Third Natures

Christopher Minkowski

  • Redeeming the ‘Kamasutra’ by Wendy Doniger
    Oxford, 181 pp, £14.99, March 2016, ISBN 978 0 19 049928 0

The Kāmasūtra occupies an unusual place in the popular imagination. Since the first private publication in 1883 of an English translation – a project fronted by the Orientalising self-promoter Richard Burton – there have been a great number of illustrated versions. To many, the Kāmasūtra’s connection with India is almost incidental. Most do not know what the text as a whole is like: the best-known portions take up only one of its seven chapters. Others have to do with the cultivation of love affairs and pleasure more generally, and provide information for the man about town: about furnishing his home; about games, music and other arts; even about colouring his hair. There is guidance for women as well, especially those who are married and those whose profession is pleasure. In its language, style and mode of disquisition, the Kāmasūtra is more like an academic text than a practical manual: it cites learned authorities and conducts arguments with those of differing opinions.

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