probably wouldn’t reread this translation but it’s worth the first read.