This is an updated version of one of Mr. Gagliardi's earlier books, The Art of War: In Sun Tzu's Own Words, which was previously published in 1999.
HARDCOVER, FIRST EDITION (2003)
In this revised edition, Mr. Gagliardi has made a number of corrections to the original text. He has also greatly expanded his introductory section, with a new Foreword, entitled ACCURATE TRANSLATION. The core section consists of Mr. Gagliardi's Encarta translation of Sun Tzu's classic.
As discussed in the Foreword, Mr. Gagliardi used "the resources of the internet" (p. 9) to produce his translation. A more extensive description was given in the original edition (Gagliardi: 1999), which I will briefly quote:
"This translation was created out of a desire to create an English version that was completely faithful to the original text... (Gagliardi: 1999, inside overleaf)"
"Originally, I didn't plan to do a new translation of The Art of War itself. However, as I delved into the available translations, I discovered that each disagreed on Sun Tzu's meanings at essential points. In order to understand these conflicts, I went back to the Chinese text itself. Even for those who cannot read Chinese, the Internet makes it easy to translate the original Chinese characters... Using the context and other translations to select the appropriate meanings for each character, I created my own character-by-character translation." (Gagliardi: 1999, p. ix)
"Through these techniques, we preserve the ideas of Sun Tzu's Chinese in an English translation that comes as close as humanly possible to capturing Sun Tzu's own words." (Gagliardi: 1999, p. x)
The 1999 edition contained a large number of typographical errors, as well as translation errors. Many of these have been corrected in the revised edition. But the core text still has a number of problems, which I will address in more detail.
First off, I was surprised how much of the original text had been changed and edited in this new edition. I had expected some changes... but not this many. Back in 2000, when I wrote my first review of one of Mr. Gagliardi's books, I noted that his Encarta translation and word choice selections often appeared wrong. Given the large number of revisions Mr. Gagliardi has made in both the Chinese and English sections of this edition, I would say that my earlier comments were valid. This can be easily confirmed, simply by doing a line-by-line comparison of the 1999 and 2003 editions. Almost every page has some sort of change. Granted... some of the revisions are minor, such as simple typo corrections, and so forth. But some of them are surprisingly significant... including a few instances where the meaning of the stanza was changed! While there are a large number of re-written sentences in the English translation section, I was very surprised to see that Mr. Gagliardi has also edited and changed... and in a few instances even replaced or added, some of the Chinese characters (lexemes) used in the basic text! These changes are made without any explanation.
On his website, Mr. Gagliardi stresses the accuracy of his translation, noting "[he] was the first to focus his work exclusively on getting the text transmission completely accurate... "He also discusses this in his book (pp. 10-14, and back cover)
As he notes on pp. 12-13, Mr. Gagliardi used the compiled versions of the Chinese Source Texts as the basis for his translation. This searchable computer version was compiled in Taipei in 1970, and is known as the <Complete Version of Sun Tzu's Art of War for the National Defense Research Investigation Office>. It can be accessed via the internet, and as Mr. Gagliardi notes, it provided him a "new, more complete textual source for translation."
Mr. Gagliardi then points out on the back cover of his book, and inside the Foreword, that the problem with most translations is they contain "mistakes in meaning" (p. 11), and are "filled with inaccuracies, often actually reversing Sun Tzu's advice."
Unfortunately, Mr. Gagliardi's translation often qualifies for this same criticism.
Some examples of the text changes in the English Section:
A. In Chapter One, the Title has been revised, from:
"Planning" (Gagliardi: 1999, pp. vii and 3), to
"Analysis" (Gagliardi: 2003, pp. 7 and 17)
B. Also in Chapter One, the last stanza (Para 4, Line 18) has been revised, from:
"Don't pass it by." (Gagliardi: 1999, p. 9), to
"You cannot first signal your intentions." (Gagliardi: 2003, p, 23)
In the 1999 edition, Mr. Gagliardi mistranslated the Chinese character ZHUAN as "pass." This error led him to mistranslate the entire stanza; BU KE XIAN ZHUAN YE, as "Don't pass it by." A more correct reading of ZHUAN, in this lexeme coupling, is "transmit," which he has corrected in the 2003 revised edition.
C. In Chapter Two, Para 4, Line 7 has been revised, changing the meaning of the text, from:
"Take the enemy's strength from him by stealing away his supplies." (Gagliardi: 1999, p. 17), to
"Take the enemy's strength from him by stealing away his money." (Gagliardi: 2003, p. 33)
D. Another example of a text change which altered the meaning of a stanza can be found in Chapter Five, para 1, line 5. Here, the text was changed from:
"You must be able to encounter the enemy without being defeated." (Gagliardi: 1999, p. 37), to
"You must be able to sustain an enemy attack without being defeated." (Gagliardi: 2003, p. 51)
Some examples of the text changes in the Chinese Section:
Beginning with Chapter One, Mr. Gagliardi has selected different meanings for some of the single Chinese characters (lexemes), than the word choices he used in 1999. In fact, in Chapter One, he appears to have made seven word-choice changes: (i) two on p. 18, (ii) three on p. 20, (iii) one on p. 22, and (iv) one on p. 24
I will note, many of these are minor, and the revised single-word choices are valid alternatives. A select example of this is the Chinese character ZHE, appearing on p. 18 and 24. In the 1999 translation, Mr. Gagliardi used the English term "thing," to describe this character's meaning in the sentence. In the 2003 revision, he has changed this to read "one"... which is an odd choice, but valid; as it refers to the person or thing in the stanza.
In Chapter One, Mr. Gagliardi has also replaced eight of the Chinese characters with different lexemes (all appear on p. 24)! Specifically, these are the Chinese Characters SUAN (calculate), appearing seven times, and CI (here), appearing one time.
Unfortunately, this is not an isolated occurrence. Similar revisions of the Chinese characters and the word-choice definitions used as the basis of Mr. Gagliardi's translation occur throughout the book.
For example, In Chapter Two, Mr. Gagliardi revised the word choice for sixteen of the lexemes (four on p. 26, two on p. 28, three on p. 30, and seven on p. 32), and replaced two of the Chinese characters (one on p. 30, and one on p. 32) with other characters. Using the text change on page 30 as an example, the entire stanza was revised as follows:
GUI MAI ZE BAI XING JIE
...which Mr. Gagliardi translates as "Costly Sell Then Hundred Family Exhaust," (Gagliardi: 1999, p. 17), to...
GUI MAI ZE CAI JIE
...which he translates as "Costly Sell Then Wealth Exhausted." (Gagliardi: 2003, p. 30)
In the above example, Mr. Gagliardi removed the coupled characters BAI XING, which he had used in 1999, and replaced them with the single-character CI, in the revised edition. While there may be some validity in doing this... it creates a departure from the "Standard Chinese Text" he was basing his translation on. All this is done without any explanation.
In Chapter Three, Mr. Gagliardi revised the word choice fifteen times (four on p. 34, four on p. 36, five on p. 38, and three on p. 40), and replaced six more of the Chinese characters (four on p. 34, one on p. 36, and one on p. 38) with other characters. Using the text change on page 34 as an example, two coupled stanza were revised as follows:
QUAN BING WEI SHANG
PO BING CI ZHI
... which Mr. Gagliardi translates as "Complete War Becomes Above, Broken War Second-Rate It" (Gagliardi: 1999, p. 20), was revised to read...
QUAN JUN WEI SHANG
PO JUN CI ZHI
... which Mr. Gagliardi translates as "Complete Army Becomes Above, Broken Army Second-Rate It" (Gagliardi: 2003, p. 34)
Unfortunately, revisions and changes occur in every chapter of the book. Since Mr. Gagliardi has no formal training or background in reading / translating Chinese, this comes as no surprise.
On page 13 of the Foreword, Mr. Gagliardi states "Though each Chinese character has an array of possible meanings, for the sake of readability we offer the one English word that best encapsulates the original sense of the Chinese character in context."
On the back cover of the book, Mr. Gagliardi tells us that he used "six steps to [create] a more accurate Art of War," and part of that process was to "make it complete by using the 1970 Taipei compilation of the main Chinese textual traditions instead of fragmentary sources... [by individually translating] each Chinese ideogram..." But the high degree of corrections that have had to be made to Mr. Gagliardi's book, along with the fact that he is adding and changing a large number of the Chinese lexemes he is using as the basis of his "award winning" translation, call into serious question the accuracy of his claims.
The book contains what the author asserts is the most accurate translation of Sun Tzu's work ever attempted. This description of the text is highly debatable, based on the merits of the text itself. This is certainly not a definitive work. And it certainly does not live up to Mr. Gagliardi's marketing claims of being the best English translation humanly possible (p. 14)
HARDCOVER, SECOND EDITION (2005)
In 2005, Mr. Gagliardi once again revised areas of his translation and restructured parts of the book. A summary of some of the changes is as follows:
The "Accurate Translation" Forword (pp. 9-14), which appeared in the 2003 edition, was re-written and replaced by an introduction, entitled "Award-Winning Translation" (pp. 9-12). In the new introduction, Mr. Gagliardi briefly mentions the changes in the book.
"In this second edition, we have made a number of improvements. The most obvious is the key topics index in the back of the book. However, in continually analyzing Sun Tzu's text, we found a few areas where we felt we could improve our translation, and we incorporated those changes into this new edition." (p. 12)
Some of these additional changes are helpful. For example, in the revised second edition, Mr. Gagliardi restructured the "Glossary of Key Chinese Terms" (pp. 154-157). While he downsized the list from 162 to 130 characters, he greatly improved its readability, by listing the chinese characters in descending alphabetical order. In addition, the two-page "Index of Topics" (pp. 158-159), which Mr. Gagliardi mentioned in his introduction, is also a welcome change.
Some of the changes are cosmetic. For example, in the revised second edition, they have added Sun Tzu's name to the front cover, above "The Art of War." This had been missing from the previous edition cover.
Some of the changes signifigantly diminish the translation. For example:
A. In Chapter Two, Block 2, line 12 has been revised, changing the meaning of the text, from:
"Using a huge army makes war very expensive to win." (Gagliardi: 2003, p. 27), to
"Using a huge army in battle success very expensive." (Gagliardi: 2005, p. 25)
Besides being gramatically incorect, the revised passage completely mistranslates the stanza.
B. In Chapter Six, Block 8, lines 14-15 have been revised, changing the meaning of the text, from:
"Your timing must be sudden... A few weeks determine your failure or success." (Gagliardi: 2003, p. 69), to
"Each day passes quickly... A month can decide your failure of success." (Gagliardi: 2005, p. 67)
The revision brings the English text closer in line to Mr. Gagliardi's opinion of the Chinse characters, which he lists on the preceding page. Unfortunately, he is mistranslating the entire set of characters. In my opinion, both of his versions are wrong.
C. In Chapter One, Block 4, lines 7 thru 16, the text has been completely replaced. The new text mistranslates the entire critical passage.
In summary: While the revised hardcover editions are somewhat better than the original edition, in many ways, Mr. Gagliardi's efforts continue to mirror Captain E. F. Calthrop, and his 1905 publication of SONSHI.