Thursday, February 16, 2012

Review; Kama Sutra

The Kama Sutra by Vatsyayana (translated by A.N.D. Haksar)

Publication Date: January 31, 2012
Publisher: Penguin Group USA
Genre: Classics, Sex
Pages: Paperback, 209pp
ISBN-13: 978-0143106593
ISBN: 0143106597

(Received for an honest review from Penguin Classics)

Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, IndieBound


A gorgeous deluxe edition of the world's most celebrated guide to life, love, relationships and pleasure.

Little is known about Vatsyayana, who is reputed to have composed the Kama Sutra "while observing a celibate's life in full meditation." In Sanskrit the word "kama" means desire, especially for sensual pleasure, and its proper pursuit was considered an essential part of a young, urbane gentleman's well-rounded education.

Untold numbers of readers are curious about the Kama Sutra but put off by its clichéd image as an erotic Oriental curiosity. This elegant edition offers a compelling modern translation of a classic Indian masterpiece-and a wry and entertaining account of human desire and foibles.


Penguin Classics offers an updated translation of the very popular Kama Sutra. Written by a celibate cleric as a guide to sexual exploration and fulfillment, the Kama Sutra has long been praised for it's open and honest information about sexual positions and things that are usually left to the bedroom. Penguin's version is certainly different from earlier versions of Vatsyayana's work and readers may finds some parts of it informative and other parts out of their scope of the imagination.

I'm not exactly sure where to start with this review. This kind of materiel is often hard to write about for a lot of reasons. For one thing, the Kama Sutra is a classic. It is very well known and very well loved by many, however it can be a bit daunting when trying to describe it's merits and flaws. Penguin's updated version has some good qualities and some not so good qualities. 

What I liked...

I absolutely fell in love with the cover. It is beautiful and graceful and epitomizes what I was expecting from this translation. The colors are beautiful and give the book, a very elegant fell. Malika Favre does a fantastic job with the cover illustrations but sadly that's all we see of Favre's work, because this version of the Kama Sutra is not illustrated.

A.N.D. Haksar does a wonderful job with the translation from the original Indian Sanskrit work. His wording is easy to understand and descriptive. Once a reader figures out which position is being described it is easy to visualize what Haksar is getting at, it's the figuring it out that's the hard part. I can imagine that doing this kind of translation was probably very taxing and intimidating with such a popular book. Haksar is able to get his points across with ease and a smooth writing style.

What I didn't like...

I wish I could say this is the best version of the Kama Sutra you can buy. In my humble opinion Penguin publishes some of the best materiel out there on the market and that's why I prefer to review a lot of their titles, but this one just didn't hit the spot. I soooo wanted to say that it did, but I have to be honest. 

One of the biggest faults with this one is the obvious lack of illustrations. I think one of the best parts of the Kama Sutra has always been the visual aspects of the book. If a reader is new to sex and inexperienced, without those visual cues, it would be very difficult to imagine the correct position that the Kama Sutra is talking about. I may not be the most experienced person in the world but I've been around the block a time or two and I even had a little trouble understanding where the writer was going.

Another aspect of the book that bothered me a little bit had nothing to do with the translation, the writing, or the lack of illustrations. It was the attitude with which the book was written. Now, I realize that this is a very old, text. It was written in India, where views on sex and love and relationships are very different from what I'm used to. I also realize that India had a very dominant caste system and the roles of men and women were very strict and adhered to by the masses. However, there were certain parts of the book that grated on my nerves a little bit. 

The woman is obviously considered the weaker sex. I am a very independent woman and I feel like I can hold my own with the boys, so that got to me a bit. I also have some strong beliefs about what love is and what's acceptable that may not be what everybody else thinks is correct, but I don't like to think the female is just an object for a man's lust. That her only purpose in the sexual act to provide for his pleasure. It doesn't come right out and say that, but it's in the attitude of the writing. So readers should be prepared for a few of the idea's here to stick in their craw just a little.


Overall I was disappointed. Not many people expect to read a book about sex that doesn't have illustrations. Though it is a book that has always fascinated me, this was really my first experience with the Kama Sutra and I was a little taken aback by the attitudes present. I did like the the wording and translation. I loved the cover and I got a real kick out of some of the suggestions for enhancing sexual experiences. 

I can't give this one a high rating because it bothered me. I really wanted to, but I feel that reviewer should be allowed to express their honest opinions. My best advice on this book, is that is it a classic and it definitely would behoove many readers to give it a chance. It may appeal to you a lot more than it did to me. I think some people will like it better without the illustrations because some get offended easily or just can't control the giggles when it comes to showing sexual positions and the like. I think others will find it outdated and hard to follow. Pick up a copy at your local library or book store and glance through it before you buy it, to see if it's a good fit for you... for me, not so much...

Kama Sutra is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

I'm giving this one 3 out of 5 apples from my book bag!

Vatsyayana composed the Kama Sutra after careful study and consideration "while observing a celibate's life in full meditation." Very little else is known about him. His first name was perhaps Mallanaga and from his detailed descriptions of regional practices, we can surmise that he was from the Madyha Desha, the then cultural heartland of India. He lived nearly two thousand years ago and this work was the first of its kind anywhere in the world. Cited repeatedly in Indian literature, it became known outside that country just over a century ago and has been a byword for eroticism ever since.

Aditya Narayan Dhairyasheel Haksar is a well known translator of Sanskrit classics. He has also had a distinguished career as a diplomat, serving as Indian High Commissioner to Kenya and the Seychelles, minister to the United States and ambassador to Portugal and Yugoslavia. His translations from Sanskrit include, The Shattered Thigh and Other Plays, Tales of the Ten Princes, Hitopadsea, Simhasana Dvatrimsika, Subhashitavali, and Three Satires from Ancient Kashmir, all published as Penguin Classics.

No comments: