Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Eiji Yoshikawa

The novel, "Musashi", by Eiji Yoshikawa is a fictional retelling of the life of Miyamoto Musashi, author of "The Book of Five Rings" and one of the most famous and respected sword masters in world history. The dry, style-less translation from Japanese to English in a 1000 page volume may prove a daunting task for the casual reader - but for those willing to commit the effort - this a compelling and fascinating book. I never found myself bored - and was sad to finally reach the end.

The translation for Yoshikawa's novel, "Taiko", has the same flaws as "Musashi", not to mention that the hundreds and hundreds of pages describing the military actions begin to feel a bit repetitive... But this is another 1000-pager that's worth the effort, for those up to the commitment. It's the fictionalized biography of Toyotomi Hideyoshi's life, and of his relationships with Tokugawa Ieyasu and Oda Nobunaga. All three of these men played critical roles in the unification of Japan.

Both books offer a fascinating glimpse into feudal Japan, right around the time of the unification. Essential reading for anyone with an interest in Japanese History. Sure, I'll recommend James Clavell's "Shogun" too - it's an exciting, entertaining, well-written book (of about 1000 pages). But if you want an authentic Japanese take on the actual historical figures and events, Eiji is your man.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Toshiro Mifune

4/23/2005 9:46 PM  

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