It’s hard to keep up with Sophie Masson, who is a novelist, a publisher, and a PhD student with us at the University of New England. In May she wrote about her PhD project on Afterlife fiction for young readers. Here, she shares her favourite mythical discovery this year, taking us into the world this time of Indian mythology, and bringing to light the wonderful work of Marie Ponsot and Serge Rizatto
My favourite mythical discovery this year–or rather, rediscovery!–isn’t based on Classical mythology, but something further afield, and no less grand. It takes the shape of Tales of India, subtitled The Magical Adventures of Three Indian Princes, a large, gloriously-illustrated book of retold Indian myths that as a child I pored over endlessly, loving the stories, marvelling at the illustrations. Though I’m of French origin, I was born in Indonesia, and because of my parents, who love Indonesian culture, was familiar with the tales of the Ramayana epic, which are of course at the base of many Indonesian wayang plays but originate in traditional Indian myths.
Tales of India, which my father bought for us one Christmas in Australia, introduced me to another great Hindu epic, the Mahbharata, elegantly retold in English by the translator and poet Marie Ponsot, and illustrated in lavish, sumptuous colour by Sergio Rizzatto. Somehow the original from my childhood got lost in my parents’ frequent moves, but the book and its fabulous stories and illustrations stayed in my mind, as fresh as ever. Unfortunately I had never really taken notice as a child of the names of the translator and illustrator, so despite assiduous Google searches could not track it down. Then one day quite by chance I came across an image of the front cover and recognised it at once. Googling more, I found copies for sale in second hand bookshops, and also discovered that the translator had gone on to become a well-known and very respected American poet and writer.
Sadly, I couldn’t find much about the illustrator, though I was just as much in awe of the beauty of his work. Just a few weeks later, I had a copy of the book again in my hands, and was at once transported back to my childhood, and the wonder of turning the pages and being immersed in that wonderful, exciting, magical and frightening world.