Monday, March 29, 2010

We need a "critical edition" of Savitri prepared by impartial scholars


The personal element in the dispute here does not touch me because I know none of the participants. I will merely state what seems to me self-evident, that we need a "critical edition" of Savitri prepared by impartial scholars. If the 1993 edition is correct and impartial, well and good, but many of us have serious doubts about many of the variant readings. The only way those doubts can be cleared up is to have a scholarly "critical edition." What that means is this: Every variant reading between the different versions will be thoroughly explained in footnotes. I realize that those who want a mantric sacred text might not like this. I use Savitri daily as a mantric sacred text! So I as much as anyone care about the edition I use being exactly correct according to Sri Aurobindo's latest corrections and wishes. But the only way we can get to that goal is through a thoroughly annotated critical edition, explaining exactly why there are variant readings in every case in which they appear.

I have an edition I purchased in America in 1972. It is thoroughly worn, the pages all separated, the cover weather-beaten. I once carried it with me to a meeting of the New York Sri Aurobindo Center (when there was such a thing) in the rain, refusing to close it while reading walking in the rain, so that it was thoroughly soaked. I offered it to Sri Aurobindo in the rain. I do not regret that, because it is still readable. I felt, "It is more important for me to read these words now than for this copy to be left dry." I knew that Sri Aurobindo could stop the rain if He wanted to.

I have had other later editions, and the one I use now appears to be the latest (the tiny version). In the back of the book is this statement: "A Table of Readings and a Table of Emendations listing the differences between this and previous editions are included in the 'Supplement to the Revised Edition of Savitri.'" Well, that is welcome information but I have never seen that Supplement. I would say it ought to be included in every printed edition of the book. It was not included in the one I purchased just a few years ago. If it is not included, or a new critical edition is not issued, we are left with the latest editors of the text---who no doubt are very well-intentioned---shoving their decisions about the text down our throat with no recourse of our own to decide whether they were right or not. That is not the way things should be.

On page 627 of my early edition we have ". . . In earth's anomalous and tragic field . . . " In the latest edition I find: ". . . In earth's anomalous and magic field." Most of us would indeed prefer the later version, if we prefer magic to tragedy (as I certainly do). What bothers me is that I do not know why there are these two variant readings and why the editors chose the latter. Did Sri Aurobindo write "tragic" first, then later cross it out and write "magic" above it? Or are there two versions scripted by him, one earlier and one later? Or did he dictate one or both versions and the scribe mis-heard what he said, or wrote two different versions of what he heard? Or was there an ink blot on the page so that the word could not be deciphered, and one editor decided it must be "tragic" and another that it must be "magic"? The reader deserves to know what is going on here.

That is what a critical edition would explain, so that "let the reader decide," as Jitendra put it, could become a reality. Hugh Higgins Posted by Cosmic Piper to Savitri Era Open Forum at 1:03 AM, March 29, 2010

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