What We Do in Solitary: Review of Amit Majmudar's Godsong: A Verse Translation of the Bhagavad-Gita and What He Did in Solitary

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book review

Luke Hathaway

(né Amanda Jernigan)

What We Do in Solitary

A Review of Amit Majmudar:

Godsong: A Verse Translation of the Bhagavad-Gita, with Commentary

New York, New York: Knopf, 2018
ISBN 978-1-524-73347-6, 256 pp., USA $20.00, hardcover

What He Did in Solitary

New York, New York: Knopf, 2020
ISBN 978-0-525-65651-7, 164 pp., USA $27.00, hardcover

 

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      My life closed twice before its close—
      It yet remains to see
      If Immortality unveil
      A third event to me

      So huge, so hopeless to conceive
      As these that twice befell.
      Parting is all we know of heaven,
      And all we need of hell.

      — Emily Dickinson

 

Sometimes, in the midst of life, one’s body closes out on one: one dies before one’s time—little by little, or suddenly, one’s fists and knees becoming hoofs before one’s eyes.
  They are huge and hopeless to conceive, these transformations: so radical they feel like deaths. Life on the other side of them feels less like survival than it does like resurrection. It is perhaps for this reason that the transformed (the new parent, say; the recovered addict; the trans person; the cancer survivor; . . .) make good believers: to believe in life after death, for such a person, is not belief at all—it is simply memory.
  I thought about this frequently reading Amit Majmudar’s new collection What He Did in Solitary. Here is his “Poem Beginning with a Line by Ovid,” perhaps my favorite in the book: