Mahābhārata has been called an epic, perhaps a "library" would more accurately portray the vast array of poetry, stories, incantations, metaphysics, philosophy, violence, love, purity, impurity, the divine, the devas, the Snakes, the battles, the Pāndavas, and perhaps much of human experience itself for many people throughout time. A vast work, that I approach for the first time like a jungle, having only read portions before in the form of the Bhagavad-Gita, the Anugita, and the Sanatsugitaya. The preface, introduction, translation and editing was performed by J.A.B. van Buitenen.
The work is so vast that the opening chapters of the work itself, are the contents as listed or sung by the Bard. The Bard is the narrator supreme of the work though many lengthy portions are related under various other narrators who relate diverse information. The first five texts in The Book of the Beginning, provide the outline for the beginning of the work. Though, this is not the entire Mahābhārata, of over 100 texts as indicated by the summary given by the Bard.
Following the text of the summaries and contents of The Book of the Beginning is the initial narration of the Bard's arrival. His hosts and the other guests are ready to hear this work, held at a twelve year session. The listeners are then informed of the events leading to the great Snake Sacrifice. Over the course of the next several texts virtually every possible perspective of the story of the sacrifice is examined in full with each character's part addressed. Though the perspectives do not reach the final junction until once the sacrifice is underway and finds its conclusion. An excellent read, once adjustments are made for this kind of work and thus far very enjoyable.