Ashoka The Great: Wytze Keuning; Translated by J.E. Steur; Rupa Publications India Pvt. Ltd., 7/16, Ansari Road, Daryaganj, New Delhi-110002. Rs. 995.
This bulky volume, categorised as ‘historical fiction', is a translation of the trilogy written in Dutch on Emperor Ashoka between 1937 and 1947 by Wytze Keuning of the Netherlands, with the three volumes published separately. It chronicles the life of Emperor Ashoka under the themes: ‘The Wild Prince'; ‘The Wise Ruler', and ‘The World's Great Teacher'. Given that the world was facing the threat of another epic war at the time, Keuning, a primary school headmaster who gave up his career to study and write on Ashoka, was evidently so influenced by the gloomy prospects that he took it up as a spiritual mission to awaken the people to Ashoka's message of peace. By fusing facts and thoughts, the author recreates the life and times of the Mauryas, their customs and mores, and their reflection on the meaning of life, as seen through the vision of Ashoka's gurus. “The story”, says the translator, Steur, in the Preface, “is not just about a great king whose life choices greatly influenced world history, but also about the struggle of any spiritual seeker, anywhere in the world, in whatever era of time. Ashoka's quest and moral dilemmas are as alive now as they were in his days.”
The Millennium Declaration, Rights, and Constitutions: Yash Ghai, Jill Cottrell; Oxford University Press, YMCA Library Building, Jai Singh Road, New Delhi-110001. Rs. 575.
By subscribing to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the international community as well as individual states have committed themselves to a concerted and sustained attack on poverty. A considerable number of countries committed to these goals are also involved because of past conflicts or as a consequence of other types of political transition to constitutional change. The authors of this book argue that such countries can link their MDG commitments to their constitutional development through rights, especially economic, social, and cultural rights. Citing examples, they explain how such rights can be included in national constitutions and how the courts may respond to claims based on them. Says Philip Alston in his Foreword: “… there is every reason why a commitment to the fulfilment of economic and social rights should be in the constitutions and the book offers a deeply informed and clear-sighted analysis of how this might be done.”