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The Heike Story: A Modern Translation of the Classic Tale of Love and War (Tuttle Classics) Paperback – April 10, 2011

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Eiji Yoshikawa (1892u1962) was born in Kanagawa. Although he received little more than a primary education, in his lifetime he authored some 80 novels and over 180 short stories. Among his best-selling novels are Mushashi, Way of the Samurai, and The Heike Story. Credited with greatly elevating popular fiction, Yoshikawa was the first writer of such work to be awarded the Order of Culture.

Davinder Bhowmik is an Associate Professor at the University of Washington, specializing in modern Japanese literature, Okinawan fiction, and the Japanese language. She is the author of Writing Okinawa: Narrative Acts of Identity and Resistance.
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Product Details

  • Series: Tuttle Classics
  • Paperback: 576 pages
  • Publisher: Tuttle Publishing; Reprint edition (April 10, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 4805310448
  • ISBN-13: 978-4805310441
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 1.3 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #633,386 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

28 of 30 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 1, 2000
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Like the previous two reviewers I too have lived in Japan and speak some Japanese (in fact I work as a Japanese/English translator), and I have to say that personally I quite enjoyed this book. Yoshikawa's novel is based on the Heike Monogatari (Tale of the Heike), which is a classic of Japanese literature and one of the best historical sources of the late Heian Period in Japan. "Heike Story" remains true to the history but fleshes it out in a way that brings the historical characters to life. The translation seemed fine to me, and I'd recommend this book to anyone interested in Japanese history and culture, and especially the late Heian and early Kamakura Periods.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Wabi Savvy on June 30, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I am a Japanophile and history buff, so I loved this author's "Musashi" and "Taiko" novels. I finally got around to this and am quite disappointed. I agree with those who have found this translation weak---the dialogue sections are stilted and the feelings of the characters seem awkwardly expressed in English. The worst damage to the novel is the abridgement of entire sections, deletion of characters and incidents and the condensation of some chapters. As noted at the end of the "Historical background" section, this is an "English version" of the novel!

Eiji Yoshikawa is definitely ill served by this version and the publisher should seriously consider having a new translation made. As it stands, this version does not even cover the fall of the Heike---which is the main point of the whole chronicle.

Still, Yoshikawa weaves a good tale---he gives a human face to historical events. What delights have English readers been deprived of by this badly mangled version?
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 31, 1999
Format: Paperback
I first read this book over 30 years ago and have read it several times again. It is a beautiful story and the translation gives it all the justice it deserves. I don't understand the problem the previous reader had with it. It is highly accessible (unlike the translation of Tale of Genji that I read years ago) and requires no special knowledge of Japanese geography, history, etc. I recommend it highly. (FYI, I too have lived in Japan and traveled extensively throughout the country. My Japanese isn't good enough to read it in the original.)
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25 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Anthony J. Bryant on February 18, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Despite what some of the previous reviewers have said, this translation is not that bad.

For the record, a rice-ball is just that -- a ball of rice. In Japanese, it's an "onigiri." Basically historical Japanese fast food. Sushi did not exist in the 12th century. Why *not* call sake wine? Would these reviewers be upset that "lager" is usually called just "beer"?

And "general of the guards" has nothing to do with the shogunate. Since when is the shogun a palace GUARD?

As for Minister of the Left: The Great Council of State -- which governed Japan -- was headed by three ministers: Minister of the Left, M. of the Right, and M. of the Center. The Left was senior to the other two.

Could this have been a better translation? Definitely. And for many reasons. But not for any of the ones whinged about in previous reviews.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Mr. M. Wells on August 1, 2008
Format: Paperback
This is not a translation of the mediaeval classic of the same name, but a modern novel based on its core events, namely the rise to power and fall of Taira Kiyomori and his clan, also known as the Heike.
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12 of 18 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 12, 2004
Format: Paperback
This is another great book by Yoshikawa and would recommend to any readers interested in Japanese history and warfare.
Some readers may not like the translation. Many words have been translated into their actual meanings, e.g. "sushi" to "rice ball"; "sake" to "wine"; "geisha" to "dancing girls" etc., instead of throwing in well known Japanese terms. But I don't find this a problem, the translator was being consistent all the way.
The translation is, however, weak in the explanation of titles and posts, e.g. "General of the Imperial Guards" = "Shogun?"; "Minister of the Left"; "Councilor". If the tranlation had included an appendix for the titles and posts, it will surely make the book a more enjoyable read.
Notwithstanding, I don't think readers will require much knowledge regarding Japanese culture and history to enjoy this book.
Hope to see more books by Yoshikawa translated into English. Will be nice to have "Yoritomo of the Genji" translated into English too, it being a companion book for "The Heike Story" and continues the story to the creation of the Kamakura Shogunate.
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