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The British Museum Indian Love Poetry by A.L. Dallapiccola

A. L. Dallapiccola is the author of “Hindu Visions of the Sacred and Hindu Myths” as well as “A Dictionary of Hindu Lore and Legend”. In this book “The British Museum Indian Love Poetry” she has collated a beautiful selection of beautiful Indian love poetry, richly illustrated with vivid paintings from magnificent collections. I have admitted previously in this blog that sometimes things pass me by. This is particularly true, and quite funny with regard to this book.

My husband and I were visiting our daughter in London and I was thrilled when he bought me this beautiful book during our visit to the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, England. It truly is a beautiful book and the Indian poetry translated in it is very moving. I enjoy reading it and sharing it with my friends in the local poetry group in the village library. However, it was only today that I realised I am related to the compiler, Anna Libera Dallapiccola, albeit by marriage!

She is an interesting woman. Her father was the Italian composer Luigi Dallapiccola. He knew what it was like to be a prisoner. In 1917 when he was a teenager, he and his family were interned by the Austrians. It was an experience that haunted him, but it would take decades before he would turn the strength of those feelings into music. The result is one of the most important operas of the 20th century: The Prisoner.

Anna is an equally intelligent and talented woman. Previously, she was a professor at Heidelberg University. It is there she met her husband, my uncle, The Very Reverend Duncan Shaw. She now lives in Edinburgh, Scotland with him and is honorary professor at the University of Edinburgh and makes regular research visits to India.

Love is widely celebrated in Indian poetry. This is both mystic love for the divine or the passionate and affectionate feelings between lovers, husbands and wives, parents and children, family and friends. The literary forms and language may not be quite so familiar, the themes reappear in today’s preoccupations with love and romance.

This collection discloses a selection of translations from various languages of Indian poetry. The illustrations are drawn from fine examples of Indian art. There a brief introduction to the Indian poetic tradition illustrated by each poem and a short biographical note about each of the poets. This beautiful anthology is the perfect way to embark on a discovery of Indian poetry and art. Next time there is a family gathering, I must remember to take it with me and ask Anna to sign it for me.

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