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Outlaws of the Marsh (The Water Margin), Translated By Sidney Shapiro, 4 Volume Complete Set in Slipcase [Box set] [Paperback]

Shi Nai'an , Luo Guanzhong , Syney Shapiro
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
Price: £19.95 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Outlaws of the Marsh (The Water Margin), Translated By Sidney Shapiro, 4 Volume Complete Set in Slipcase + Three Kingdoms: A Historical Novel + Journey to the West
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Product details

  • Paperback: 1642 pages
  • Publisher: Foreign Languages Press, Beijing; New edition edition (1 Jan 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 7119016628
  • ISBN-13: 978-7119016627
  • Product Dimensions: 18.8 x 11.7 x 7.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 363,066 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

China's great classic novel Outlaws of the Marsh, written in the fourteenth century, is a fictional account of twelfth-century events during the Song Dynasty. One by one, over a hundred men and women are forced by the harsh feudal officialdom to take to the hills. They band together and defeat every attempt of the government troops to crush them. Within this framework we find intrigue, adventure, murder, warfare, romance, in a connected series of fascinating individual tales, told in the suspenseful manner of the traditional storyteller.

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
44 of 45 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Outlaws of the Marsh, better known to British audiences as 'the Water Margin', after the popular Japanese series shown on BBC in the 1970s, is one of the four great classical Chinese novels, and a masterpiece of folk-tale in novel form. It catalogues the complex and sometimes seemingly haphazard adventures of a group of bandits who join together in the Liang Shang marshes, resisting the cruelty of Gao Qiu during the Song dynasty.

This is an enormously engrossing read, with a compelling chapter to chapter progression which it makes it very hard to put the books down. By turns comic, tragic, thrilling, base and noble, this is a book that really does have something for everyone.

There are three problems for Western readers coming to this novel through this translation.

First, the moral background to this novel is entirely different from anything in Western literature. This was rather sanitised for the TV series, which prefaces every episode with 'in a world very different from our own', and casts the whole thing as rebellion against injustice. The novel, however, is altogether more difficult. Sometimes things are done to resist oppression, sometimes they are done out of filial loyalty, sometimes for revenge, sometimes because people are drunk, and sometimes with no more justification than that the perpetrators are bandits, and therefore have a right to do such things. At times the author appeals to the moral indignation of the reader, but at other times he glosses over atrocities which go as far as cannibalism. Most modern readers will also have questions about the casual mistreatment of women throughout the novel, by both sides.

Secondly, with more than 150 characters, and four densely printed volumes, there is an awful lot of this to read and follow.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars No other book like it. 29 Jun 2008
I won't bore you with the details surrounding the circumstances in which I read this book, other than it was the first book I read without having been forced to by teachers, parents etc.

Now having read many books (including The Wheel of Time series) I still maintain that this book is epic beyond proportions. Few other books can match this for the sheer scale of events. In short, it is one of my favourites.

I enjoyed the way the themes in the book were handled. Where most stories come out with the characters learning lessons after having gone through a series of personal challenges, Outlaws of the Marsh handles them with a dose of realism with the thrill of magic and armies etc thrown in. It also gives, although biased, a window into what ancient China was like.

The plot itself keeps twisting an turning so that you can never guess what happens next. The two final campaigns are structured so that you guess what happens then are kicked in the teeth with surprise. It can stir emotions of anger or sadness in you (or it did in me and that doesn't happen very often).

Far from perfect (the writing does seem a bit rushed and it can be hard to tell the difference between characters form time to time) I still recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a book for the merit of its story. However, some people are pedantic and would hate it for the quality of its translation, it has to be said. Still, it is not hard to see why this book is a classic in the eastern world, because there really is no other book like it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Just a really good read 17 Jun 2008
By Proops
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
It's true that there's little in the way of notes or commentary to support your reading of this book, and that there are typos here and there throughout the 2,000-odd pages. But what a read!
This is a really pick-up-able book, a highly accessible translation and a real (long) roller-coaster of a story. If this is the first classic Chinese story you read, you won't go far wrong with either this or Monkey.
For those who saw the TV series, you'll recognise a lot of episodes, but the characters in the book are less clear-cut morally and there are a lot more of them; the TV series necessarily relies on composites. The book is also a lot more violent and a lot more masculine generally.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Water Margin 20 Feb 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
A superb story of mankind in all its glory, explaining why, ultimately, man must end up an outlaw in the Water Margins if he is to survive with his honour intact.
Women, bandits, bureaucrats, mothers-in-law, grandmothers, soldiers, policemen, children, the weather, nature (including tigers), combine to force man time-after-time to choose his destiny.
the story follows the lives of countless people (mainly men) who are forced to choose, but always their characters are full and deep, not cartoon 2D, they and their enemies have a realism that is lost in Hollywood or airport blockbusters.
what a pity the translation is at times banal, but for all that it is clear and simple prose and maybe the first Chinese book in which I have been able to read and actually follow the geography and history.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A great read 18 Feb 2014
Considering this story is many centuries old, I found it surprisingly easy to read and relate to.

True, there are a few typographical errors but, all in all, I liked the translation. The story remained fast paced and fluent (which cannot be said for many other translated books I have read).

With over 2000 pages across four volumes, the book is a long read and presents well over a hundred main characters. This has a strong potential for confusing the reader but I was again pleasantly surprised. Whenever a dormant character appears in a later part of the story, there is always just enough of a description to remind the reader of who the character is and how we know him.

If you enjoy the occasional martial arts movie then I assure you, you can also enjoy this story.
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