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Description - Love in a Dead Language by Lee Siegel

This is a love story, a translation of an Indian sex manual, an erotic farce, and a murder mystery. The hero of this protean comedy, Leopold Roth, complains, "I am a tenured full professor of Indian studies and a Sanskrit scholar, and yet never, never in my life, have I made love to an Indian woman." Imagining that such an intimacy would provide a deeper and truer understanding of what he has spent his academic life mastering, a happily married Roth becomes obsessed with Lalita Gupta, nubile student and avatar of his fantasies of a sexually idyllic ancient realm. Although this California-born Indian girl has no interest in India, the past, or him, Roth sets out to seduce her and, at the same time, to teach her who she is in terms of the history of Indian culture. To that end he begins to translate the "Kamasutr" for her, interspersing that translation with a confessional commentary. By inventing a bogus summer study abroad program, the professor is able to abduct Lalita to the land of her ancestors.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780226756998
ISBN-10: 0226756998
Format: Paperback
(230mm x 150mm x 28mm)
Pages: 390
Imprint: University of Chicago Press
Publisher: The University of Chicago Press
Publish Date: 30-Oct-2000
Country of Publication: United States

Other Editions - Love in a Dead Language by Lee Siegel

Book Reviews - Love in a Dead Language by Lee Siegel

UK Kirkus Review » Siegel's dizzying display of erudition is a playful postmodernist novel masquerading as a translation of and commentary on the great Hindu erotic text, the Kama Sutra. In real life, Siegel is a professor of Indian religions at the University of Hawaii, and the author of five books on Indian culture. He actually appears in his own novel, as the professor that he is, writing to Anang Saighal, graduate student of the late Professor Leopold Roth, disassociating himself from any attempt to write a book based on Roth's so-called commentary on the Kama Sutra. The plot for Siegel's literary game is provided by the 'game of love' in the Kama Sutra. Echoes of Philip Roth evoked by Roth's name and sexual obsessions are followed by echoes of Nabokov's Lolita as Professor Roth records his love for an US-born Indian girl, Lalita Gupta. Siegel's own name is contained in the sound of Anang Saighal, who takes over Roth's unfinished translation and commentary on his death. In a convoluted production, Siegel accumulates academic and erotic jokes, as we read Roth's confessions and Saighal's commentaries on them. The text consists of facsimiles of other texts, reproductions of Kama Sutra web sites, cartoons, reproductions of typed term papers by Lalita, and much much more. The reader will need patience and, above all, a willingness to enter into the spirit of the game to get the most out of this exotic, erotic teaser. (Kirkus UK)

US Kirkus Review » Siegel's sixth book (after City of Dreadful Night, 1995, etc.) is a flat chore, defrauding the reader of an engaging story with dense typographical hocus-pocus and the bland tatter of footnotes, appendices, and an ostensibly saucy theme. The novel's structure is distractingly complex. At the core of the text is Professor Leopold Roth's translation of the Indian taxonomy of sex, the Kamasutra. Appended to this translation are Roth's commentaries on each section of the work, and contained in them is the vaguely entertaining story of his seduction of Lalita, a Californian undergraduate of Indian descent who is tricked into taking a trip to India with the professor. This tale is intended to illustrate Roth's understanding and practice of the Kamasutra's precepts - with Lalita as his object. The plot concludes with Roth's murder; after the death, one of Roth's graduate students, Anang Saighal, assumes the thankless task of assembling the uncollected translation into book form, while providing his own footnoted commentary on both the translation and the story already told in the commentaries. A transparently Nabokovian strategy emboldens Siegel throughout. Footnotes and references to the Zemblan language recall Pale Fire, while the seduction theme mimics Lolita: "Once I had seen the beautiful Indian girl in the sari with the red bindi on her forehead in my Comparative Phonology class, I threw out the Mao poster, folded up the Chinese flag, and bought a poster of the Taj Mahal and a print of Krishna playing his flute for love-enraptured, dancing milkmaids . . . ." Nabokov, though, undergirded his complex constructions with brimming plots and full characters. Siegel's counterparts are flat, dull, relentlessly trivial - a cascade of comments, asides, interpretations, and appendices. Textually dense, erotically lukewarm, and narratively inert: an unrewarding novel, with its inverted pages, computer-screen replications, and transcripts, that's too fascinated with how it looks to concern itself with how it reads - poorly, at best. (Kirkus Reviews)

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