Saturday, November 10, 2012
Book Review - The Tale of Heike
About the Book
From the translator of The Tale of Genji, Royall Tyler, comes a groundbreaking rendering of Japan’s great martial epic, a masterpiece of Japanese literature second only to Genji in its importance, and the progenitor of countless samurai stories, eastern and western. No one work of Japanese literature or music has had a greater impact on subsequent Japanese literature, theater, and music—indeed on the Japanese people's very sense of their own past.
Written down in this, its most developed form, in the late 14th century, THE TALE OF THE HEIKE (Viking; On-Sale October 29, 2012; 709 pages; $50.00; 978-0-670-02513-8; translated by Royall Tyler), is Japan’s Iliad—a fantastic depiction of the late 12th century wars between the Heike (Taira) and Genji (Minamoto) clans. Beautifully illustrated with 55 woodcuts from the 19th century artist Teisai Hokuba, a star disciple of the gret Hokusai, and supplemented by maps, character guides, genealogies, and notes, this will be a keepsake edition.
Alongside epic battle scenes, human drama unfolds and emotions run high as the tale integrates Buddhist themes of suffering and separation as well as universal insights into love, loss, and loyalty. The narrative is in constant motion, weaving back and forth between opposing forces: the two great warring clans, Heike and Genji; aristocratic society and street life; adults and children; busy crowd scenes and lonely introspection.
No other translation of The Tale of the Heike conveys as this one does the flavor of oral performance. Tyler recreates the operatic character of the work, with speech, poetry, blank verse, song, and recitative. His translation fully embraces the rich and vigorous language of the original text.
About the Author
Royall Tyler, an American, is retired from the Australian National University where he taught Japanese language and literature for many years. He has a B.A. from Harvard University and a PhD. from Columbia University and has taught also at Harvard, Stanford and the University of Wisconsin.
My Take on the Book
This was such an interesting book that shares a tale that has been around for such a long time. Filled with amazing action, battles and drama. I was very impressed not only with the tale, but with the translation as it was a book that drew me in from the very beginning and kept me on the edge of my seat from the beginning to the end. The other thing that I will add is the amazing imagery that was in this book. I was interested to see, feel and experience the world of the 14th century through this, but was also interested in finding the relevant connections to today's society too. Overall, I was very impressed with this book and know that is one that I would highly recommend to all!
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