Customer Reviews


10 Reviews
5 star:
 (5)
4 star:
 (3)
3 star:
 (1)
2 star:    (0)
1 star:
 (1)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favorable review
The most helpful critical review


60 of 68 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Clouds of Cherry Blossoms
Narrow Road to the Interior and other writings
by Matsuo Basho
translated by Sam Hamill
This is the most complete collection of Basho's writings translated into English available in a single volume. Aficionados of Japanese culture keen on exploring the haiku literature would be hard-pressed to find a better book to start with.
Matsuo Basho (1644-1694)...
Published on July 31, 2002 by Jisetsu

versus
127 of 133 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars nice of Hamill to try
There is only one other book where you can find these four of Basho's "travel diaries" in one volume and that is Nobuyuki Yuasa's. This compilation also includes a generous selection of Basho's hokku. These are the book's pluses. Unfortunately though, Hamill is much too intent on presenting you with Basho as a sort of haiku-zen master, an identity that Basho himself...
Published on November 30, 2004 by Phinaes


Most Helpful First | Newest First

127 of 133 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars nice of Hamill to try, November 30, 2004
By 
Phinaes "daigu" (either Japan or Missouri) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Narrow Road to the Interior: And Other Writings (Shambhala Classics) (Paperback)
There is only one other book where you can find these four of Basho's "travel diaries" in one volume and that is Nobuyuki Yuasa's. This compilation also includes a generous selection of Basho's hokku. These are the book's pluses. Unfortunately though, Hamill is much too intent on presenting you with Basho as a sort of haiku-zen master, an identity that Basho himself created as a voice through which to narrate. Mr Hamill would have us believe that Basho wrote poetry for the sake of zen, but the truth is that Basho studied zen for the sake of poetry. Also, Hamill's insistence upon translating in the 5-7-5 form ruins quite a few poems: you get sort of overexplanatory, prosaic verses much of the time. It is almost as if he were translating the explanations you will find in Japanese collections of Basho's verse. For example:

Hamill translates "fuyu no hi ya bajou ni kooru kageboushi" as

Crossing long fields,
frozen in its saddle,
my shadow creeps by

though it should probably (more accurately) be rendered:

winter sun...
on horse's back
a frozen shadow

Hamill dropped the phrase "fuyu no hi ya" entirely and replaced it with "Crossing long fields." I don't know why Hamill rids Basho of suggestion and nuance. Maybe he doesn't think the western reader can find poetry in hokku/haiku as they truly are.

The verse quoted by another reviewer

Your song caresses
the depths of loneliness,
high mountain bird.

might as well not be considered a translation at all. There is almost nothing of the original poem remaining except for the notion of loneliness and the kankodori, which is translated as "high mountain bird." "uki ware o sabishi-garase yo kankodori" would be translated literally as

make this sorrowful self feel lonely, cuckoo!

sabishi-garase is the imperative form of the verb that means "to cause to feel lonely." As a translator one of the worst things you can do is to try to improve upon a poem, though, personally, I don't think Hamill's versions actually do. If you don't trust the poet you're translating, then why are you doing it at all?

At the moment I am in the middle of translating Basho's "Oi no Kobumi" ("Backpack Notes") into English, and when I get stuck on an obscure phrase it helps to consult other translations to see how that translator interpreted it, but oftentimes Hamill (Yuasa is guilty of this too) just glosses over a phrase, which in the end robs the text of any of the interesting quirks in Basho's prose. I wonder if Hamill hit the same tough spots as I and just decided to gloss rather than really try to understand it.

I do not mean to be overly critical of Hamill. It is obvious that he is a good writer and some of his translations are successful but I wonder how much he really considered his renderings. In the end we are reading Hamill, not Basho.

Unfortunately, there are not many alternative translations of Basho's other haibun, but there are plenty of his "Oku no Hosomichi." Hiroaki Sato's is probably the best, since it is very faithful and it gives the most background info (including linked-verse sequences written during the journey), but Cid Corman's is nice too because he does a pretty good job at reproducing Basho's prose style. Also, if you're looking for a good collection of Basho's hokku, check out Makoto Ueda's work. For a good critical study of Basho look at Haruo Shirane's Traces of Dreams. A good internet analysis of Oku no Hosomichi: [...]
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


60 of 68 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Clouds of Cherry Blossoms, July 31, 2002
This review is from: Narrow Road to the Interior: And Other Writings (Shambhala Classics) (Paperback)
Narrow Road to the Interior and other writings
by Matsuo Basho
translated by Sam Hamill
This is the most complete collection of Basho's writings translated into English available in a single volume. Aficionados of Japanese culture keen on exploring the haiku literature would be hard-pressed to find a better book to start with.
Matsuo Basho (1644-1694) lived during the Genroku period in Japan. The Tokugawa shogunate had unified the country and it was a time of relative peace, which allowed those so inclined a freedom of travel not usual in many periods of Japanese history. Basho was so inclined. At the age of forty his restless feet led him on several walking tours of Japan, and he left behind collected impressions of these journeys in both prose and haiku.
Thoroughly versed in the Chinese and Japanese poetic traditions prevalent among the literati of his time, Basho was also an ardent disciple of Zen. He devoted his life to refining, clarifying, and simplifying his poetry. In the brief haiku form he found the perfect vehicle through which to realize his poetic ideals, and the poems he wrote have inspired and captivated readers and poets throughout the world with their elegance, insight, and simple brilliance.
This volume collects together four travelogues (Narrow Road to the Interior, Travelogue of Weather-Beaten Bones, The Knapsack Notebook, and Sarashina Travelogue) and over 250 of Basho's haiku. The translator has provided an introductory essay and an afterward revealing many aspects of Basho's life, work, and the haiku form itself. Also included are a chronology of Basho's life, a map detailing his journeys, and a bibliography.
Sam Hamill's translation is marvelously clear and uncluttered, and allows the glow of Basho's awareness to somehow peek through the words in his poems. The book itself is a Shambala edition, and so quite beautiful: printed on high-quality paper in a gorgeous typeface with lovely endpapers. This book is a gem.
Your song caresses
the depths of loneliness,
high mountain bird.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A trip to the past, November 5, 2006
By 
Eddie Merkel (Edmond, OK United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Narrow Road to the Interior: And Other Writings (Shambhala Classics) (Paperback)
I am not a scholar or a critic, I am just a person who really enjoys haiku and as such am familiar with Basho's poetry. I bought this book because it was cited in so many other books that I have read that I just had to read it for myself. I am very glad I did.

A good portion, but not all, of the haiku contained in this book you have read countless times before, though they are translated slightly differently here. To me the real value of this book is that the poems are put in context of Basho's larger world by the prose that surrounds them. Basho's haibun tells of his various journeys around Japan, the people he meets, the sites he sees and how this all affects him.

I love history as much as haiku, and this book is a real window on the past through the eyes of a man who could relate his world in a way that is both clear and yet filled with beautiful imagery, so that 17th century Japan comes alive for you.

If you like haiku and are interested in what goes into a great poet's creative process, I feel you will enjoy this book, I know I did.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars *The Great Matsuo Basho Leads Us INWARD*, September 11, 2006
By 
mcHaiku "nmi" (Brown County INDIANA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Narrow Road to the Interior: And Other Writings (Shambhala Classics) (Paperback)
Matsuo Basho's "Narrow Road to the Interior" is translated by Sam Hamill, an accomplished poet who also translated the haiku of ISSA in "The Spring of my Life" (isbn # 1570621446) As B. Watson, professor at Columbia University has said, "Hamill achieves a kind of luminosity of language that I find unparalleled in other translations of the work."

Basho lived from 1644-1694 and achieved acclaim as the greatest writer of haiku and.this book of his last travels is a classic in Asian literature. His stature must have made the task of translating more difficult, even intimidating. The title is of course a metaphor for traversing life to find one's spiritual center or soul.

Amateur western writers who become enamored of writing haiku soon realize there are depths to which their studies may never take them. The sounds, the Zen way of thinking --bring much more to the equation than mere playfulness (as in senryu), or a built-in sense of syllables, and fondness for epigrams.

Basho set off on his long journey & early in his travels was loaned a horse because "it is easy to get lost." The horse carried the poet, then stopped, and returned home without the rider but carrying Basho's gift tied to the saddle. The route of Basho's travels is printed inside the covers -- he describes "pines shaped by salty winds, trained into sea-wind bonsai." In other centuries men walked hundreds of miles, giving & receiving haiku as gifts - many about history, and some memorials. His lodgings were often noted, probably because they were more often miserable than not. His writings often included geographical 'markers' -- these speak of much more than PLACE to Japanese readers. One who had been a companion on the road wrote:

"All night long

listening to the autumn winds

wandering in the mountain"

Basho himself wrote for another companion as he turned back:

"Written on my summer fan

torn in half

in autumn"

And so he gave his thanks to those who shared his journeys and the quest for answers each of us asks on our own "narrow road."
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great poetry, flimsy book, April 16, 2010
This review is from: Narrow Road to the Interior: And Other Writings (Shambhala Classics) (Paperback)
I thought the poetry in this book was great, concise, and well organized. Unfortunately the paperback book is quite flimsy, and after the first time you open the cover, the cover will curve and warp quite severely, and will stay that way. Visiting a bookstore, I noted the same effect on both of the copies on the shelf. A great book, but poorly bound. I would have paid an extra dollar or two to have this excellent book bound properly.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent translation, May 7, 2013
This review is from: Narrow Road to the Interior: And Other Writings (Shambhala Classics) (Paperback)
I first read this translation of Basho in the mini Shambhala book, and over the years, I've given my copy to people who I thought would benefit from it. Sort of like people who gift Thoreau. Right now, I'm on my tenth copy. I've also read many different translations, and each time it's been brought home to me that translation is a gift. Some translators reach below the surface of a work and bring out the essence--the spirit and soul of a writing. Some write a literal translation thinking that just because a writer says the phrase, "Go forth" it means "venture forward" rather than "charge ahead" or "tally ho!", alternate meanings that aren't the most common, but capture the essence in context of what the writer meant. Sam Hamill's version of "Narrow Road to the Interior" has wabi sabi, like falling water and wildfires in the night. I prefer it to the clutter of other versions.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5.0 out of 5 stars The journey Itself, June 8, 2014
This review is from: Narrow Road to the Interior: And Other Writings (Shambhala Classics) (Paperback)
…every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home.

This book deserves attention for the sheer beauty of the poetry and loveliness of the images. Some Japanese scholars say that Haiku began and ended with Basho. He is often recognized as the author who perfected this form, but is also noted for his Haiban, a form which includes prose passages with linked Haiku. The travel journal, Narrow Road to the Interior, is one of these. It may be his best known work, but his other travel journals merit a close look, particularly The Knapsack Notebook. Although this Shambhala edition takes its title from the best known of the works, it includes all four travel journals as well as an extensive selection of Haiku. It is perhaps the most complete collection of Basho’s writings available in translation.

Matsuo Basho served a Samurai household until the master of that house died. Although he studied Zen, poetry was the focus of his life’s work. He traveled widely, sometimes on horseback, but more often on foot. A number of followers studied poetry with him, and some gained students of their own. The translator refers to them as the Basho school of poetry.

Translator Sam Hamill co-founded Copper Canyon Press, which poets might well regard as the Holy Grail of publishing houses. It is the only major publisher devoted entirely to poetry. He is an influential poet in his own right.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5.0 out of 5 stars Walking Tour of 17th century Japan, May 19, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Narrow Road to the Interior: And Other Writings (Shambhala Classics) (Paperback)
With prose descriptions Matsuo Basho's travels interspersed with Haiku written along the way
this edition makes for great reading. The format is such that one may read larger or smaller
bits and take time to contemplate 17C Japanese art and scenery while enjoying the nature
of one's own back yard.
Plus the section of selected Basho Haiku are given with phonetic representations of the
Japanese (the sounds in English letters) in order to discover the lyricism of the original.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome book for backpacking, December 28, 2009
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Narrow Road to the Interior: And Other Writings (Shambhala Classics) (Paperback)
I think all backpackers and serious travelers can seriously appreciate this book. This guy went through the same thing we all go through, but he did it way before us and explains it much more elegantly than we can. This is a must read no matter where in the world you travel. It's all about Japan, but as i was passing through South America, I could easily relate it to Peru, Colombia, Ecuador, Uruguay etc... If you bring no other book, you should carry this one along.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


0 of 12 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Travels to the Interior by M. Basho, May 13, 2011
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Narrow Road to the Interior: And Other Writings (Shambhala Classics) (Paperback)
The book is a classic. The one I received was well used and underlined. The seller was not prompt in sending it, but did so after I wrote a query to Amazon.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


Most Helpful First | Newest First

Details

Narrow Road to the Interior: And Other Writings (Shambhala Classics)
Narrow Road to the Interior: And Other Writings (Shambhala Classics) by Sam Hamill (Paperback - September 26, 2000)
$16.95 $10.62
In Stock
Add to cart Add to wishlist
Search these reviews only
Send us feedback How can we make Amazon Customer Reviews better for you? Let us know here.