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The Book and the Sword (The Martial Arts Novels of Louis Cha) Hardcover – January 20, 2005


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Product Details

  • Series: The Martial Arts Novels of Louis Cha
  • Hardcover: 536 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1St Edition edition (January 20, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195907272
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195907278
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 1.4 x 5.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #352,595 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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104 of 107 people found the following review helpful By Graham A. Earnshaw on January 26, 2005
Format: Hardcover
The Book & The Translator

By Graham Earnshaw

Once upon a time, in 1973, I landed in Hong Kong and sat in the lobby of the Mandarin Hotel and looked at a notice under the glass of the coffee table with identical information in both English and Chinese, laid out as numbered points. I looked at the English "1,2, 3", then at the Chinese squiggles, and saw that one stroke was 1, two strokes 2 and ... three strokes 3! I can read Chinese! It was a simple path from that moment to the translation of the kungfu novel "The Book & The Sword", now published by Oxford University Press.

The novel was written by author Louis Cha, who occupies a position in modern Chinese literature equivalent to that of Charles Dickens, Ian Fleming and Tom Clancy combined. He is a giant, and unfortunately a lonely giant. There are no other authors of his stature in modern Chinese popular literature.

The Book and the Sword is a story that virtually every Chinese person knows, involving kung fu secret society struggles against the Manchu court, the beautiful but tragic Fragant Princess, whose tomb stands outside Kashgar, and the war between the Manchu armies and the Muslim peoples of what is now western China.

It was Cha's first book, serialised in 1955 under his pen name Jin Yong in the Hong Kong newspaper that he founded, Ming Pao. Louis Cha (Jin Yong), is a famous media person, and one of the top authors in the Chinese world. His novels have had a huge impact on the whole of Chinese society and culture, and have been adapted many times for TV, film, audio cassette, strip cartoon and even computer games. He is probably the most-pirated author of all time.
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful By FRANCIS PETTIT on May 31, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This a kung fu adventure story full of fights, beautiful ladies, complicated romantic relationships, political intrigue and travel in China's wild west. The story takes a looong time to get going (about 300 pages out of 510.) When it finally gets going, it's quite good and hard to put down. The adventure gets more compelling, and at the same time it becomes something of a tragic love story.

This book shares some of the virtues and flaws of the other major Louis Cha/Jin Yong novel translated into English, "The Deer and the Cauldron." The virtue: both books are excellently and idiomatically translated by Graham Earnshaw, with a nice glossary to help you with all the character names. These two books are currently the ONLY novels by Louis Cha translated into English (except for one notoriously bad translation by someone else, and some comic book adaptations.)

The flaw: like "The Deer and the Cauldron" which took about 250 pages to get going, after which the next 1,250 pages (or whatever) were simply un-put-down-able, with this novel, the first 300 pages just introduce the characters and have repetitive fight scenes. It shows its origins as a serial in a newspaper. When the real story gets going, here it's only 210 pages to the end, alas, but it does leave you wanting more.

At first you think the novel is about a teenage girl who learns kung fu in secret and travels in disguise as a boy. Then you think it's about this or that member of the Red Flower Heroes, a secret society of patriots in Qing Dynasty China dedicated to overthrowing the Manchu government. They engage in numerous repetitive battles. Several couples are introduced and they gradually pair off, each romantic pairing clearly signalled.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 6, 2003
Format: Hardcover
this is what i expect from Louis Cha, an involving storyline and lots of kung fu stuff that i can't understand but still enjoy...
this book has both.
it's a great book, but i wish it were longer, cuz when i get into a book i don't want it to end. even "outlaws of the marsh"(2000+ pages) seems short when you're done reading it.
here are some recommendations.
"Musashi"
"Taiko"
"Outlaws of the Marsh"
& "The Deluge"
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Maria Tom on November 6, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I'm not accusing other wuxia stories of being plotless, but the story here has a more noble feel to it because the heroes are trying to ease the pain of the people and restore the rule of China into the hands of the Chinese. I find that most wuxia novels/movies/series are more about the different schools doing this and usually just for their own purposes. In here, the empire is at stake, not just the reputation of the school or the pursuit of a murderer. I guess that's another way of saying that the story would exist even if all the martial arts was taken out so it's a good story that is garnished with exciting fight scenes.

It is true that the story is slow to get started, but I was patient because I knew that would be the case and knew the pay off would be big. And actually, I'm used to that being the case for epics like Three Kingdoms. I was concentrating on Chen Jialuo but I did keep track of the other heroes to some degree and know that I can go back to read and will have more to learn each time, developing new appreciation for various characters.

As to the matter of the translation itself, I thought it was well-done and quite readable. Translating this much text in the first place must be difficult. I like the way martial arts skills were simply left in as is because it's not as if it would make that much more sense to a casual Chinese reader. You just come to accept it as part of martial arts jargon. And the fact that it is an English translation is immensely helpful for those of us who are Chinese illiterate.

And just as a small confession, I picked this up so that I could decide whether or not I wanted to buy the 1976 TVB Drama adaptation of "The Book and the Sword" starring Adam Cheng. I know the TV series was relatively faithful to the book so now I'll have rudimentary knowledge of what they're saying.
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