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A Little Primer of Tu Fu (A Renditions paperback) [Paperback]

David Hawkes

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Product details

  • Paperback: 255 pages
  • Publisher: Renditions Press; New Ed edition (Dec 1988)
  • Language: English, Chinese
  • ISBN-10: 9627255025
  • ISBN-13: 978-9627255024
  • Product Dimensions: 1.9 x 14 x 21.6 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,871,619 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.7 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A fine handbook for those who can read Chinese 7 May 2006
By bryan12603 - Published on Amazon.com
This book is out of print and almost impossible to find used. A copy recently sold for $170 on ebay. But it is a testament to its high quality that people are willing to spend that much to own it.

Tu Fu (AD 712-770) and his contemporary Li Po are the two great masters of Tang Dynasty poetry. To greatly simplify, Li Po is the Taoist free spirit, while Tu Fu is the Confucian, concerned for the welfare of China, from the peasant on up to the emperor. While Li Po's touching and often whimsical accounts of wine and song under moonlight are perennial favorites with audiences around the world, Tu Fu is often considered harder to translate, and hence less accessible to those who do not read Chinese. However, poet and critic Kenneth Rexroth expressed the view that Tu Fu was THE greatest non-epic poet that the world has ever produced, in any language.

David Hawkes was for many years a professor of Chinese at Oxford. He has also published what is perhaps the definitive translation of the great Chinese novel _Story of the Stone_ (also known as _Dream of the Red Chamber_). In _A Little Primer of Tu Fu_, Hawkes has taken thirty-five of Tu Fu's most highly regarded poems, and provided for each

1. the original Chinese text

2. the pronunciation of the text (in Pinyin romanization with tones)

3. a note on the "Title and Subject" of the poem, including a discussion of the poem's context in Chinese history and Tu Fu's life

4. a discussion of the "Form" of the poem ("regulated verse," "old style" etc.), including meter and rhyme

5. a line-by-line "Exegesis" of the poem, which translates each line word-by-word and comments, typically after each couplet, on the word choice, imagery, etc.

6. a free translation of the poem (into prose form, interestingly)

There is also an "Author's Introduction" to the book, but it is more like a preface, describing the origin and format of the book.

The poems are beautiful and moving. Among the better known ones are "Spring Scene," which evokes the sadness of the Chinese capital when it has been occupied by invaders, and "Arrival of a Guest," which describes Tu Fu's humble life in the country.

I think anyone who really wants to understand Tu Fu's poetry would get a lot out of this book. However, the characters and the Pinyin romanizations may be a bit intimidating if you have not already had a year or two of Chinese language study. If you do read Chinese, you will find this an invaluable aid to understanding Tu Fu (since Tang poetry -- like poetry in any language -- is often among the challenging texts to read). Finally, you should be aware that this is an interpretive commentary on some of Tu Fu's poems, rather than a general study of Tu Fu's life and work.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Comments on A lITTLE pRIMER OF dU fU 12 Feb 2010
By Edmund W. Peaslee Jr. - Published on Amazon.com
Containsall DuFu's [pems from the Chinese anthology, 300 Tang Poems. Translations. Chinese text and pinyin romanization. First rate .
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bringing Clarity 29 April 2005
By Louise Tremblay Cole - Published on Amazon.com
This book serves as a good general introduction to Chinese poetry. It explains some of the conventions of historical verse forms, and the way they are used by this poet. For the poems of Tu Fu, it provides both a bare-bones, line-by-line translation of the displayed Chinese text, and a good English version of each poem. There is also interesting commentary on the poems, and details of the poet's life.

This is a memorable book.
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