From Publishers Weekly
Un, a former monk, admits he had no interest when, years ago, a senior monk suggested he compose an epic poem on the endless wanderings of the child Sudhana in his quest for truth as portrayed in the last book of the Avatamsaka (Garland) Sutra. Later, after leaving the monastic life, Un identified with Sudhana's quest and in 1969 began publishing regular newspaper installments (in prose) of The Little Pilgrim
(which have since become the first 30 chapters of this book). The story, completed here, is a series of 53 encounters between a young orphan boy "whose heart is awakened" and various teachers (some in the guise of animals and supernatural creatures). Sudhana makes his spiritual journey throughout India. The prose—translated from the Korean by An Sonjae and Young-Moo Kim—varies, with some beautiful descriptions ("The sunlight poured down, turning the innumerable crests of the indigo waves into flashing blades and splintered mirrors") and some improbable ones ("The fleshy bulge on the crown of his head was like nothing so much as an altar-covering"). Un, Korea's foremost contemporary poet, was nominated for the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2002 and 2004. Despite the author's impressive credentials, though, this may be a difficult story for all but the most ardent Buddhist readers. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Ko Un, a Korean poet who has twice been short-listed for the Nobel Prize in Literature, brings his poetic imagination to bear on this epic tale of Sudhana, a young orphan who embarks from his home in northern India in search of the "Truth." For 20 years, Sudhana travels over mountain ranges and across deserts as he is sent to healers and monks, slaves and merchants, children and prostitutes, human spirits and teachers from the animal world. He is asked if he is the "promised child" or "an infant Buddha," and at his journey's end he has encountered 53 gurus and attained the stature of bodhisattva, an "awakened being who awakens others." He has learned that "all suffering is known by one suffering" and that the highest beings are those in whom "wisdom and mercy unite." The author describes his own quest as mirroring Sudhana's search for enlightenment: after leaving the monastic life (but not its teachings), Ko Un's path toward self-discovery culminated in the writing of this novel, a process that took 22 years. Deborah DonovanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved