Top critical review
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Good Book, Bad Version
on 5 January 2008
Get the more expensive 1904 version, it's far better, and readily available on Amazon.
This version makes the preposterous claim of being an "updated" version.
An American has more or less gone through the original English translation, pedantically removing all the "u"s from words like: honour, valour, behaviour, etc..., and left the syntax in archaic Yoda style to give the impression of "wise-alidy" (as an American might say).
That is it! That's all they've done, and they call that "updating"!
An American can read the word "honour" and know what it means (and all the other words); so to purposefully go through the book simply converting a few of the words to illiterate Americanese is even more appallingly pedantic than complaining about it.
More to the point, there's no analysis of the content.
If this book had genuinely been updated into modern language, and the author had understood the subtle differences in meaning between words as used in the 17th century and the 21st century, like "advantage" for example, you might get a far clearer understanding of what the original writer, Gracian, actually meant.
Readers might also spot the repetitiousness of some of the maxims - many of them could probably be comfortably conflated.
Certainly it would have been nice and useful to link common sayings like "If in doubt, say naught" and "Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer" and "Look before you leap" - because that's all it really amounts to - readers might get a better measure of the book, and see it not as some secret code for machiavellian living and clambering up the greasy pole or just avoiding general faff in life from an ancient mystic floating on a cloud, but as the condensed essence of the diaries of some bloke in 1630's.
Don't get me wrong, the work is interesting and useful, and makes a good read when you're on the toilet; but this version is atrocious, and I'll be looking for a better version eventually, so I can flush this 'orrible American one down it.
As said, just search for Balthasar Gracian, and get the English version!
(I've put 1 star to bring the overall starrage down, but I'd give it about 4 probably anyway).