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Fri, 28 Oct 2005

Diagonalization

Order
A Digit of the Moon
A Digit of the Moon
with kickback
no kickback
I am now reading A Digit of the Moon, which is an 1898 translation of a Sanskrit manuscript of unknown age. The story concerns a king who falls madly in love with the beautiful and wise princess Anangaraga. The custom of the princess is to marry only the one who can ask her a question she cannot answer; if a suitor fails twenty-one times, he becomes her slave for life.

The king's friend propounds nineteen questions, all of which the wise and clever princess answers without difficulty. On the morning of the twentieth day, the king, after praying to the goddess Saraswarti for help, is inspired with the solution: he will ask the princess to solve his own difficulty, and to tell him what question he should ask her. "And if she tells me, then I will ask her tomorrow what she tells me to-day: and if she does not tell me, then she is mine according to the terms of the agreement, to-day: and so in either alternative, the bird is caged."

[Addendum: Despite the many notes in the text on translation details, untranslatable puns, and so forth, the author, F.W. Bain, probably wrote it himself, rather than translating it from an unknown manuscript as he claimed.]


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