OVERRIDE

The Book of Love

The Story of the Kamasutra

James McConnachie

Metropolitan Books

An engaging, enlightening “biography” of the ancient Hindu manuscript that became the world’s most famous sex manual The Kamasutra is one of the world’s best-known yet least-understood texts, its title instantly familiar but its actual contents widely misconstrued. In the popular imagination, it is a work of practical pornography, a how-to guide of absurdly acrobatic sexual techniques. Yet the book began its long life in third-century India as something quite different: a seven-volume vision of an ideal life of urbane sophistication, offering advice on matters from friendship to household decoration. Over the ensuing centuries, the Kamasutra was first celebrated, then neglected, and very nearly lost—until an outrageous adventurer introduced it to the West and earned literary immortality.
In lively and lucid prose, James McConnachie provides a rare, intimate look at the exquisite civilization that produced this cultural cornerstone. He details the quest of famed explorer Richard F. Burton, who—along with his clandestine coterie of libertines and iconoclasts—unleashed the Kamasutra on English society as a deliberate slap at Victorian prudishness and paternalism. And he describes how the Kamasutra was driven underground into the hands of pirate pornographers, until the end of the Lady Chatterley obscenity ban thrust it once more into contentious daylight. The first work to tell the full story of the Kamasutra, The Book of Love explores how a remarkable way of looking at the world came to be cradled between book covers—and survived.

BOOK EXCERPTS

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Chapter One

The Wheel of Sexual Ecstasy

In the beginning, sings the ‘Creation Hymn’ of the Rig Veda, the holiest and most ancient of India’s scriptures, ‘there was neither non-existence nor existence’. Then, out of nothing and from nowhere, arose kama. Kama was sexual desire, the urge to create and procreate, the atom-like essence of creation itself. According to the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, the greatest and oldest of India’s philosophical texts, the First Being ‘found no pleasure at all; so one finds no pleasure when one is alone. He wanted
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REVIEWS

Praise for The Book of Love

“A delightfully racy and adventurous life story of a book, combining thorough scholarship with fascinating Orientalist gossip. The Book of Love illuminates both the luxurious third-century world that gave rise to the Kamasutra and the nineteenth-century colonial explorations that brought it to Europe, as well as our own often hilarious response to it.”
Wendy Doniger, Distinguished Service Professor, University of Chicago, and translator of the first definitive English edition of the Kamasutra

“An altogether first-rate work of intellectual history for ordinary readers... Brings the story up-to-date without stinting on the entertaining pen portraits and anecdotes.”
Michael Dirda, The Washington Post

“Elegant and stylish... Paints an enticing picture of the society in which the Kamasutra was written.”
William Dalrymple, The New York Review of Books

“The truth is far more intriguing than the clichés.... A scholarly, stylish, and entertaining study.”
The Sunday Times (London)

Reviews from Goodreads

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  • James McConnachie

  • James McConnachie is a journalist, travel writer, and broadcaster. A graduate of the University of Oxford, he has lived and traveled widely in Nepal and India. His articles and book reviews have appeared in The Daily Telegraph, The Observer, and The Independent, among other publications. He lives in Winchester, UK.
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    Available Formats and Book Details

    The Book of Love

    The Story of the Kamasutra

    James McConnachie

    • e-Book

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    FROM THE PUBLISHER

    Metropolitan Books

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