From Arshia Sattar's Bookshelf

A translator and author, Arshia's works include translations of Valmiki's Ramayana and Somdeva's Kathasaritsagara, and children's books Kishkindha Tails and Pampa Sutra, among others.

Compiled by Suchismita Ukil Updated: Oct 11, 2018 17:05:28 IST
From Arshia Sattar's Bookshelf Photograph by Jignesh Mistry

Arshia Sattar works with the story traditions of the subcontinent, particularly with Hindu epics and myths. A translator and author, she obtained her doctorate in classical Indian languages from the University of Chicago. Her works include translations of Valmiki's Ramayana and Somdeva's Kathasaritsagara, and children's books Kishkindha Tails and Pampa Sutra, among others.

'The Little Mermaid' in Hans Christian Andersen's Fairy Tales (Puffin Classics, Rs 250)

About a young mermaid, who gives up her life to be with the man she loves, I still cry when I read the story-it's the saddest I know.

After Babel (George Steiner, OUP Oxford, Rs 1,199) 

A seminal work on the aspects of language and translation, I discovered this in graduate school. And immediately, I knew that I wanted to be a writer and talk about language and meaning. Being a translator is about halfway there.

A Woman in Berlin (Anonymous, Picador, Rs 1,203.60)

Another book that twisted my gut, it's about the time when the Red Army took over Berlin after the Allied victory and what happened to the women. A book about the cost of war-what happens to the bodies and souls of those who survive it.

The Djinn in the Nightingale's Eye (A. S. Byatt, Vintage, Rs 499)

A novella, it is a story that I wish I had written. It's about a woman who studies myths and unlocks a djinn who falls in love with her.

Valmiki's Ramayana (Baroda Critical Edition)

I've worked on the Sanskrit text for 30 years now and I feel like I'm still not done with it. I guess I really like tragic love stories.

The Fantastic (Tzvetan Todorov, Cornell University Press, Rs 1,280) 

This book helped me to see some of the reasons why myths and epics fascinate me as much as they do. But what Todorov really points to is exactly what eludes you in magic, in the fantastical. It's a great reminder-that magic is not what you see, but it is what you don't understand.

The Mill on the Floss (George Eliot, Penguin, Rs 399)

I read this in high school and thought it rather silly. But when I read it again recently, I was stunned by its monumental passions and unabashed melodrama. I remembered whole scenes, especially the last flood. So it must have made an impression on me in ways that I did not realize.

Franny and Zooey (J. D. Salinger, Penguin UK, Rs 450) 

From my years in college, this book has no equal. All the boys I knew were holding on to The Catcher in the Rye, but for me it was the Glass family and the idea that you could lie on a couch and cry forever and people would understand.

Andha Yug (Dharamvir Bharati, Oxford University Press, Rs 225)

This text made me see the Mahabharata from the inside out, in a way that I had never seen it before. I read Alok Bhalla's English translation first and then went back to the Hindi original. It's majestic.

The Door (Magda Zsabó, NYRB Classics, Rs 1,200) 

Translated from the Hungarian, it still rattles me when I think about it. It's a story about class, work, human dignity, pride and secrets.


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