Review: The Hindus, Wendy Doniger

KhajurahoI recently re-read Wendy Doninger’s very thick tome called The Hindus. This was and is a very controversial book which attracted much opprobrium from the Hindus on the far right of the spectrum. The far right Hindus don’t hesitate to heap misfortunes on Western academics that comment on Hinduism, including throwing rotten eggs at the woman. Which is pretty much infra dig.

Doniger’s colleague, for example, David Gordon White, attracted quite a degree of opprobrium with his book, the Kiss of the Yogini – which actually I think is not really a very good book at all. It’s salacious and builds on works translated moons ago – for example the Kaulajnananirnaya

You know, as an independent journalist doing an honest review, I feel that Doniger’s The Hindus is weighty enough to act as a doorstop if the door needs one. Her views on the tantra are controversial because she only seems to reference the very discredited Mahanirvanatantra, composed by so-called reforming Bangla Hindus. That chapter wasn’t the best she could have done, considering her rather excellent translation of the Kamasutra, which, as she points out in The Hindus, has fuck all to do with tantra..

No. I have a serious problem with Doniger’s The Hindus which goes far beyond her ideas and the ideas others have about her.

She has apparently an obsession which I’ve decided to call “bracketisation”. Her book is very readable but just as you’re getting into another page, you discover she is addicted to the very famous brackets, that is to say ( this and that).

I am going to quantify this by using the tried and time tested method of entering one of her pages at random.

On page 117, Doniger has a total of five sets of brackets in an otherwise very readable chapter about the Vedas. She’s lucky I chose that page because some pages are so packed with sets of brackets and maybe she doesn’t understand that brackets slow you down. Maybe she had never been to Constantinople, which is a very long word. Can you spell it? Yes, all in all, a very provocative and stimulating book but marred by the disease of bracketisation.

Which can be fixed. By a good editor.

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