BOOK REVIEWS

Monkey: Folk Novel of China Reviews

UPDATE TIME: 2017-10-22 
Review Score: 4 out of 5 star From 74 user ratings
ISBN:0802130860
LANGUAGE:English

"This is an abbreviated version of the Chinese classic "Journey to the West." Imagine Neal Cassidy roaming around ancient China with actual powers. A dubious superhero who does whatever the fuck he wants. Monkey, the Trickster God, is assigned to guard a monk traveling to the west in search of fabled sutras. All of the action seems to follow this pattern:

1) The monk warns Monkey against something
2) Greedy Monkey does whatever is prohibited
3) the Monkey suffers and everyone must have an unexpected adventure
4) the Monkey saves the day, is chastised, and learns a lesson (very un-Cassidy-like)
5) Repeat 1-4

Despite the formula, the book is full of great hijinks, angry deities, and super powers.
" said.

"It's a shame that the conversion of this text to a kindle format was so full of errors (for example, every "!" was rendered as "1"1). The translation felt authentic, although the repetition of the adjectives used to describe the characters (Dear Monkey! that fool Pigsy!) made parts of the text more clunky than maybe necessary. But then again, this was an abridged selection (the gaps nearly noticeable though) so maybe that can be forgiven. The character of Monkey was by far the standout, most interesting protagonist. A rebellious hot head, self absorbed and ambitious until tamed by the Buddha firstly by being imprisoned in a mountain for 500 years and then with the aid of a magic skullcap that tortured him if he disobeyed. Because of this the early episodes are the most stimulating, where Monkey's ambition for himself and his kingdom lead him into direct conflict with heaven (a metaphor for the earthly government). As a source material there is much to be found here; myth and conservative Buddhist philosophy combine with elements of modern RPG (my level 5 rake of heaven will wallop your magic sword of lotus flower!). In the end though, as with the western myths of Arthur the tales need to be read in context of the time in which they were written." said.

"This was on my to-read list for about 20 years.

Here are a few things I was able to glean from this abridged translation:

1. Break a crystal dish in Heaven and you've had it, Laddie.
2. The Goddess of Mercy is fine with torture.
3. Lao Tzu has a short fuse, but he's a whiz with the party favours.
4. Monkeys might not be very refined, but they still throw less poo than self-righteous monks.
5. Even Buddhas still enjoy a good scam.

I quite enjoyed the first part of the story with untamed Monkey and his people. His various interactions with various demons, ogres, celestials, dragons, etc. were a lot of fun. For me it was all downhill after the torture hat went on.

Monkey uses a lot of guile to expose their enemies and help countless people on their way. Monkey, Pigsy and Sandy use brawn to defeat enemies, Sandy acts as nursemaid, Pigsy is in charge of carrying luggage, the erstwhile son of the Dragon King, horse, carries his holiness around, and Tripitaka himself is in charge of crying, wailing, despairing, and criticism. And torture.

The moral? The old quote that comes to mind:

"Men sleep peacefully in their beds at night because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf."

I may try the 4-volume set by Anthony C. Yu in future. Until then, I'll continue to enjoy all of Monkeys various pop culture manifestations, like Shaw Brothers' musical films series. So much fun!
" said.

"Sprühender Charme und philosophische Tiefe

Der König der Affen, geboren aus einem Stein, lässt sich von niemand etwas sagen. Er ist ein frecher, unverschämter Prolet, extrem ehrgeizig und dabei aber auch ehrlich und charmant. Das starre, ehrwürdige chinesische Himmelreich ist außer sich über soviel Respektlosigkeit. Um sein gutes Karma wiederzugewinnen, muss der Affenkönig einen Priester auf einer langen Reise nach Westen beschützen vor menschenfressenden Dämonen und anderem Getier. Das "Xiyouji", so der chinesische Originaltitel, ist ein chinesischer Klassiker aus dem 16. Jh., und eines der definierendsten Stücke Literatur Chinas.

Kürzungen sind so eine Sache. Jeder Übersetzer sollte sich fragen, was er tun will - "übersetzen" oder "nachdichten". Ersteres ist gut, letzteres ist, wenn es unter dem Deckmantel des Übersetzens geschieht, böse, zutiefst böse. Viele verschandelte Werke leiden darunter, gerade deutsche Leser, die die chinesischen Klassiker nur in den Kuhnschen Textproben kennen, wissen dabei meist dann gar nicht, was ihnen da angetan wird.

"Monkey" von Arthur Waley ist auch so eine Kürzung - allerdings verbirgt der Übersetzer dies nicht, sondern spricht es offensiv im Vorwort an. Auch ist die Vorgehensweise hier stringent - die ersten Kapitel, die viel Action und Bewegung enthalten, sind fast vollständig vorhanden; der Hauptteil des Originals, das aus unzähligen sehr repetitiven Abenteuern des Affenkönigs besteht, ist dahingehend gekürzt, dass die allermeisten dieser Abenteuer eben ausgelassen werden. Dadurch verliert der Roman nicht an Kohärenz, sondern nur an Länge.

Natürlich geht dabei viel verloren - die tollsten, irrwitzigsten Episoden fehlen dadurch halt, und die Reise nach Westen wirkt irgendwie sehr viel einfacher als in der Originalfassung, bei der der Leser am Ende mit den Protagonisten ausatmet nach dem ganzen Stress. Man gewinnt aber auch etwas - Tempo, eine klarere Linie und die fast schon kongeniale Sprache Arthur Waleys polieren die uralte Geschichte nochmal so richtig auf - für moderne Leser ein Schatzkästchen.

Die komprimierte Fassung ist aber für alle Leser zu empfehlen: Auch mir, der ich die Langfassung kenne, macht diese sehr sprachsichere, gewitzte Übersetzung viel Spaß.

Eine tolle Übersetzung eines der größten Meisterwerke der Weltliteratur. Die "Read Red"-Ausgabe ist auf den Text beschränkt und hat außer dem Vorwort des Übersetzers keinerlei Zugaben. Druck und Präsentation sind mittelmäßig - das Cover aber gefällt mir sehr gut.
" said.

" Half myth, half fairy tale, "Monkey" (or, Journey to the West) is an entertaining tale which also held nostalgia for me, from the TV show during my childhood. Never realised how closely the show depicted the actual text...highly recommend if you like classic tales and fantasy! " said.

"This was an interesting read but man, the Master is kind of an idiot who keeps getting himself in unnecessary trouble just so the Monkey King could save him. At least three times, Wukong would be like "don't do this while I'm gone" and literally as soon as he was gone, the Master and company would do exactly what Wukong just said not to do. And then they'd almost die and Wukong would have to rescue them.

I really enjoyed the first half on the origins of the Monkey King before he joined up with the Master though, as he seemed to be more of an active protagonist rather than a passive one. He was also funnier, cleverer, and more entertaining when he wasn't reformed. I guess I just have a thing for villains.
" said.

" This book is funny, witty, and allegorical. Somehow it survived a translation from Chinese to English, and the passing of 400 years (or something like 400 years, I'm not sure exactly when it was written). I'd highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in Chinese culture. " said.

"Because I was going to live and teach in China for a year, I wanted to be informed on classic Chinese literature. I started with "Dream of the Red Chamber" which was difficult to follow, with its 400+ characters, and numerous subplots. Then I began The Journey to the West about the famous Monkey King, Sun Wukong, who is a mischievous trouble-maker until he is trapped under a mountain for 500 years, converts to Buddhism, then begins a quest to protect Xuanzang (on his way to obtain scriptures from India) as an atonement for his past sins. The Monkey King (an actual monkey)has magical powers, including a flying cloud and a magic cudgel, but he is a trouble-maker and is only controlled by a magic band around his head which can be tightened causing him unbearable headaches. In each chapter, the group meets up with new demons to defeat, and soon the plot became repetitive and I forced myself to read on. It is loosely based on some real events, and somewhat represents our own "journey to enlightenment". I'm glad I read it, however, as everywhere I went in China, I saw evidences of this Chinese superhero and his famous deeds. " said.

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