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The Analects Hardcover – March, 1997

3.9 out of 5 stars 69 customer reviews

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Hardcover, March, 1997
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Chinese Univ Pr; 2nd edition (March 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9622015271
  • ISBN-13: 978-9622015272
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (69 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,198,820 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
This is not the translation by Arthur Waley (which is very good) but the one by D.C. Lau. Since Lau's translation was first published, a number of advances have been made in the field of Warring States Period scholarship which render a fair amount of the supporting material obsolete (see "The Original Analects" by Brooks and Brooks for the latest). As for the translation itself, it's rife with awkward and mystifying word choices -- for instance, in a passage in chapter 11 in which the disciple Zilu (Tzu-lu, in Wade-Giles romanization, which Lau uses) gets the better of Confucius in an argument, Waley translates the Master's retort, "It is remarks of that kind that make me hate glib people," and the Brookses and Huang Chichung make similar choices; but Lau renders it, "It is for this reason that I dislike men who are plausible." Similar mishandlings of connotation appear throughout the book. For an old-fashioned translation, Waley's is a hundred times better.
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Format: Paperback
I enjoyed this book quite a bit. Granted, I haven't read other translations of the Analects, so my rating is for the book itself more than as a comparison to other translations.

The fact that Confucius lived thousands of years ago is amazing to me ... the things he says apply to people throughout the ages, and they're full of wisdom. Having read the book, I find myself trying to be a bit more of a Confucian gentleman than I did before reading it. Confucius' teachings about humanity and being a gentleman span across the ages.

I'm very glad I read this book. The only reason I didn't give the book 5 stars is because I can't compare it to other translations, and it seems a little improper to rate a translated book without comparing it to other translations. But I personally found Leys' lines to be easily understandable and interesting, even if I have no way of ascertaining their accuracy with the original text.

**7/31/09 UPDATE** I was looking to buy a copy of the Analects for a friend when I came across my own review when trying to decide between versions ... which is a somewhat strange feeling! I'm still not an "expert", but having read several more Chinese classics in the meantime, including a few versions of the Analects, I thought I would update this review. I think the Leys translation is a very good introduction to the Analects for someone who is looking for a starting point in Confucian thought. The translation is a little bit loose but flows well in English, the introduction gives a good amount of context without going overboard, and the notes are nicely situated at the end to prevent clutter. This makes it a good version for the Confucius novice, a comment I mean in earnest and not a backhanded compliment.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have not yet found a translation and commentary on the Analects that suits my purposes, and I think I must give up on these new English editions. There is nothing particularly offensive about this edition, but it is not a copy you will want to keep close at hand, the way one can do with the Norton edition of Emerson's Prose and Poetry. Here are the main sections of this translation:

1) Two introductions, including a very useful and welcome comparison of three earlier translations.

2) The Analects, without any footnotes, commentary, or original Chinese -- giving off the impression of being stark naked. The translation is quite good, and does not jump at the chance to make arbitrary revisionist changes like Slingerland, or wrecking the text with philosophical expressions like Ames and Rosemont. My main critique is that it does not lend itself to quick and easy discovery of the interpretation, the original text, and the translator's textual notes. As such it is less than ideal for serious study. Even Legge's translation would be better in this respect.

One positive thing about this choice of format is that it makes it clear how vague Confucius is without any context and why a guiding hand and critical mind are so necessary for Confucianism, but having read many Analects translations, I get the idea by now.

3) A healthy collection of endnotes, placed right in the middle of the book and hard to flip back and forth to easily.

4) A number of new essays about the Confucian tradition, of which some are both informative and entertaining, but others are written from a weirdly disinterested and slightly flippant perspective.
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Format: Paperback
This book is delightful, irritating, and utterly sui generis; the personality of its author is on every page. As a translation it is sometimes inspired--Leys has a knack for avoiding the very un-Chinese verbiage with which Lau and, sometimes, the generally superior Dawson clutter their lines. But it cannot be relied upon as a translation. In the first book the words "Rich but loving ritual" become "Rich but considerate." Ritual (li) is one of the great themes of the Analects and it is either dishonest or shockingly clumsy to conceal its key presence in this important passage. At other times we descend from translation to mere paraphrase: "a state of a thousand chariots" becomes "a medium-sized state". I often found myself wishing that Leys had taken to heart Dawson's words: "I do feel that one should get as close to the original as possible....I do not think that it is entirely virtuous to produce a version which reads as if it were written at the end of the twentieth century."

The notes, to the degree that they comment on the text itself or on the translation choices, are illuminating only for someone who has read other translations and has something to compare them to. But what quickly becomes apparent is that, under the guise of a translation with notes, what we have here is something like an anthology. Borges, Pascal, Stendhal, C. S. Lewis, Marcus Aurelius, Nietzsche, even Pancho Villa and many others are given long and full quotes. Sometimes they shed light on the original. Sometimes there is only a tangential relationship; one gets the impression that Leys was simply reminded of something and decided to share it, as in a conversation. They are always very interesting: this is the delight of the book.
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