Monkey: Folk Novel of China Reviews

UPDATE TIME: 2017-08-10 
Review Score: 4 out of 5 star From 74 user ratings

"I loved this book. It was fun, exciting, spiritual, and completely bonkers.

Effectively the first half is the story of how Monkey becomes 'The Great Sage Equal of Heaven' and ends up placed under a mountain as punishment. The second half is the journey to India to collect scriptures from Buddha. This is where Tripitaka, Monkey, Sandy, Pigsy, and the horse that is really a dragon in disguise, go on a series of adventures from East to West.

There is much I did not understand in relation to the Buddhist and Taoists but that deeper layer does not spoil the book as a whole. It just offers something to learn about and return to later.
" said.

"I'll admit it: I was led to this old novel from the hilarious TV show, which I used to watch after school with my brother. Just like the show, this is an episodic journey of four heroes travelling from China to India for the Buddhist scriptures. This abridged tome is great fun and a mad fusion of Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism, as our roguish set of outcast heroes: Monkey, Pigsy and Sandman, guard Trippitaka, seeking forgiveness and enlightenment in the process. There are demons, demi-Gods, Bodhavistas; and wonderful tales of love and betrayal throughout.

Monkey is the Odyssey of the East and every bit as great.
" said.


HOLY HANNAH I am glad to be done with this book. While there were parts that were amusing and there were SOME parts that were interesting, it was still a horribly difficult book to read and TOOK. ME. FOREVER to get done with.
The second half IS much better than the first, but unless you are a scholar of religions or an actual Buddhist, it will be VERY tough going for you. I know nothing about the Buddhist religion and so that part was a huge slog for me. But Monkey himself was a huge scamp who truly loved trouble, even after his "conversion" and those are the parts that read the best.

This would have been better not all in one was a lot to read and absorb.
" said.

"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.

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